letting go

Two of my pieces left their spots on my design wall this past week. They travel to new eyes with an invisible thread to my thoughts.

Don't Go in the Basement, 17" x 16.25" ©2015 Paula Kovarik

Don't Go in the Basement was inspired by a drawing by Jeremy. The wide-mouthed, eyes-focused grin monster leaps out and anchors the lower right corner of this small piece. It is one of the first of my children's drawings projects and is dear to my heart. I know the new owner also loves the piece so I am satisfied it is where it belongs.

Move That Thing, 16" x 11.5", ©2015 Paula Kovarik

My friend Etta owns Move That Thing. These quirky, moving-parts bodies remind me to jitter along when I see it. The talented artist, Amelia, drew the wonderful fish-eat-fish pair at the bottom right. And that sun in the upper right is by the ever sunny Derin. These two artists inspire me to let the inner child out every so often.

I will miss these pieces. When people ask me why I make art I often say it is because I have to.
I am eager to create. I also like to show it, share it and let it journey on. This gives it a life of its own.

big blank wall

Distractions, responsibilities and confusion have set my studio in stasis. The design wall has a big blank hole on it. About two weeks ago I took out one of those precious pieces of cloth I have collected and pinned it to the board. It is a piece of hand woven linen. With slubs and weight and presence. I found it in a junk store in Germany and instantly knew that I had to have this cloth in my work.

Problem is the preciousness. How to deconstruct, define, deepen (and defile?) the cloth with my visions? Those little hand stitches that join the two panels down the center of the cloth have to stay in honor of the weaver. The slubs provide their own layer of texture and depth. Stitching, marking and moving beyond the original cloth challenges my resolve.

Usually when I come to this stage in a work I start with a clear concept. A couple of the ideas in my sketch stash could work with this cloth. But which one? Which is worthy? Why?

Placemat practice, Paula Kovarik

For now I will experiment on smaller cloth. Stained and tattered placemats with scalloped edges present a pallet without risk. Without gravitas. The big blank wall will have to wait. I feel the breath of it whispering.

Texture studies, Paula Kovarik

Sew first, plan second

When Kathleen Loomis sat down to write her book about designing quilts she must have had a lot of fun because this book is chock-a-block full of hints and happiness. She has taken a simple traditional block, the Rail Fence block, and turned it on its ear. Never will you see so many variations of striped blocks.

Not only is Kathleen a master quilter, she is also a seasoned teacher and writer. She speaks to my heart when she says Sew First, Plan Second. I've never been patient enough to sit down and plan, map and build a quilt. The few times that I did that the life went out of my studio. I felt like I was a prisoner wrapped in freezer paper. Just can't do it. Kathleen's experimental layouts and clear diagrams of different settings make thinking about your own design as simple as, well, jumping a fence.

But wait! There are bonus sections. Kathleen generously gives us some very sage advise on choosing colors, mixing values and using focus fabrics. Hints for assembly give us a hint on how she approaches her own work. Her questions and answers will serve beginners and experienced quilters alike.

So, if you are also impatient to get it going, take a look at this book. Through easy to follow diagrams, samples and questions, Kathleen will make designing your own quilt an easy and exciting new venture.

See Kathleen's blog here.
See her award-winning work here.

Reading through Kathleen's book these past couple of days made me get out some of those scrap rail fence blocks in my stash. I think I may have moved too fast! Maybe I need to re-read a couple of chapters.

Reading through Kathleen's book these past couple of days made me get out some of those scrap rail fence blocks in my stash. I think I may have moved too fast! Maybe I need to re-read a couple of chapters.

Here is one of Kathleen's rail fence quilts, this one all in plaid.

Here is one of Kathleen's rail fence quilts, this one all in plaid.

tool kit and two weeks

I am preparing for an artist's residency at the Indiana National Lakeshore in September. Rounding up the essential tools is actually a bit challenging. Do I need my sewing machine? Should I bring my computer? How much fabric? Will I work on new ideas or bring an existing project?


Can I cut fabric without my self sealing mat and t-square? Should I focus on ideas rather than production? Will I be able to change my focus from my studio practice to a more free-wheeling experiential style?

They are all good questions. But the answers won't be clear until I get there. So I have narrowed the selection down to these essential hand tools: Black and white YLI thread, chalk marker, machinger gloves, Mr. Tweezerman tweezers, an assortment of hand needles including two self-threading versions, rotary cutter (and blades), fabric pencil, seam ripper, scissors in two sizes, silicone thimble, extra bobbins and my phone for recording images. Those will all fit in a small bag.

I won't bring the t-square but I will take a small mat to cut on. I will bring linen napkins to use for compositions, some white and black Kona cotton, a roll of cotton batting and my sewing machine. I'll borrow my husband's laptop so that I can still upload photos and write my journal. I won't have a design wall, a fabric stash or large cutting and ironing tables. I won't have my day-to-day routine or chores to do to keep the studio and house going. 

I will have new horizons, new climate, new input. Turning the head to a different focus is a good thing.


Our bees left us this week. We tried to keep them by cutting this branch off into a new hive. And they seemed to be happy. For a couple of days.

Then, sometime yesterday or the night before, they left. For cooler pastures? Because of the moon? With a song in their hearts? We missed the migration, the drama of leaving a fully stocked home. And wonder about the motives and catalyst. Queens have a will of their own and a duty to build and thrive in their queendom.

A sad day for us nonetheless. They left a hive of spoiled honey—larvae looking for their keepers. The heat makes the air warm with honey drafts.

Bee swarm, Paula Kovarik