Under the Influence of Buddha

Or at least his hand. I lay blame for the spell I’m under directly at the feet of my dear friend Peter, who is not a Buddhist but is an incredible chef. Peter introduced me to Buddha’s Hand citron several years ago when he showed me his tree laden with oddly shaped yellow fruit that did indeed seem to have fingers. He explained that the fruit has no juicy flesh or seeds and is prized for its aroma and usefulness in cooking. Aha!

Last winter Peter generously shared several of the fruits with me and I candied them, using the same method I learned for candied orange rind. This confection truly knocks socks off at ten paces and while it can be wonderful in many dishes, my first batch was eaten right out of the jar. Well, that was that. This spring I purchased my own tree and it is producing fruit!

The larger fruit here is 2.5 inches long now and can be 6-12 inches at maturity this winter. I can’t wait to candy this citron and use it in Brandied Cherry Conserve next spring. Rachel Saunders calls it “an indispensable ingredient” for that recipe.

Where did this exoctic fruit come from? A 19th century paper on citrus mentioned that the Buddha’s Hand citron had been introduced to California from Japan, but for about a century thereafter the tree was rarely grown in the state. In the early 1980s virtually no commercial plantings of Buddha’s Hand existed in California, but as of 2008 there were at least 25 acres farmed by specialty citrus growers. The fruit is available at local farmer’s markets in the San Francisco Bay area.

In Japan Buddha’s Hand is a popular gift at New Year’s, for it is believed to bestow good fortune on a household. In China it symbolizes happiness and long life.

I won’t be seeking out anyone to break this spell. I’ll stick with the potential for good fortune, happiness and long life — not to mention some mighty fine eating!

Fabric Postcard Auction a Success!

Seven members of Postmark’d Art  donated 20 fabric postcards for the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative auction which took place on line in early July and brought in $916.00.  To view all the postcards click here

The AAQI is a national, grassroots charity whose mission is to raise awareness and fund research. The AAQI auctions and sells donated quilts, and sponsors a nationally touring exhibit of quilts about Alzheimer’s. The AAQI has raised more thatn $570,000 since January 2006.  Ami Simms, founder of the AAQI, works tirelessly for this cause, and I was proud to support the effort.

Here is another version of the fabric postcard I donated for the auction.  The fabric is hand painted; all thread work is free motion. Contact me  if you’d like to purchase it.  I sell my postcards mounted on 8-ply archival cotton rag mat, signed and ready to frame.

WIP — Riffing on 3

Goal:  Connect the 3 individual fern prints in a way that makes them a comfortable, natural threesome. Can we say Three Musketeers? All for one and one for all? 

The first idea came so easily it seemed like a gimme: Combine fabrics from the adjacent prints to fill the gaps in height. I like the simplicity of the check and the fusion it creates. The next challenge took a bit more.  I needed a fabric that would bridge each of the pairs of adjacent prints and I wanted a commercial fabric — no more painting for me. I found the first one in my stash. It’s a piece of Jane Sassaman-designed fabric that a friend gave me a quarter yard of. Lucky me. I cut two 2″ strips and pieced it in.

The second fabric was not in my studio but at the second store I went to.

And here is the completed top:

This is the 3rd quilt I will have created using the woodwardia fern — see the first 2 in my Art Quilt Gallery. This top measures 50″ x 67″ — my largest art quilt to date. It was not planned at all that the quilts would have 1, 2 and then 3 prints in them, it just happened that way. A bit of serendipity I’m enjoying. But I digress.

I’ve been thinking for some time about how I would quilt this piece. My riff on 3 will continue. Stay tuned.

Mendelssohn – Creating an Art Quilt

People often ask how long it takes me to create an art quilt.  That is a very difficult question to answer: Each quilt has a unique inspiration and execution time. Some small pieces have taken a few hours or days. Others have been in the making for much longer. Mendelssohn is an example of the later timing.

In March 2009 I took Ruth McDowell’s  class “Designing From Nature” hosted by Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, CA.  Ruth teaches her method for creating a unique pattern from a photograph or drawing.  I needed this skill in order to make a quilt from a treasured photograph I had of my then 8-week old puppy, Mendelssohn (b. June 15, 2000).  My sister Christy took this photograph in August 2000.  The moment I saw it I knew I wanted to turn it into a quilt.

It took me the full 5 days with Ruth to complete the pattern.  When I got home I put it up on my design wall and admired it.  Then it was rolled up and set aside so that I could complete other work.

