Sunday, September 23, 2018

Scrapping away

Since I returned from Ste. Marie-aux-Mines I have been scrapping away. I had meant to spend the entire week seriously working on my quilt for the SAQA "Forced to Flee", but obviously something still hasn't developed far enough yet, because I keep postponing/stalling...
I have been struck be a cleansing fit and am rummaging through boxes, sorting, throwing out, rearranging. And actually reducing the number of boxes slightly, simply by putting things in a more orderly manner, packing more densely. I had tons of boxes standing around, and there is a bit of a wish there to reduce that number considerably.
But while I am doing that, I am also finding soooooo many WIPs that I am getting overwhelmed. For one thing, with ideas of what I still want to do. And for the other part, with desperation, because after Octover 1 there will be considerably less time to do all these...
For example, these two different-sized Underground Railroad projects I am working on. The upper picture is the Dear-Jane-size - i.e. 4 1/2 inch finished. The lower picture is slightly larger, with 1 inch squares in the four patches.

And there are about 6 or 7 other unfinished scrap projects, those mostly hand stitching.

Today was the last day of openinig hours in our swimming pool. It has now closed for winter, and I am heartbroken. It is the greatest place of entertainment we have here. So now there are 7 dreary months ahead of us. But fall is here, it cannot be denied. The garden is still nice,

and we are still picking tomatoes.

 These were planted rather late, though, they might not make it anymore before the weather gets too cold.

And this plant was sold to me as an aubergine (egg-plant). The first time I was trying to grow one like that - but somehow it does not look like an egg-plant to me. On the other hand, I don't even really like to eat those, so I am not quite sure why I bought the plant to begin with...

While swimming in the pool today during the last hour before it closed, however, I had an idea how to go on with the refugee quilt, so tomorrow I will be back at the machine, not scrapping anymore, and definitely not distracting myself through trying to put things in order. I can very well live in disorder when other things are more pressing.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Ste. Marie-aux-Mines, come and gone

For the tenth time, I think, I have just spent almost a week in Ste. Marie-aux-Mines at the European Patchwork Meeting, or Carrefour Européenne, as it is called now. At least seven or eight of these ten times I came in a row, and it feels like I reall know the place now. I see changes over the years, and I feel comfortable when things are like they used to be. For example the hospitality of Serge and Olga at the Taverne au Mineur, and the delicious food you can get there, right on the corner of the central square and close to the Vendors Hall. I keep finding new instances of Found Art, as I posted on my German Blog, and I know where to go to get to the exhibition places.
The SAQA-meeting was in a different spot this time, though, and that's how I got to see the swimming pool for the first time - we met in a room next to the pool, not in the pool proper...

The first heated pool in Alsace: pool in Ste. Marie-aux-Mines

I met new people, remet some whom I had met before, and I had the most interesting encounter with a couple from the States who started talking to me while I was stewarding the Wide Horizons VI exhibition. They started telling me about Karlsruhe, and I said I had grown up there, and they asked for a specific part of town which they pronounced absolutely correctly, thus showing that they must know this place pretty well, and it was exactly the part of town I grew up in. So I said that I had grown up there, oh where, in one of the highrises, yes, in one of the highrises, and in which one, what house number... It turned out they had lived in the same house as my family moved into, on the 2nd floor, while we lived on the 9th, and we had coincided for almost 2 years there. What a meeting! I will have to ask my parents whether they remember these Americans, or their cat, which they claimed would be the only remarkable thing about them that the neighbors would remember.

I went through the exhibitions pretty systematically, was impressed with some, really liked some pieces very much, and felt a bit over-quilted by Saturday. So Barbara and I skipped half a day of the show and went to the flea market in Sélestat, where I was thrilled to see this little kid enjoying a puddle. That reminded me a lot of my son when he was little.

I saw many many quilts, and I felt inspired by a number of them, in a way it would be great to be sitting down at a sewing machine right now, but I am still in Ste. Marie and will only go back tomorrow. But I do hope to take some of the urge to create back with me, although some things will change and it will be much more difficult to find time to sit down and sew in the next few months.
So before taking down the Wide Horizons VI together with Paolo and Paola Zanda, I took a selfie in front of my quilt that will be traveling for a year now. To remind me of the people I tried to commemorate with it, and the fact that their lives were cut short - and that it is necessary to make as much of one's own as is possible.

