"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Monday, January 17, 2011

I May be Clobbered After This Post

It is January 17, 2011 and supposed to get up to 57 degrees, today.   The forecast calls for highs in the mid fifties several times in the next week to ten days.  I can't tell you how happy I am about that.  After ten years in Northern Virginia, I nearly acquiesced to the insane notion that January, February and March are predominately a deep, uncomfortable, dark time followed by three months of mud meant to be endured rather than enjoyed. 

It wore on me. 

In fairness, the Oklahoma temperatures in November and January are not that different from where we lived in Triangle, Virginia - they are about two degrees higher in Oklahoma, on average.  Also in fairness, the average low temperature for Oklahoma in December is actually lower than in Triangle.  The main difference between the two in winter and spring is the amount of precipitation and the overall cloud cover.

First of all, in Oklahoma, if it is not raining, chances are it isn't heavily overcast, either - certainly not for long patches.  At worst, you tend to get a partly cloudy pattern with plenty of brilliant sunshine moving about, calling you outside.  More often, you get bright blue skies for at least part of the day.  Any heavy clouds that roll in typically are part of a front, either from the northwest or southwest, frequently clashing like cymbals with warmer or cooler air and turning rainy weather from the gloomy and mundane into the exciting.  Like a rodeo.

It makes you feel alive.  I know, I've said that many times. 

Another difference is that the short, dark days of winter in Northern Virginia fall in their rainy season, making the days all the more gloomy and turning lawns to mud since the grass isn't in its fast growing season and able to heal assaults by dogs and human feet.  In contrast, November through February in Oklahoma are the dry months.  The Bermuda grass is dormant and the days are short but they begin and end with breath taking sunrises/sunsets (that you can actually see) that brighten and extend the day. 

By the time the big Oklahoma spring rains arrive in April or May, the hardy Bermuda grass is already bullying anything that gets in its way, including paltry dog trails or a flower bed near enough to the ground that the Bermuda can jump in and cuddle.  Or assault.  Bermuda is an overbearing plant - some say a noxious weed - that resists boundaries and doesn't understand how to play in the sandbox with other plants.  It is a thug, rude and lacking empathy.   For the gardener tending a bed of precious blossoms, I can see where Bermuda grass would be considered the enemy.   As someone with doggie feet to clean and who enjoys stomping out in the yard and pasture, I call it a blessing.  It is like a thick carpet covering the earth.

You can't reasonably expect the critters, people, weather or plants to be tame in Oklahoma. 

Now that we have reached mid January in Oklahoma,  we won't be surprised by 2 - 3 more winter storms - but only one will be of any consequence and the results will generally be gone inside 2 -3 days if not hours.  Typically this time of year, we'll get 2 - 3 consecutive days with highs in the thirties or, more likely, forties, alternating with a day or two or three of highs in the fifties.  Once we get to February, the average high - average, mind you - is in the mid fifties.  That means that late in the afternoon it is often light enough and plenty warm enough - 60's or even 70's - to sit on the back patio with the girls and enjoy a glass of wine or a beer.  It is also dry enough and the days are bright enough that you don't mind stomping around in the yard since you aren't slipping and sliding in mud.  The exercise keeps you warm even if the air is sometimes chilly.

By late February and early March, that pattern shifts to an average high in the sixties (which means that many days are 15 - 20 degrees higher.  By that time, you don't really need to exercise to keep comfortable - long sleeves are plenty unless you are out in the early morning.  

By mid March, Spring will have firmly arrived, actually as well as astronomically, notwithstanding a few days here and there that remind us to wear a jacket.  Oh, you might get an occasional dusting of snow even as late as early April but by then, the ground has already warmed so much that it doesn't stay more that a few hours.  Note - the GROUND has warmed - not just the air.  I always enjoy the first few mornings when it is light enough and warm enough that I can sit on the patio in short sleeves, drink my first cup of coffee and feel the south wind promising a warm day.

Won't be all that long, now. 

Of course, in fairness and full disclosure, I should mention that we also get some nasty early spring storms.  Last year, for example, we had a blizzard on the first day of spring.
To quote from when I posted about it last year:

"Yesterday was the last day of winter but it was 69 degrees at 7:00 p.m. We sat out on the back patio with a glass of wine (husband had a beer) in short sleeves enjoying watching the birds play. We knew a front was on the way so wanted to take advantage of the nice temperatures while we could. The wind had been teasing us all afternoon and before we retreated inside, we could feel the cool mixing with the warm air. Within an hour, the last gasp of winter started barreling through like a freight train, scaring poor little Pearly to death. She isn't wild about loud noises or noises she can't identify. "

Northerners would laugh at the "storm."

