Thursday, September 29, 2011

Grass Valley and Lakeport, California

September 6-12, 2011

Grass Valley is a quaint little community in the foothills north of the Sacramento Valley. At an elevation of approximately 2,500 ft above sea level, they tend to have cooler temperatures than the valley floor of North/Central California. They also tend to have a few snow flurries each winter as well. The foothills are covered in pine, oak, and madrona, which has a beautiful red bark, making the drive from the Sacramento airport (their closest major airport) quite picturesque.  It is a beautiful, clear day with the temperature in the high 80's when I arrive in

My hostess, Chris Parks, has a lovely home tucked into the hills not far from town. She has a wonderfully inviting garden with fountains and a swimming pool, surrounded by pine and redwood trees. My home-away-from-home for the next three days!  On Tuesday evening, I had the opportunity to present my trunk show to the members of the Pine Tree Quilt Guild.  They were a very fun, enthusiastic group and I very much enjoyed my time with them.

On Wednesday, I taught a class based on my Nautilus pattern to 20 attendees.  There were some beautiful renditions of the Nautilus shell started, and I look  forward to seeing pictures of all the completed quilts very soon! 

Thursday was a day of sightseeing with Chris as tour guide. We visited the Empire Mine State Historical Park, which is located just a mile down the road from Chris' home. Established in 1850, the mine consists of 367 miles of tunnels that crisscross under the town of Grass Valley. In fact, most homeowners in the area only own their property to 100 feet below ground; the mine retains rights to the tunnels underneath. When the mine closed in 1957, there was a total of nearly six million ounces of gold that had been mined from the site.

Looking down one of the tunnels. 
Can we say claustrophobia fast enough!?!

This is one of the original buildings at the Empire Mine site.

Sign in front of main building.

The owners of the mine had a beautiful home, complete with park-like grounds,next to the mine and open for tours.  Here, Chris is in front of one of the fountains.

This is a picture of the huge bronze statue by the fair grounds entrance.

What trip to a new town would be complete without a visit to the local quilt shop? Sugar Pine Quilt Shop is in a renovated home and has rooms filled with reproduction prints, lots of Bali fabric, and a great selection of Asian prints (yes, I did manage to add to my stash!).

Friday was a travel day from Grass Valley to Lakeport, California, which is located northwest of Sacramento. I said goodbye to Chris and met Ellen Hall of the Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild. Ellen drove me to Jane Alameda's home, where I'll be staying for the next two nights. Jane's home has a beautiful garden overlooking a wooded valley and a friendly cat named Lucky, who slept with me both nights - felt just like home!

Lakeport sits next to Center Lake, which is the largest lake entirely within the borders of California. Center Lake is also the site of many catfish and bass fishing tournaments. Because Lakeport is lower in elevation than Grass Valley is, the temperature is in the mid- to high 90's.

A view of Center Lake, geese, and the beautiful rolling hills beyond.

On Saturday morning, I had the opportunity to speak to the Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild. This guild has about 150 very talented, creative members and it was a pleasure to show them some of my work.

In the afternoon, Ellen Hall and I took a road trip around the Lakeport and neighboring Kelseyville area in search of barns that had traditional quilt blocks painted on them. Called the Quilted Trail, there are currently about a dozen barns, packing plants, and businesses sporting a brightly painted quilt block on the side of the buildings. One of my favorites was a Monkey Wrench block painted on an old barn with a dilapidated old truck parked next to it. I also enjoyed seeing a block on a barn where all the "animals" were made of iron. It was a very enjoyable afternoon!

The Monkey Wrench block with an old truck
parked next to it - perfect!

Another of my favorites - a horse and her (camera shy) foal
next to an old barn with a quilt block.

Some of the local businesses are even joining in on the fun. 
Here, a local wine tasting room with an appropriate
quilt block on their building.

Here is the link if you'd like to get more information about Lakeport's Quilt Trail:

On Sunday morning, September 11, members who had gathered for the Thread Painting class, stood for a moment of silence in remembrance of those lives lost ten years ago. May they rest in peace - and may we never forget! We then spent the rest of the day working on a Great Blue Heron and Butterfly thread painting samplers. It was a busy, productive day for the participants.

Ellen is working hard, along with two other attendees.

Great job, Clara!

After class, Ellen and I drove to her home in Roseville, which puts us much closer to the Sacramento Airport and a flight home on Monday morning.  I want to thank both guilds for giving me the opportunity to come and speak to them. I can only hope they enjoyed it as much as I have - thank you!

John C. Campbell Folk School, Brasstown, North Carolina

In January, 2011 I went to the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC to teach a weeklong class in quilt design.  If you're not familiar with it, the John C. Campbell Folk School was founded in 1925 and seeks to bring people toward two kinds of development:  inner growth as creative, thoughtful individuals, and social development as tolerant, caring memebers of a community.  Located in western North Carolina in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains, a typical week has between 13 to 15 different classes in everything from music, photography, painting, blacksmithing, writing, cooking, jewelry, wood turning, pottery, weaving, and of course, quilting!  If you've ever wanted to learn to make a kaleidoscope, weave a pine needle basket, or make soap from scratch, the JCC folk school is for you!  Check out their website at for more information on this amazing place.