Mediterranean Blood Count, 2017.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Three years plus

It's been three years plus a few days since the picture of Alan Kurdi's body rocked world media coverage. It's been three years plus one day since German chancellor Angela Merkel said those famous words "Wir schaffen das!" (translate that as 'We'll manage and get that dealt with.') with which she permitted over twenty-thousand Syrian refugees in the Bukarest train station to travel on to Germany.
A lot has happened since then. For one thing, the sentence is being used to throttle Angela Merkel, and Germany's ugly face of extreme right wing thinking has been rising ever since. Here is a comment on how the statement seemed to be changing the world in a positive manner, only ten weeks after it was spoken. How different something can look with just a little more than two years onward.

I never really liked Angela Merkel before that sentence, but I do love her for that sentence, and the attitude it showed. I am appalled at how this single sentence has been thrown back into her face from various alpha-male-politicians in this country, and how every problem in this country is being tied down to 'the refugee crisis'. Which is simply not true, these are problems that have been building up over years of political inactivity in various areas and that dissatisfied people are now connecting with that once single issue that is by far not the most important question we have in this country right now. I still don't really like Ms Merkel - now more for reasons of her not living up to the potential she showed in that single moment, for her lack of putting those alpha males into their place, for her 'merkeling around' (as the newly-coined verb is being used in the media).
When I look back at what has gone on in these three years I am at a complete loss at how things will or can go on. Somehow it has shattered all my beliefs about the country I gew up and live in. And probably these feelings and beliefs will never be the same again. Not that I ever was a happy German, but I saw justice, I thought equal rights, I wanted this to be a country that had learned from fatal historic events and developments for which our forebears were  responsible. Not so - my discomfort has grown to such a degree that it feels a bit like I have lost what little 'home' I ever had.
In these three years (I had started before, so I was already deeply involved in the matter, but that does not make a difference) I have worked very hard trying to help refugees in this country find a way. At first only a few Syrians, one of whom came for German lessons regularly once or twice a week, has since completed a school degree and has just now finished his second year of vocational training with a large global company, is almost fluent in German and will certainly find his way. He calls me 'aunt', and I am so proud of him! The a few issues brought me close to burn-out, if I wasn't there already, I withdrew a bit and wanted to put more energy into quilting - if I wasn't getting paid for my work, I might as well do something that was pleasant. But when I was approached whether I would like to apply for teaching German as a foreing language to a class of refugees in a special program - getting paid - I could not stay away, got deeply involved again, made wonderful friends amongst the students and was, that's what it felt like, ridiculed twice by the Bavarian government and authorities when they refused to give work permits to a third of each of the two classes I taught. They wanted to take up nursing or taking care of the elderly, an area in the job market where German hospitals and care-homes desperately need personnel.
I decided to quit - I will do something else. I will still be involved with refugees, I will fight for my friends until we achieve what we want to have or until I drop dead. But I won't get paid by an authoritiy that is not permitting to become real what they are paying  me for to do. Probably this doesn't make any sense, but explaining it all would be a bit too difficult and long-winded.
I am working on another quilt on the topic of refugees. There are almost 7 more weeks left to enter this quilt in the SAQA call for entries 'Forced to Flee', which I do want to be a part of. The symposium this year tied up my energy and 'swallowed' one inspiration that I had been pondering as a possible entry for this call. But I have another one in the line, and serious work has started. I will try, even though the time is rather short.

One part of the design and technical execution being stored in a
plastic bag to avoid air humidity to change its state, which
is one thing I have learned during the symposium that
it happens to avalon film when left out in the open...

On the wall, yesterday evening. (Admittedly not much to see, just to proove my words.)
Honestly, more would I wish that it would not be necessary to have such a topic for an exhibition. And I really wish there will be a future where we won't have people crossing oceans on rubber boats, hypocritic judgements on the side of rich nations and this horrible kind of xenophobism that is making the rounds. I wish we would understand that we are all humans, that we have only one world to live on and that it won't be possible to continue like we are doing. In terms of exploitation of resources, climate, human condition. I wish. But do I hope?