I unrolled the pattern March 18, 2010 (Yes, a year later, I know.  The truth is I was intimidated by the pattern and the process.  I hadn’t done this kind of work before and I had to muster courage.) and started working.  The first step was to create the freezer paper pattern that would be cut up and fused to the fabric.  Then — choose the fabric.  This process took a while.  I needed a lot of just-the-right whites.  I thought I would find everything I needed in my stash, but not so.  Shopping was in order.  I went to several stores, then I shopped several friends’ stashes.   By late May, I was finally getting somewhere…

This was a complicated pattern!  The solid yellow lines on the paper pattern indicate the sections.  The dashed lines are sections of pattern pieces that must be stitched together before they can be joined to the pieces next to them; solid pencil lines are individual pattern pieces.  Each freezer paper pattern piece was fused to fabric, then stitched to an adjoining pattern piece.  The freezer paper allows for stability of the fabric and very accurate piecing.  Quite an ingenious method actually.  There were 5 sections to create, then the sections were pieced together.  It was slow work.  I completed the 3rd section on June 3:

Five days later I had the fourth section in hand:

At this point, I remember thinking that I was having more of a success than a failure with this process.  I could actually imagine completing the quilt.  A big “Whew!” moment was savored.  I pressed on, now with a smile.

Almost there June 24:

The quilt top is completed June 28, 2010.

The celebration time was short. I wanted to enter “Mendelssohn” for an October exhibition in Mill Valley. I had to press on to quilt, bind and get it photographed. Once marked, the quilting was rather straightforward. I used metallic thread to bring out his eyes. Quilting was completed in August 2010. Having a goal with a firm deadline is always a good thing.

I am very pleased with this quilt. And “Mendelssohn” was featured in Art Quilts, A Group Show, juried by Jane Przybysz (then the Director of the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles) at the O’Hanlon Center for the Arts the month of October.

So, from inspiration to completed art quilt a full ten years flew by. Thank goodness all my art quilt don’t take this long!

Seasonal Joys

Oakland broke a long-standing record on the 28th when the skies opened and we received over an inch of rain.  I’ve been closely watching our espaliered magnolia in the back yard which has 6 buds on it, the most at one time!  Once open, the blooms seldom linger more than a day or two so I have to be nimble to enjoy them.  In the midst of a heavy downpour I donned my raincoat, grabbed my camera and got this image.  And glad I am for the trouble — the next morning the bloom was battered and brown.  Beauty can be fleeting indeed.



Another sign of the season:  My newphew and his wife brought home two 8-week-old goats on the 29th.  I’ve never been this close to a goat before.  After they were coaxed off the hill, I hand fed them.  They are gentle little charmers.  Ahhh, life is good!


Inspiration in everything

I am having my own Julie & Julia experience with Rachel Saunders’  Blue Chair Cookbook. Professional cooks refer to her as the Czar of Jam.  I purchased her book last year as a Christmas gift for a friend. I realized upon opening it that I had to have my own copy.  Rachel is a local girl and she teaches — lucky me. I took her marmalade class and haven’t looked back. During the winter I made Cranberry-Pomegranate, Strawberry-Blood orange, Lemon and Pink Grapefruit and Rangpur Lime marmalades and Cranberry-Pluot conserves.

The book is organized by season so it coordinates easily with my buying habits at the local farmer’s market. This spring I made Strawberry-Rhubarb, Rhubarb-Cherry, Cherry,  and Rhubarb with Candied Ginger jams. Here’s the beginning of Rhubarb-Cherry jam. The copper preserving pan is one of the keys to successful jam making. When not in use, it’s great eye candy in the kitchen.

I have a navel orange tree and recently used her recipe for candied orange rind.

The texture and color of this orange rind is inspiring in many ways: stir my cappuccino? Dice for my next jam-making session? Or how about a quilt! Now we’re cookin’.

Just Do It!

For most of my life I’ve experienced “Aha!” moments in the shower. Last year I got back into the pool and I’m finding that those times of clear thinking  — and the big “Aha!” — are coming more regularly. Perhaps it’s because I’m wet longer in the pool than during shower time. I do know that it’s meditative for me to swim – the world is around me but I don’t notice it, I’m focused on counting the lengths as I swim, keeping my breathing steady, my stroke strong.  It’s private time.  The “Aha!” this morning was “Don’t wait – just do it.”  So here goes….