We are coming off a cold snap that froze my fingers when I went outside.  That's so wrong.   I set up my birdfeeder and the bird cam. 

I should have set it up before I left for NYC a week or so ago but I was negligent. 

This morning it is actually foggy and overcast, making a liar of me on the cloud cover but it still feels almost springlike.  Last February, my friend Julia bought her two Samoyed boys, Blind Willie (who really is blind) and Tarka for a visit and we are looking forward to a return trip late this afternoon.  In the meantime, I am working on several quilting projects.  I'm making some progress on another baby quilt:
I am working on a border with lots of color but it is going slow.  The black lines in the border will end up being a half inch wide and that makes stitching them a pretty close operation - like trying to swing a hammer in a crawl space:
I am also longarming my paper pieced quilt.
I think the colors are a little muted and weird.   I also ran into some trouble when the batting pleated.  That has never happened to me and caught me by surprise.  The batting had been stored in a folded position and I obviously didn't do enough to get it flat.  I had to do some frog stitching. 
I need to come up with a name for it. It was a challenge quilt from the HGTV message board.

We just finished the Oklahoma Winter Quilt Show and they had some fabulous quilts.  My friend, Ranette, won first place for her traditional quilt - it is breathtaking.  All her work is.
As you know, if you read this blog regularly (not that I have been blogging regularly), I began working on art quilts about a year ago.  When I started, there weren't all that many making the rounds of shows.  I don't mean to say they were non existent but the last year has resulted in an explosion of art quilts in competition, no matter where you are. 

Hmm.  Dangerous thoughts, ahead...

I found that as I was looking at the art quilts at the art show, while very, very impressed with the colors, workmanship and designs, I found myself getting a little...bored.   I feel awful writing that.  Even thinking that.  

In my opinion, all gorgeous quilts are by their nature a little self indulgent.  I get that.  We take pride in our workmanship, the colors, the design, and we love to show them off.  We'd be lying if we said otherwise.  And if we didn't take pride in them, we wouldn't put such effort into it unless we were just idiot savants.   But here's the thing that strikes me, today:  Traditional quilts/bed quilts "literally" touch us.  That means that even people who know nothing about what goes into making a quilt can still appreciate them on a physical level.  There is much to be said for the ability to enjoy the textures found in fabric, even for people who don't quilt.  And all quilters understand the pure sensory delight that comes with touching fabric.  It is almost sick, frankly, but that's a whole different post. 

I used to think the attaction of traditional or bed quilts was primarily the result of the sentimental emotions they evoked.  I assumed they were treasured and were desirable by nonquilters primarily because of the tradition, the history, the love that came with it if made by your grandmother or just the very "idea" of a quilt.

But having worked on art quilts, my view has changed, somewhat.  Physically wrapping oneself in a quilt is a huge part of the connection that is generally missing in most art quilts.  Wrap around quilts help heal the wounded.  It physically bestows solace to those lost in grief.  It provides warmth to the elderly or ill.  The wedding quilt on a newlywed couple, even if they have been "together" for years, seems to absorb the delight they have in each other.  Years or even decades later, it can take them back to that place in their lives.    It is a practical comfort you don't get from a wall hanging, which primarily, excites the visual senses of the viewer as a side effect of allowing the artist to be creative. 

As I looked at the art quilts at the show it seemed to me that they were lacking not color, design or creativity but that textile dimension.  Duh.   I guess what I am trying to say, at the risk of offending, is that in my opinion, wall hangings are great for kitchens and quilt studios but most people, while admiring them on someone else's wall, aren't going to put them up in their house unless their mother gave it to them and they have to.  While she is visiting.   To have something made of fabric you can't really draw comfort from through touch is a little like seeing a photo of a precious baby instead of holding it in your arms.  And now I will duck.

And now I am going to make some people really crazy.    Art quilt wall hangings are a little like Velvet Elvises.  Some of them.  Yes, I really said that.   And I hate to hurt anyone's feelings when I write it.  But in fairness to the people who paint Velvet Elvises  - I expect they love the texture, the color and the design and that inspires them to create them.   And shouldn't that be respected for what it is as opposed to the end result?   And aren't the motivations for creating them much the same as what we do when we make art quilts?  I know it is for me. 

I don't think art quilts are lesser creations - don't get me wrong.   As someone who has been working on art quilts, I am perhaps more aware than many of just how much goes into making them.  If you don't do them, even if you are a quilter, you may have no idea how difficult they are.  The good ones require, if anything, more skill than creating a traditional quilt.  So I am not suggesting they aren't wonderful or worthy of the effort.  I am saying that they are different from most wrap around quilts - relying more on the visual in their appeal than the hands-on textural aspect.

