No Surrender (Week 28-29)
"Long enough have you dreamed contemptible dreams,
Now I wash the gum from your eyes,
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light
and of every moment of your life.
Long have you timidly waded, holding a plank by the shore,
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To jump off in the midst of the sea, and rise again and nod to me and shout, and laughingly dash with your hair."
(Walt Whitman - from "Song of Myself", Section 46)
The 12" blocks for Playa Alegria are coming along! I've finished the beach and flowers/greenery 12" blocks - I have one more surf block to make in this size, 6 sky, and then 3 that are a mix of biomes (surf and sky, greenery and sky, etc. - it's going to be wild to figure out how to make those work... oh boy!).
Each 12" block takes ~45 minutes to make start to finish. I'm also beginning to figure out some of the "pop-through" elements.... This quilt design is an abstracted landscape - with rolling surf and sprinkles of sunshine popping through the quilt block designs throughout the quilt, which means that as I make the blocks, I basically need to swap out elements of the block design for patches of flat white or passionfruit-sunshine fabric. It looks a bit odd at this stage, but I'm hoping when it all comes together, the "pop-through" elements will bring the landscape into focus and will have a unifying effect on the multi-biome design. There are all sorts of new things I'm trying with this one... Super fun, and I'm figuring it out as I go along!
I completed another longarm project this week as well! This quilt is another of my Mom's (thank you!), and I decided to do an allover design of butterflies and loops. The biggest challenge with this project was thread color choice, given the wide variety of semi-solid color in different hues (I went with a light silvery blue on the front and white on the back) - and then figuring out my machine needle choice and tension adjustment to make the stitches nice and even with the threads I had chosen. It took some adjusting and testing and readjusting and testing and readjusting again and testing again... but we got there. I'm so happy with how it turned out!
Betsymade.com is all shined up with some fresh updates, all!
I added four quilts completed over the last couple years to the gallery: Penny, Alden, Ilyas, and Felix (a collaboration with my brilliant friend, Marijka). I also redesigned the individual quilt gallery pages and wrote up some context about how each project came about and how I approached making it.
I also combed through and made a bunch of cosmetic updates - improving menus, photos, rethinking page layouts, etc.
If you haven't clicked through Betsymade in awhile (or ever) - check it out. There are lots of beautiful treats, little stories, and many loved ones scattered throughout.
I have also been giving some thought to my pricing philosophy for custom work. I won't reiterate the whole spiel here - but in brief, I want custom quilts to be accessible to people whose financial resources look all sorts of different ways. So I have a flexible pricing scale - basically, I set a base cost for each quilt that covers the cost of materials and finishing, and then I ask the client to decide what they'd like to pay me for my time designing and making their quilt.
Quiltmaking is labor-intensive work, and although I don't expect to be paid anything like an hourly wage (which would make custom quilts inhibitively expensive), I do want to protect time to make custom work for people on commission. It is my absolute favorite part of my quiltmaking practice. Having a bit more clarity about what I might expect to be compensated for the time I spend on custom work will help me confidently protect that time, and plan other income-generating activities around it. Part of the calculus pushing me to get clearer on this is that I no longer have a salaried job supporting my day to day life, so I have to be a bit more practical and planful around how I'm using my time related to generating income.
BUT - it's important to me to keep the spirit of my original pricing model. I still believe that the people commissioning work know their resources the best - and should ultimately decide (with no judgment from me) how much to pay for a custom piece. And, I have been realizing that most people don't have any framework within which to organize their thinking about this decision. So - I made this Makerwage Guidance Matrix this week. The idea is that the base cost for a quilt would remain the same, and then clients would use this matrix to help them decide what feels right to pay me for my time working on their project. This is intended only to be guidance for clients - I do not intend to enforce or police this in any way.
I would love folks thoughts/reactions to this idea - and to the matrix itself! Does this - especially the descriptions of Family Resource Levels - feel inclusive, intuitive, and nonjudgmental? Do the quilt complexity ranges make sense? If you were commissioning a custom quilt, would you find this helpful? What other, additional information would you want to make a thoughtful, informed decision about how much to pay for a custom piece? Send me an email - I'd love your thoughts and feedback!
Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 3 (2023): Part of me is still bummed that since Avengers: Endgame, the MCU has (inevitably) collapsed under the weight of its own ambition - so much so that individual films, even those helmed by directors with vision and style like James Gunn, always feel at least a little like extraordinarily expensive, convoluted Disney commercials (ah-hem Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania).