Friday, August 31, 2018

Progress Report 'A Scrap a Day'

It's been a while since I have given a report on my daily art project for the year, "A Scrap a Day". Since I have decided where and when I want to enter it next year, I know that I have to keep up to date and get it finished quickly after the year is over (or after I decide that it is done - which might happen, depending on how big it is getting).

 I have already shown on Instagram how I was searching for yellow scraps in Mirjam Petjacob's installation that was a part of 'Stuff for Thought', which was shown in Birmingham at Festival of Quilts for the last time and that wasn't going to be shipped back to her due to cost.

You can see that I was having fun. However, it shows one of the 'problems' with this project, too. It was also intended to make a dent in my collection of yellow scraps. This is not working, let me tell you. If you want to find a way for that, I do not recommend imitating such a project, you have to figute out a different way.

I have since incorporated a few of these Petjacbs'-scraps in the piece.

When we went on vacation, I was smart enough to forget a few things at home, amongst them the Encyclopedia of Embroidery Stitches by Mary Thomas, which I have been using to give me new ideas for stitches and that I have been working through (from back to front) almost systematically. So I searched on my computer where I might have saved the files from the online free hand embroidery class I once took with Anne Lange, but I couldn't find the files. For a few days I kept returning to my favorites, but then I figured I had to something else and searched for a 'stitch dictionary' online - this one now teaches me German names for the stitches, which Mary Thomas wasn't giving me, of course. It also doesn't have wordy descriptions but shows the making of the stitches in photos. And already it has given me a couple of more new ones that I really like. For example, so far I had not realized that 'French knot' in English and 'Colonial knot' are different stitches... I have opened this dictionary as a tab on my phone, too, and am considering working through this one systematically from now on. Except for the fact that it has 206 stitches and there aren't quite as many days left in the year. However, I might know some of the ones I can find in here...

In any case, here are a few recent additions from the days of our vacation.

Because of the problem with not-diminishing masses of scraps

I took a decision to exclude from the potential pool those scraps that are pretty much just plain strips leftover from whatever strip project I was doing. These have been banned to a corner in the thread box right now.

Friday, August 24, 2018


We are on vacation. We haven't really made many plans, but somehow it seems that most of those are getting thwarted. To begin with the mode of vacation as such. At first we - the parents - had thought it would be nice to introduce the junior to one of our favorite modes of vacationing , i.e. a several-day-bike-trip. (The interesting bit about this is that the junior was participant in a 1000-km-bike trip approx. nine months before he was born, before we even knew that he was going to be born. To which the gynaecologist said 'well, if he survived that, everything will be just fine'.) However, after first agreeing he then back-tracked and said he wasn't really up to the idea of having to go on a bike every day for several days, and for such long distances... (mind - we were planning on much less than that 1000-km-ride). So we changed the plan of how we would get to the destination, my brother-in-law's house near Lake Bodensee, and I was kind of disappointed because I had really been looking forward to finally getting back to bike trips. But as it turned out it was a good thing the junior backtracked because the heat wave just kept going and although I am tough and can really take a lot in terms of pushing myself, I do have to admit it would have been absolutely noooooo fun at all to be biking in the kind of weather we have had.
So we spent a few days near the lake. Gorgeous views, that you have to pay dearly for when you go to a restaurant with a view.

My husband wanted to go and see the David Clearbout's exhibition with sound installations at Kunsthaus Bregenz because he is very interested in aspects of sound, silence, listening, music... So when I went to visit my godmother he and the junior went to Bregenz and were severely disappointed because they say the could not understand anything that the exhibition was trying to show. Admittedly, the building itself is always great to see, but, as the junior said 'so we paid 9 Euros to go up these stairs...' obviously it would be more fun to enjoy the exhibition, too. My trip on that day, on the other hand, didn't go as smoothly as I had planned, either. I had taken the bike with me and planned to ride all the way back. But somehow I took a wrong 'exit' out of the town where my godmother lives, as a result of several construction sites and the rremains of a summer festival being taken down. So instead of trying to find my way back and get on the right track I just rode ahead and got on a train again after 30 kms into the not entirely right direction. Then the next day we wanted to go and see the August Macke exhibition in Lindau , but it was so crowded that we would have had to wait for almost an hour.

