Archive for the ‘Studio Visits’ Category

Once More with Feeling: Hummingbird Visitors

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Homing Instinct

The seasons pass through with different studio visitors. But my favorite are the summer visitors. If nothing else, they  get to see the garden in bloom. Some of them consider it a ritual seasonal visit. They come year after year, for their pleasure, for my joy.

702 Homing Instinct Detail 1

Homing Instinct detail

I especially love my hummingbird  visitors. Actually he, and his wife, are both emerald green. But I dressed him up with a red head, just because I though he’d like to be formal for his portrait. Why do I know it’s a he? I didn’t look under his skirt. But if it’s a day glow bright bird, it’s a boy.

I was afraid I lost these visitors when my neighbors insisted I take down the day lily garden.  They had come back year to year to those flowers, and I’d never seen them anywhere but in front in the day lily strip.

 Floral Arrangement 24

Floral Arrangement 24

Of course, if one buffet closes, you look around for what’s nearby. They found the back sun garden without any trouble the next year. I was delighted to watch their visit from the back planting rather than from the front porch.


We forget that the things we grow for our pleasure, are survival for the other beings that live in our worlds.  I am honored they keep coming back.



The Town of Torper and the Very Vulgar Day Lily

The Town of Torper and the Very Vulgar Day Lily

If you missed the entertaining and cautionary tale about my garden wars, The Town of Torper and the Very Vulgar Day Lily , you’ll find it on my web site  at or on, 

My hope is that if you cannot avoid your own, you can at least laugh at mine.

You can read more about the Town of Torper at

Changing the Rules. Can You Outgrow a Fairy Tale

And  Telling Stories

The Glamorous World of Art: Not So Much

Monday, January 7th, 2013

There’s a world of difference between being and artist or a writer, and doing art and writing. That moment in front of an audience appreciating what you’ve done is very ephemeral. Don’t blink. It’s short. 

The eternity simply doing what is needful to do your art is much longer. And as Screwtape said in the Screwtape Letters, humans don’t do consistent constant efforts. We go in waves and troughs in every direction, moods and well as works.

So yesterday when I went into the studio and found the washer filling without a stop and the plumbing leaking from the ceiling, I said to myself, in the way one does.” Another glamorous day of art.” It’s a bit early to call the plumber. It’s just about time to call the washer repair man.

I believe being creative is not a special gift. It’s part of who we are as people. It’s your human genome at work. We are creative about how we order our world, make our lives functional, keep ourselves sane. Sometimes it spills into great colors, ideas sprung into the world as a huge and lovely statement. Sometimes it simply just spills out of your washer.

So with that in mind, I’m going to celebrate my creative spirit with a call from the plumber and a day filming sewing process. Because the creative urge and need doesn’t stop for disasters. It simply adds them to the laundry list.

The Screwtape Letters is a lovely book by C. S. Lewis. It’s about a senior devil teaching a younger devil the art of temptation. You’ll find it on Amazon or probably your local library. It’s a worthy read.

For yourself, I wish your creative spirit alive and active in all your day brings. And I hope mine brings the plumber and the machine repair man.

Vivi Ginsberg Smith: Definition in Constant Redefinition

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

I met I  met Vivi at least 15 years ago. At the time she was running the  best fiber art gallery around.  A gallery is it’s own creation, a place where art shines. And that is an important part. But often people are more involved with that space than they are with art.

Vivi isn’t one of those. I’ve watched her create safe spaces for children, exhibition places for artists ( bigger children), grace and love for the people in her life, and turn around and do the most amazing pottery/ sculpture. She is in  constant movement and definition. 

I’m a color person. I dream in color. I think in color. But Vivi’s vital textures in plain porcelain open doors in my head I didn’t know where there.

This is what she says about her own work.

“After over 10 years of clay, I still boil down to my love of surface design and fiber. My current projects endeavor to combine porcelain, stoneware and fiber in new and wonderful ways. I currently designing a new jewelry line , scheduled to appear on Etsy in the new year.

The photo of Seedpod is felted wool fiber and porcelain.
Anemone is porcelain, hand built. I’m considering a revisit to this only with a porcelain body and fiber tentacles.

This “…is my potter’s mark. I started signing my name as VIVI before we lost Leo because that is what he always called me and I liked it. Oddly enough the VIVI done like a roman numeral can be read as a 66, this is interesting because Leo was born in 66, I was 6 years old and he was murdered New Year’s Day 06.