Many people do art quilts as part of a challenge or a class.   It is great fun to take an art quilt challenge and compare the different results.  I personally love doing that.  I think that is a blast.    But with art quilts, I think the journey is more important, by far, than the result.  Just my opinion.  An art quilt, like all art, is intensely personal unless done on commission and taking into account another person's preferences or created for commercial reasons.  Or for competition.   I think art quilts are more like abstract paintings.  They mean a lot to the creator and will be admired by many - but only a few actually love them.  Even fewer treasure them. 

Maybe it is just me.   I take my art quilts, even the ribbon winners, and dump them in a pile out in the barn.  I don't even treasure my own!

I don't mean to suggest that I am going to abandon art quilts and stick to traditional quilts, at all.  I think that cow is out of the barn and there is no going back.  But, for me, I think my artsy quilts will probably take a turn towards the functional rather than the ornamental - at least for now.  The soothing nature of something you can wrap up in is an element that, to me, personally, is fundamental.  That means I probably will still do an artsy design or method but concentrate more on wrap aroundable quilts that are soft rather than wall hangings unless it is for something specific - like a holiday hanging, a challenge, a table topper or a wall hanging for the kitchen  or studio.  Or just for fun to learn a technique or hold off mental illness (the real goal of textile therapy).

But don't hold me to it.
For what it is worth, after all that, here is a quilt I saw at the quilt show that I fell in love with:
Here are a few more art quilts that I thought were spectacular:

The above two are by Charlotte Hickman - I love anything she does.   Aren't her pieces wonderful?   I apologize that I didn't take note of the names of the artists that created the following but I loved all of them:
This one grabbed me by the throat and didn't let go:
A wholecloth quilt is on my short list of things I want to do:
The first six months or so after I returned to Oklahoma I had what I call "stress dreams" every night.  It was a continuation of the previous few years - dreams of rushing to catch a plane, hiding from a tornado, having a test I hadn't studied for and the like.  The dreams have blessedly stopped.  In the past few weeks, I find myself thinking about looking for a job because, frankly, I feel as if I need more to do - even though I really enjoy being able to get up and not rush to work.  I'm holding off looking for a job until after grandson arrives and I've had a chance to bond with the little darling.  With any luck, by that time, the insanity will pass. 

Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl


ranette said...

Penny...your post today made me think and I like that!

I also love art quilts, but have never finished one and probably never will. My favorite part of the quilt making process is the comfort that I get from the organization of piecing or applique....that's why I make traditional quilts, I guess.

I think you've probably jinxed us in talking about how nice the weather in Oklahoma is...lol...we'll probably get an arctic blast like no other, but the sun will shine, I'm sure!

Thank you for the sweet words about my quilt. I think your paper-pieced quilt looks very "vintage" and it's muted tones only work to show off the piecing.
Oh the grandbaby will love the crayola quilt...good job :)

Florida Farm Girl said...

Penny, dear, good to "see" you again. There are definitely complex reasons for the style of quilting one chooses. And I suspect most of us have never given any sustained thought to the whys and wherefores of it.

Good for you waiting until after the little one comes before pursuing a job. I think you'll discover that your need for something more to do can be achieved using different avenues. You just haven't found the right one yet. So, hang in there!

Amanda karol said...

Penny...that's a whole lotta words there dear! ;)

Your weather-reasons for leaving VA are my weather-reasons for leaving OH! I love NC for a lot of the same weather-related issues (lack of sun being the biggest!) Of course, today is cloudy with a nice coating of ice...but I KNOW it won't last long!

LOVE the quilts posted. Just love the one of just white/reds/pinks..whatever colors those are. I 'want' to do something monochromatic like that...just not sure I really have that in me!

LOVE the art quilt with the trees...and the bird in flight. LOVE that one!

Good to hear from you again!!

Miriam said...

I love the first of Charlotte Hickman's quilts! Did you have any quilts in the show, Penny?
Love the crayola quilt!
I would love to see your paper pieced quilt when you have finished quilting it.
Glad those stress dreams have stopped.

Stephanie D. said...

Love the crayola baby quilt, and I like that dragonfly quilt, too!

Some art quilts are just too abstract for me. I can appreciate them, but I don't want to do them and I wouldn't buy them.

Others make me smile with delight and wish I'd thought of that.

Not sure I'll ever make one that's not a bought pattern, because I'm not creative that way, but it doesn't mean I don't hang quilts on the wall, either.

Hope when you're ready, you can find a job that won't bring you bad dreams.