So we went for ice cream instead, and swimming in the lake after that.
All of this still in very uncommon heat for Germany, such that you break out in sweat simple from thinking whether you should not get up and get a drink of water or not...
Meanwhile we have moved on to my parents' house where we are house sitting for a few days. I had taken my next piece for 12 by the Dozen to stitch here on my mother's sewing machine (reveal date is August 31, and I better be on time because it is my challenge...). Not once did I consider she might not have a free motion quilting foot. Or that something would not be right with the tension.

Brief attempts to stitch without a quilting foot were abandoned when tension problems
resulted in repeated breaking of the thread.
I gave up quickly and will have to finish it when I get back home. No pressure... But I have other options for stitching.
But we are having a good time. It's just different from what we plan. And now I will have to go and watch soccer with the guys, simply for bonding. I will be spinning.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Festival of Quilts at Birmingham, once again

Last week I have been to and on Monday returned from the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham. 

I am beginning to lose track of how many times I have been to that event and venue, and the whole procedure is getting to be a bit of a routine. I know my way from the airport to the hotel and the exhibition halls, I love the fact that the venue is so conveniently located to the airport. I enjoy being able to walk to the hotel with my bags (praise to the person who invented the wheel, and to the person who put suitcases on wheels!) from the airport, and back. 

It has become an important place to renew contact with many people whom I don’t get to see often, 

The SAQA dinner always is one of the highlights of the event.

and I use the setup to find topics/people to write about for the German Guild’s Magazine. With floor plan in hand and very little of a pre-set mind I make sure to see every single gallery with special exhibitions unless I have seen it before. At FoQ this year, ‘Stuff for Thought’, e.g. was one gallery that I did not look at in detail anymore because I had had three other opportunities where I could see it.
Some galleries I don’t spend a lot of time in, but the ones that touch me I can while away a lot of time in. 

I make sure to see every ‘winner’ in the winner’s gallery, 

Philippa Naylor, Circuit Training, 1st prize winner of Miniature Quilts

Philippa Naylor, Circuit Training, 1st prize winner of Miniature Quilts, detail

and I do go through the aisles of competition entries, pausing to look closer at those the somehow catch my eye.

A very interesting interpretation of the famous Japanese wood cut of a huge
wave (is it a tsunami?) - in plastic -

Anthropogenic Wave - Kay McKiernan, Detail

And I use the time to perhaps conduct an interview with an interesting exhibitor so I can then write an article for the magazine. 

Ruth Singer, 'Traces'

Ruth Singer with a quilt in her exhibition "Criminal Quilts"

One of the photos of prisoner women on their release from
prison that inspired Ruth Singer's exhibition

At FoQ, the one gallery that impressed me most was one the setup and preparation of which I had been following on Instagram, ‘The Button Box’. I was really impressed with the theme of the history of appreciation of textiles and needle work in recent centuries, and very touched by the quotes from literary works in which remarks about the importance and significance of textiles accompanied the works on the wall. It reminded me of a quote from a German turn of the 19th century novel by Gabriele Reuter, ‘From a Good Family’, which describes a young girl’s development from expectant girl from a good family to an old spinster, who will never be married and is completely disillusioned in the end. At some point towards the end of the novel she is sitting next to her ailing mother whom she is taking care of at that time, stitching some doily, and questions herself ‘how many superfluous doilies have I stitched in my life, by the way?’ I remember how deeply I was shocked when I first read that sentence. And that sentiment somehow was represented in that wonderful exhibition in Birmingham.

'Up in a Minute', Christine Chester
'Up in a Minute', Christine Chester, detail

So Birmingham is an important and interesting date for me, but very tiring. This year the Hilton did not have reliable wi-fi for the entire time of my stay, which is highly annoying. The quality of food has never been up to the price you have to pay for it, but that’s the price to have to pay for the other conveniences of being put up there. If I had to pay for my own hotel stay, I would certainly choose a different accomodation.
It’s good to be on vacation now with the family.