…. Quite a few people don’t know what a flower frog is. I didn’t either when I was younger and when asked by my mother to get her a flower frog whilst she was arranging flowers, my reaction was “what frog?”, I thought we had frogs as in amphibians in the laundry room, lol.

As you can see my work is very nature based, loving the woods, ocean and gardening has a strong influence on everything I create.

You’ll find her work online at and and at the Illinois Artisan Shop at Rend Lake.

Zeke Dyes Fabric, Ellen Dyes Bird: Notes from the Dog House

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

I’m Ezekiel, the new studio dog at Thread Magic Studio. I’m learning the fine points of being Ellen’s studio dog. We have three at the studio.I’m here at the studio door. Mom spends a lot of time at the computer in the living room, so I was shocked when we went to the studio.

It appears a studio dog has a lot of things to do.

I didn’t know which way to look.


Mom dyed a lot of fabric. I ate a lot of cookies.Then Mom accidently dyed Bird. I guess you should think first before you demand to be petted in the studio.

Pat Winter (The Dye Cup Fairy) came and got Mom to open the cookie jar again.Pat dyes fabulous silk ribbons, and since it takes just a little dye for that, she likes to use the ends of the dye in the cups. Works all around.You can see Pat’s amazing dyed ribbon and the astonishing things she does with it on her blog at Pat Winter Gatherings.

You’ll find more blogs about her on this site at

Technology and the Dye Cup Fairy

And Pat Winter: It’s always the Quiet Ones.

Finnie says the secret is to keep your head down and nap a lot. He seems to have that down to a science.

Here’s what the fabric looked like.

Will I dye more fabric? Well, it’s a big cookie jar out there.

Classes at the National Quilt Museum

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Source: via Ellen Anne on Pinterest

There’s two really great things about quilt classes at the National Quilt Museum. One is that it’s the National Quilt Museum and the people who come to class here are spectacular. The other is that it’s the National Quilt Museum, which is the epicenter of support, information, and exposure for quilters and especially art quilters. Don’t think you won’t see spectacular traditional quilts. You will. But the art quilts there are of a caliber that makes my heart sing. It’s a bit of quilt heaven in every way.

I taught a three day class here that made my heart sing too. Astonishing students! We worked mostly on flower studies out of my new book Thread Magic Garden. But what they came up with was their very own.


Top it off with a lunch at Caryl Bryer Fallert’s Bryer Patch Studio.Caryl is a quilting legend whose work has revolutionized the quilt world for 30 years.  Caryl graciously had us all to lunch and showed off her latest work and her fabulous Paducah studio.


Here are some images from class. If you’d like to see more, check my facebook page at Thread Magic Studio.

What a class like this does is really build all kinds of skills. The luxury of three days in class (and a late evening session) means that people get to refine what they’re learning into what they do.

From my point of view, I’m still bending my head around the notion that these people have a quilt of mine in the museum. It’s still a moment standing in front of Dancing in the Light in a museum setting and saying, “Yep. That one’s mine. I’m still looking for the other Ellen Eddy who must have quilted it.

So support the National Quilt Museum either by visiting or by becoming a friend of the museum. Take lovely 3 day classes when you get the chance to really dive into a new technique with a teacher.  And celebrate this brave new world where we have real museums that support, preserve, show and educate quilters as the artists we know that we are.

You’ll find  information about the National Quilt Museum on their web site at

You’ll find more information about Caryl Bryer Fallert on her web site at

You’ll find the gallery pictures on my face book page at If you’re from class and you want to tell more about those pictures, log in and you can!

Technology and the Dye Cup Fairy (Pat Winter)

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

I love technology. I hate technology. I feel like the red queen and though I can’t possibly run fast enough, or at all, I must try.

Pat Winter is the Dye Cup Fairy. When I’m done dyeing fabric, I always have a bit of left over dye in the cups. Not so much that you could dye yards and yards of fabric. But ribbon? Yes! So Pat comes by and picks up the dye cups. I go for long periods of time when I don’t see the Dye Cup Fairy but you always know she’s been there. There’s a note, missing dye cups, and if you’re lucky, new plants in your garden or an Icy waiting for you. If you don’t know Pat, she’s perhaps the most inventive and amazing crazy quilter in the world.

