Friday, May 29, 2009

Valley Quilters, Palmer, AK

A tiny tree in progress with the brilliant light of the Alaskan summer in the background. I found the Valley Quilters of Palmer and Wasilla to be very enthusiastic and remarkably cheerful. The good will was positively infectious. Each night, a large group dined with me, and the stories I heard! It was a blast. They're a hardy, plucky bunch too.
During class introductions, I asked each student to tell how it was that she came to be living in Alaska. I heard lots of "I came here with my husband to stay for -- months (insert 3, 6, 9, or 18). Well, that was -- (insert 10, 12, 24 or 36) years ago. It is blissfully clear that the women of the far north appreciate the uniqueness of their home state. I was privileged to share it for a few days.
Ah, the Goose is Loose, my favorite class! The ladies created their own designs, and began stitching them in less than 6 hours.
A lot was accomplished amid laughter, shared potluck lunch, and friendly camaraderie. We thank Sylvia, of Sylvia's Quilt Depot for allowing us the use of her classroom. BTW, should you ever find yourself in Wasilla, be sure to check out Sylvia's. She has an awesome selection of specialty Alaska and northern fabrics, some of which are created locally.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Reflections of a Spill: 20 Years Later

Reflections of a Spill: 20 Years After the Exxon Valdez
Image from Exhibit Postcard by Douglas Yates

One of the most memorable and emotionally impressive art exhibits that I have seen anywhere will be at the Pratt Museum in Homer, Alaska through June 28, 2009. In somber tones of black and gray, reflecting the viscous color of oil contamination in formerly pristine waters, the exhibit evoked raw emotion and brought tears to my eyes.

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground off the shores of Alaska, darkening pristine waters. The largest spill in the history of North America left a lasting mark on the coastal communities of Alaska. The exhibit features both art and science by Alaskan artists and scientists as they reflect on the impact of the spill. For more information about the exhibit visit the Homer News

In the Marine Gallery of the Museum is a display of carved wooden seabirds called "Water's Memory". Carved by Alan Bennett, the birds are representative of the tribe Mergini (sea ducks), heavily impacted by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. Some populations not yet fully recovered.

The first floor of the Pratt Museum features "Darkened Waters: Profile of an Oil Spill". This exhibit has been on display since 1993, five years after the spill. It graphically and scientifically presents the effects of the spill on the wildlife, habitats, and waters affected by the spill.

This is a must see exhibit if you are fortunate enough to be visiting the charming community of Homer.

Katchemak Bay Birding

Homer and Katchemak Bay specialize in scenery. Mary arranged for a boat and bird tour of the bay with Bay Excursions. And birds we did see! This birder type opted to leave the camera at home so as to better focus on the watching part of birding. We saw three species of loons, cute little Tufted Puffins, rafts of thousands of Common Murres, Red-faced and Pelagic Cormorants, Harlequin Duck, Marbled Murrelet, and Barrow's Goldeneye, among others.

We also saw the ubuquitous Bald Eagles of Katchemak Bay. For many years, a woman that lived on Homer Spit had fed the eagles that gathered each winter, feasting on the natural and human-made food supply. The woman, whose name I did not learn, passed away during the winter of 2008-09, but her supporters continued to feed the wintering population of eagles. With only good intentions, some locals believed it necessary to continue the food source until the natural supply increased in the spring. The eagles thrived. Unfortunately, these same predatory birds that were being nurtured had a devastating effect on populations of other species that nested in the bay, including Arctic Tern, Black-legged Kittiwakes, and many others. Next winter, there will be no deliberate feeding of eagles in the hopes to return Katchemak Bay avifauna to a more natural balance.

Throughout our stay, the weather was perfect in every way and the waters calm.
We also had great views of Grewingk Glacier. The unseasonably warm and dry weather did have its drawbacks, however.
We witnessed the start of this wildfire about 10 miles east of the main village. By the next day, it had grown to over 500 acres, and folks were being evacuated. Three days later, I learned that it had reached 5,000 acres and some homes had been lost. This area had been hard hit by spruce beetles, leaving dead standing trees as a reminder of the infestation. Unfortunately, the combination of the diseased or dead trees and glorious weather had a devastating effect.

Welcome to Homer, Alaska

The sign boasts of the great fishing, and indeed the halibut skewers we would eat the next day were superb! Actually, ALL the food in Homer was just topnotch! But, fishing was not part of my agenda for this trip; it was the quest for rare birds of the pelagic and shorebird type. Fishing is really popular in Alaska, moreso than birding. I bought the ABA Birdfinding Guide to Alaska, and for every birding stop near water, which is most of them, it talked about the types of fish that would be found there. Hmm! Is this a bird finding guide or a fish finder? The woodwork on this bench was spectacular.
My other travel companion, Jane Ferguson, lassoed a big one!
Our accomodations were on the shore of Katchemak Bay, a little rental house called Norma's Cove. Shortly after arrival, Mary started hollering, "Look out the window!".
We saw several moose on the way down, but certainly didn't expect this sort of up close encounter. Stay tuned . . .