The third Guardians of the Galaxy film was only very slightly tainted in this way. For the most part, it is lovely, heartfelt, moving and satisfyingly bittersweet, even if it lets itself get slightly weighed down by victory lap filler and love-fest indulgences and ends up less tight than previous entries overall. Bradley Cooper, though - truly the unsung hero of the Guardians franchise - his voice work as Rocket is so consistently funny and emotionally affecting, especially in this film, which solidified Rocket's legacy as one of the all-time great characters of the MCU. Also, James Gunn's soft spot for little furry buddies of all kinds is so central to this film and I am totally here for it.
Also on-screen this week:
Last week, I returned to Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by Rebecca Solnit, a collection of essays she initially published during the peak the GW Bush years. This third edition - expanded and with new commentary - was released in 2016, just as the Trump era was dawning. Her mission, which she playfully refers to as "stealing the teddy bear of despair from the loving arms of the left," is to uncover and share the stories that fuel hope for a better future for our people and our planet - of ordinary people creating extraordinary change, of friends and neighbors banding to help one another through disaster, of the ways that everyday actions create the mycelial network of revolutionary change that only occasionally blooms into transformative global shifts. I find Solnit's essays to be not only elucidating but truthful in a way that strikes at my core, reminding me that the stories we antagonize ourselves with, that fuel our fear, just aren't anywhere close to the whole story.... And we have got to do a better job at seeing the bigger truth: that human beings are collaborative, resilient, and that the people truly do have the power - as long as we don't surrender to our own despair.
There are so many, but here's one excerpt that I return to again and again:
" ...hope is not like a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. I say it because hope is an ax you break down doors with in an emergency; because hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth's treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal. Hope just means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope. At the beginning of his massive 1930s treatise on hope, the German philosopher Ernst Bloch wrote, 'The work of this emotion requires people who throw themselves actively into what is becoming, to which they themselves belong.' To hope is to give yourself to the future, and that commitment to the future makes the present inhabitable."
And in my weekly Sarah J. Mass-update: I finished The Assassin's Blade (the Throne of Glass prequel novellas) and Queen of Shadows. The former was a lovely intermission, and I'm so glad I read it when I did, after Heir of Fire, the third book in the series. It really sets up the action of Queen of Shadows beautifully.
And Queen of Shadows - my goodness. No spoilers, I promise - but this one broke my heart in so many ways... The whole time I was reading the first half of the book, I was genuinely unsettled all throughout the day because I was just so preoccupied by the hard things my beloved characters were going through and I was so worried about them! I kept trying (and giving up) to find the right words to google to make sure I didn't spoil anything but could get the reassurance I was desperate for that they were going to be ok in the end. Ultimately, this book pushed on the reality that the right thing is not always clear, sometimes multiple right paths conflict with one another, that love evolves as we change and grow - sometimes in ways that hurt, and in the end, it is ALL that matters. It is the only thing that will save any of us, and the only thing powerful enough to change the course of the future.
Goddamn Maas - bring on Empire of Storms. I'm glad A) that there are 8 books in this series and B) that each of the last 3 books are 700+ pages long because I really don't want this journey to ever end.
Local stitchers and quiltmakers (and art lovers in general), make a plan to go see the Pacita Abad retrospective at the Walker Art Center - up now through the end of the summer. An internationally celebrated female Philippine artist, Abad's love of fabric and textile art are the heart and soul of her lifelong body of work - which is stitched and pieced and stuffed and embellished and painted in such extraordinary ways. Make sure to check out the back of her large tapestries where you can see the movement of her stitches... and don't miss the underwater room!
Photos truly don't do her work justice, but here's some that I took anyway:
Over Memorial Day weekend, while J completed a heroic but punishing gravel ride in Grand Marais, Bubbles and I went on a hike from Temperance River up to Carlton Peak. It was a gloriously sunshiney day - and though the 7 miles and 1000 feet of climbing certainly woke both of our bodies up in a way that was a little humbling - we took lots of deep breaths, drank lots of water, soaked in the sunshine and cool breeze, and relished the just-blooming, quiet late-spring forest. It was so lovely.
Also, one of our neighbors in Minneapolis has a yard full of bright orange poppies every spring and I just adore them.
Holy Time - Where Language Ends
Slides from this week's experience--with words from Walt Whitman, Keith Leonard and Mary Oliver; video from Danny MacAskill; and music from The Jam--are available here.
Slides from "Give Yourself to the Future," last week's experience--with words from Vaclav Havel, Rebecca Solnit, Marianne Williamson and Ada Limon; and music from Ben Bohmer--are available here.
Holy Time is a weekly online gathering - Thursdays, 8:45pm CT on zoom (https://zoom.us/j/94849428936).
All are welcome.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or for more information.
I've also been craving late-60s artsy hippie folk - like Simon and Garfunkel, The Byrds, The Band, and The Beatles when they were on psychedelics
What you are making and reading and writing and doing? What is inspiring you? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.