Several years ago, I bought what I call a boob camera. Not because it’s for those of us who are a bit behind. No. It fits in my bra. Now this is important because if you don’t have a camera with you you can’t take the picture. I know you’re supposed to be able to do this with a phone. 
Please! I can only master one plastic box at a time.


Panasonic Lumix Boob Camera

I love my boob camera. Simple, no cap to lose. Takes a lot of pictures before it declares itself dead. Do I know what all the settings are? Don’t be silly!





So one day I walked into my studio and found the Dye Cup Fairy. And being the Fairy of Large and Incomprehensible Messes, we played together. With the boob camera and paint sticks.

Pat is much better with a camera than I. We both looked at the sport setting and said Sure! Why Not! You press the button down and it takes picture after picture after picture after picture. Well, you get the idea. She pointed and shot. I just played.


We got 836 pictures. What do you do with 836 pictures? Even after you take out the ones with blurry hands, more is definitively less  there really is a too much. Who’d have believed that?We’re not going to use that setting again.





Did we have fun? You betcha

I hope you have a Dye Cup Fairy who takes, gives and shares wonderful things with you!

I hope you play with your friends, even when the technology is incomprehensible!

I hope all your messes bring you wonder and joy! 

You’ll find Pat Winter’s blog at Pat Winter Gatherings. She also does a fabulous crazy quilt magazine that will launch you into a brand new crazy  quilting world.

You’ll find more about paint sticks on older posts of mine at 

The Secret Handshake: New Toys 

Paint Stick Updates

The Schamburg Expo

You’ll find my camera on There are lots newer ones, but none better. And it fits just fine in a DD cup.


Commissions: Other People’s Dreams

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

I love birthdays! Celebrating birthdays is how we say, “I’m glad you’re here! So I was particularly delighted when a friend asked me to make a special quilt for her sister on a special birthday.

Thalia Johnson had come to the studio to visit before. She called me to ask if there was a great tu’rtle quilt for her sister’s birthday. I said, “Not at this moment, but there could be.We sat down with some great reference pictures. Have you used Teamviewer before? It’s a way to share what’s on your screen with someone else. It’s definitely cool. It allows you to look at another person’s computer miles away,



Turtle in the Hostas


Fly Fishing

We decided on a water slider turtle, rather than a tortis or a box turtle. She loves orchids and her sister gave me pictures of her collection. It made a perfect lady’s slipper.
I went to work.
I embroidered the turtle.

Created the branch
Built in the water and sky and made lady slippers.

Here’s Paige with her quilt.

Commissions are an honor. They’re a badge of trust. They also scare me a little. I’m always terrified of letting someone down in some way. But when they  please someone this much, I feel privileged to have been asked.

Bird Speaks from the Dog House: Studio Miracles

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

As always, it’s my job to care for the social well being of all people who come to the studio. I think they lack proper dogs who kiss them enough. I always help with that.

But I also get to see the miracles that happen when you have a creative space. A creative space doesn’t just make objects. It makes people creative. And bless them, we know they need help.

Liams machine

Several years ago, a lady left a sewing machine for my mom. It was an  awfully old Pfaff, before the walking foot mechanism. She said at the time, she’d find it a home. It’s home seemed to be under the counter.




Then her neighbor Liam, who is 11 told her he wanted a sewing machine. Liam is a great neighbor. He comes over, tells great stories, rubs dog tummies, watches Mom sew and has helped make a great new garden bed for Mom. He even helps her find camera and glasses.

There’s a readiness to learning to sew, just like there is for reading. When a kid wants to, that’s the time. Thank God we had that machine ready and waiting. It’s perfect. It’s all metal, tough, strong and solid. And Liam loves to oil and maintain it. To make him feel better I stuck my nose right up his back while he was stitching. You know, I think he needs that kind of support. But it was good his foot was off the pedal.

But that’s what a good studio does. There’s a lady who needed a place to give her machine to. There’s a little boy sewing his heart out. There’s Mom with great and lovely people around her. A studio is a place to create things. But it also creates happy people.

Can you come to our studio? Well, of course. Call Mom first so she knows or you may find her upside down in a dye sink. If you wish to see a clean studio you can make an appointment for 3 years from now. If you to come play, well just come over.

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