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Road to Homer

Mt Redoubt sleeps fitfully, small burps of steam betraying her unrest. Partially obscured by smoke, this was the best view on the way down to Homer. The smoke was a from a fire in Siberia.
The sign is out of date. New Eagle Scout project?
We stopped at Portage Glacier for the standard tourist photo, as well as a delicious bowl of chile, the standard American type with hamburger, beans and tomatoes.
My hostess was Mary Gerken, who I met in Paducah, KY a few years ago when I was teaching at the AQS show. Mary and her friend Jean were the two quilters who made this amazing trip possible. I was set to share my passion for birding with Mary and Jane, our other travel mate.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Perfectly Framed

Candy Bergeron, of Baton Rouge, sent this charming photo of a perfectly framed Barred Owl. Barred Owls often are more cooperative and visible during the daylight hours than other owl species. This was a great sighting. Way to go, Candy!

A Room with a View - Florence, MS

The view from my cabin at Whitetail's Lodge, just south of Florence, MS. The Swamp Quilters, of the Baton Rouge, LA area, hold 2-3 retreats each year at this privately owned property. I was the lucky teacher for a three-day, Goose is Loose workshop.

Swamp Quilters, Florence, MS

Whoa! This post is out of order in more ways than one. In my quest to catch up on a month of things that should have been posted, I put up some of the Alaska photos before sharing these with you! The Swamp Quilters, from the Baton Rouge area, hold their quilting retreats at Whitetails Lodge, just south of Florence, MS. This gorgeous property, ~700 acres, was established as a hunting facility. However, they also are home to a number of exotics, such as this zebra. He was right outside the door of the lodge.
This guinea and his mate had decided to make the lodge area their home in the past month,
wherre he spent much of his time fighting with his reflection in the glass.
Just one of the many animals on the property.
Carolyn Bacile had been collecting Elvis fabrics for years, and this was the inspiration for her design. We had three wonderful days together, and students accomplished a lot. While class lasted 6-7 hours each day, they continued to sew into the evening.

Noreen Mazzaroppi combined a traditional four-patch with free-form geese.
Debbie Bowman had a sleep-deprived night, second night of our weekend, and she took advantage of the sleeplessness to stitch all night long! What a great design!
Kay Olinde created this terrific design. I can't wait to see the finished project.
Forrest Gump and Friends.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Anchorage Log Cabin Quilters

Teaching for the Anchorage Log Cabin Quilters was a real treat. They opted to take the two-day Goose is Loose Class, which exposes students to a wider array of design techniques, and information is presented at a more leisurely pace so it can be more easily absorbed and retained. Also, students are able to achieve much more because of the additional class time, giving them time to practice what they learned. Here, Janet Santek, designed tiny trees, perhaps the ubiquitous black spruce found throughout Alaska.
Here's another design in progress, by Pam Ventgen. The original drawing is evident beneath the quilt parts.
This was a wonderful design by Ruthe Rasmussen. It was inspired by some existing photo transfers of taken in Ireland of she and her daughter. She set the photos into a Celtic knot design in another class.
Glenda Burk was inspired by the impending eruption of Mt. Redoubt, 130 miles to the west of Anchorage. As of this writing, it still sleeps fitfully.

Yin & Yang was the brainchild of Kate McIntyre. There is more to this design and it will be exciting to see the finished quilt.
The other class was Scrumptious Stars. In this class, students learn the basics of paper foundation piecing by making one of my star patterns. Although they didn't finish their entire star, they were comfortable with the technique by the end of the day. The focus of most of my classes is technique rather than projects. So, I am always happy to see them learning new methods and gaining inspiration to help them grow as artists.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mountain Home, AR

I'm about a month behind in my posts, so my goal is to get caught up this weekend, and then stay current. Early April found me driving from Little Rock, AR up to Mountain Home to teach for the weekend. One of the classes was a Color Class, and this marvelous little vignette was created with scissors and glue.
They get the prize for attendance at their meetings. What a packed house!
In Sensational Stars, each student designed her own project. Because of the designing, most are not fully stitched at the end of the six-hour class, but oh, what fun we had!
Color exercise #1. We generally complete about four different exercises in this 1/2 day class. It is amazing to see the change in fabric use in such a short period. Color selection on a simple star.