View of the Appalacians from John C. Campbell Folk School

This trip was different from the first two trips I've made to the folk school because I accepted an invitation to stay at the home of Jane Oliver, along with her dear friends Emily Thompson and Donna Warfield.  In years past, I always stayed in one of the houses at the folk school.  But this year, Jane offered her beautiful mountain home, which is located just a few miles up the road from the folk school, and I accepted.  I first met Jane, Emily and Donna when they took a class from me several years earlier in Sisters, Oregon.  Since then, we've gotten to know each other at other classes, including the two previous times I taught at the folk school.  It was at Jane's home early one morning that I saw one of the most spectacular sunrises I've ever seen.  Pictures just didn't do it justice, but it was magnificent and I'll always remember it.

The quilting studio at JCC is the nicest one I've ever taught at.  It is a very large, bright room and each student gets an 8 foot table for themselves, along with a 6' x 8' design wall - great for spreading out.  Power cords hang from the ceiling, which means there are no extension cords to trip over!  There is also a quilting (and weaving) library if more inspiration is needed.  The classes are also limited to 12 students or fewer, so there is more instructor/student time....Yeah!

In my Thread Duets workshop, students created an original fiber art piece using the color theory and Divine Phi ratio I discussed.  Participants also started to think about how they intended to quilt their fiber art pieces earlier in the design process.  This really helps to create a piece where the quilting is an important, integrated part of the overall quilt.  Some of the students also made their quilts two-sided.  In all, there were some great quilts designed.

Students spent the first two days designing their quilt top.  By Wednesday, participants sandwiched their quilts and made them two sided.  We also practiced machine quilting.  On Thursday and Friday morning, students quilted their fiber art piece.  Each Friday afternoon at John C. Campbell, there is a gathering of all students and faculty at the Community Center for the Student Exhibit.  Students display a sampling of their week's work and view the creations of others.  After supper, there is a free concert to end the week.

All in all, teaching at the John C. Campbell Folk School is a spiritually rewarding time for me and the environment is a testament to the power of creation that each individual has within.  I've been invited back to teach a weeklong machine quilting/thread painting class in January, 2012 and am already looking forward to it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Abu Dhabi Quilt Guild, United Arab Emirates

In November, 2010, I had the opportunity to visit the Abu Dhabi quilt guild in the United Arab Emirates and teach quilting classes for five days.  Having never been to the Middle East, I really didn't know what to expect.  With temperatures averaging 85 degrees, the weather was perfect. 

The ship I was on....and you can see the chef working!

As it turned out, the weekend I arrived was the final race weekend for the Formula One race cars.  I'm not a big race car fan, but 24 hours after landing in this marvelous country, I was sitting on a 60 year old yacht (one of three original ships of Sheik Zayad) that looked like it could have been in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, with a private chef on-board creating a marvelous buffet meal for me and the other 25 folks on board, watching the Formula One race cars speed by a short distance away.  Wow!  The cars were moving so fast, it was difficult to even see what color they were.  So, in pretty short order I found myself people-watching - great fun! After the race on Saturday night, Colleen, my wonderful hostess, and I went to a Linkin Park concert, and after the final race on Sunday, we saw Prince in concert - awesome!!!

Prince in concert!

After all this fun, there were classes to teach!  The class attendees were all ex-Pat's from Europe, Australia, India, and the United States.  I taught five different classes, with a number of folks taking more than one class. 

Some of the Mandala's created in class.

A student with her version of Currents.

Colleen works on her Mandala.

One of the Labyrinths that was created.

Currents interpreted as a fire - awesome!

After each class was over, Colleen would take me sightseeing.  We visited the Royal Palace Hotel one evening - the only hotel I've ever been to where we were screened in the parking lot, and went through a metal detector when we entered the hotel.  We came around one corner in this over-the-top fabulous hotel and saw a vending machine that bars!!!!

Just wishin' I could buy a gold bar....

Fabric shopping in Abu Dhabi is quite different from shopping in the U.S.  Most fabric is on round tubes about 4 feet in length.  Most of the fabric I saw was beautiful silks, rayons, polyester, and lace of all weights.  There was a surprisingly small amount of 100% cotton fabric, so when quilters found pure cotton, they would buy yards of it!  Most gals in my classes came with minimum 2 yards of each fabric and some brought much more.  The cotton fabric costs on average between $4-$5 a yard, and it was negotiable with the salesman who follows you around the store and is ready to cut fabric the instant you I said - different than shopping in the U.S.!
The last night in town, Colleen and I toured the Grand Mosque - a must-see if you ever have the opportunity.  You'll have to don a less-than-awesome black burka and veil, but it's worth it.  Beautiful mosaic work with semi-precious stones mostly of flowers and vines are everywhere - all kinds of quilting ideas.  The mosque features three of the largest chandeliers in the world and are made of Swarovski crystals.  It also has the largest Persian rug in the world...with no repeating patterns!  The thing that impressed me the most, though, was the huge wall covered in back-lit Arabic script.  Colleen told me it was 99 different ways to say "God" - it was breathtaking!

The Grand Mosque at sunset.

Guess who the short one is.....

Amazing mosaics everywhere you look!

The enormous chandeliers...

The backlit wall with 99 different ways to say God....

Since the country is so close to the equator, it is hot all the time.  One of the ways locals cool off is to rent floating tricycles with huge tires and pedal around in the water.  The gals wear something called a "burkini" (think burka and bikini combined together), which is shorter than the floor length burkas normally worn.

Locals keeping cool in the heat...

All told, it takes about 20 hours to travel from Abu Dhabi and Portland, between the actual flight times and layovers.  I didn't suffer any jet lag going to UAE, but woke up at 4 a.m. for about a week after returning home - I cleaned out my closets and designed a few new quilts!

A huge THANK YOU to Colleen and her husband for being such wonderful hosts and making my first visit to the Middle East so memorable - I sincerely hope our paths cross again in the future.