Tagged quilts

The Quilters Christmas Gift

I know of no other group of people that are more giving than quilters.

On November 8th my sister Niña called me from her car as she and Joe drove out of Paradise, California through the flames of the now infamous Camp Fire, leaving behind their home to burn to the ground.  The horror and profound loss of this instantaneous event left all of us stunned and feeling helpless. Besides the obvious basic needs, I wanted to send them comfort and joy.  Through the rallying of many quilters, a quilt was constructed and sent to them. 

In brief, here is the story of it’s making as written in the card that was sent with the gift:

“Dear Nini and Joe,

After the initial shock of your fire ordeal, my mind wandered through your destroyed home room by room seeing all you had lost. It was traumatizing because, while we all know that stuff is just stuff, so much of it represented comfort, heritage and memories.  

With that in mind I decided that what you needed most right now is comfort, and along with that, new memories together and new heritage.  You needed a new quilt STAT!  You got to enjoy my quilt gifts to you and you got to enjoy the quilts you made for yourself, both now lost, so here is a new opportunity to enjoy another one while you cuddle up and feel the love that made it.

Here is the back story:

I knew there was no way I could make a new quilt fast enough so I sent out an email to a few of my quilters friends telling them the story of your loss and asking for a 12” block.  People jumped at the chance to help and spread the word. Blocks came tumbling in from Georgia, Maine, California, Vermont and New Hampshire and from people I have never met!  Someone even did the quilting for it as a gift and another stranger donated a gift certificate to a local quilt shop so I could get most of the fabric needed to complete it!  

I was able to gather everyones photos and on the front of this card you will see their smiling faces.  Each one said it was their honor to contribute.  There is a lot of love dripping from this quilt and a lot of tears of witness to it.  I hope you enjoy this as a symbol of new beginnings and of how there are really are people is this world who care. And it just so happens, most of them are quilters!

Love, Jane

P.S.  It is interesting to note that many of the people who made these blocks were going through their own ordeal; under-going chemotherapy, preparing for a bilateral lung transplant, caring for a friend in her last few days on this earth, hobbling with a back injury, colds and the flu. And of course making Thanksgiving dinner!! These are not only a gift of art but gifts of time and strength.

P.S.P.S  Some of the blocks came in after the quilt top was completed so I turned them into pillows that harmonize with the quilt.”

the quiltNinis pillows

QUilters care collage

“Dear quilters,

Last night we slept under a gorgeous quilt made by your hands. I swear we could feel the tender loving care enveloping us, AND it arrived the same morning as our new bed!  [They had been sleeping on a blow up mattress on the floor]
The destruction of our home and personal belongings has been difficult, but the hardest part is losing “things” with memories and connections attached to them. …family treasures, vacation mementos, friend’s gifts, art, and it just goes on from there. While those things are gone, we also lost our community. All of you who participated in creating this new memory and piece of art for us, are now a part of our new community and our rich new memories! 
We have our first treasure with names and faces attached! Every block is cherished, and we couldn’t be more grateful!

Thanks you so much! 
Love, Niña and Joe “
Go Fund Me Niña and Joe by Will Langley


Reset; janebalshaw.com

Bored, disgusted, frustrated, worn out and annoyed—there comes a time when we need to re-set the way we live our life. Perhaps we tried this in January with good intentioned resolutions but statistics say that most of us have already failed and dropped out. The problem with a “resolution” is that it is an intention to resolve or accomplish some thing. And “things” are harder to accomplish then re-setting a direction. It is harder to “lose 20 pounds” than it is to cook from a different cookbook, harder to “add a workout time” to our life then it is to park further away from our job and walk, harder to “not work so hard” then it is to schedule fun first. If we can reset our direction and our priorities, then the “things” fall into place.

It is the American way to keep on going, stay in motion, charge ahead without a breath and if you are *from New England, you suck it up despite the circumstances. Stoic is the word used to describe this emotionless phenomenon of endless long days of lists and toil with no room for reflection. The only difference between the fevered silicone valley over-work Badge of Honor and a Yankee is that one brags about it and the other is quietly self-satisfied!

But there comes a time when, if we are self-aware enough, we need to re-set our course. When in the midst of the drive it is hard sometimes to see the scenery if we are only concentrating on the road. We need to pull over to the rest stop, have a look around and notice if the surroundings are what we had bargained for. I love the story of when Ben and Jerry first started their successful ice cream business and several months into it just closed up for several days to “figure out what they were doing”. Pausing to evaluate, stepping away to get perspective and taking time to observe is an important part of any life and any creative process.

michaelp.orgThis pause is an important part of my life. It began when I was a teenager taking January hikes amongst the fragrant eucalyptus and fir with my aunt Nell. As a life-long self-employed professional artist she also embraced this pause, so with the scent of ocean in the background we silently walked and when we reached a perfect vista, would sit down and write out our desires for the year. Unlike a business plan with predictable spreads of numbers and a black and white plan, our lists were composed of desires that were somewhat lofty. But there was something about this act of writing down our intentions that must have tailored our judgement throughout the year because the next year when we met again, both of our lists had been completely fulfilled. I wish I still had those notebooks to look back on.

It seems to me that the emotion of desire coupled with the interest in the creative process produces results. If we desire to accomplish something then looking for opportunities that support that and, as equally important, avoiding situations that don’t make living it easier.

There is a reason it has taken me over 3 months to write another blog post. I have been in a long pause period, no doubt aided by snow days and physical set-backs, but I have come out the other side with my course corrected and a sense of renewal. Art, designs and words are coming again, my love of gardening is rekindled and my kitchen is once again a creative place. Gone is the rushed anxiety and instead is the calm knowing that I am fulfilling what I was put on the earth to be. It is all because I took the time to be still enough to listen and re-set.

Let me share some of the ways I was able to do this:

  1. First, I had to recognize that I had to change the way my daily life functioned in order to support my daily centering activities that in turn support my inner desires.
  2. IMG_4240I then allowed myself time to noodle on how and why, and then to dream about it.  I literally made appointments with myself by lining out “dates” in my calendar. I did not have the eucalyptus grove but I had cozy spots with good tea and often a fire in the fireplace.
  3. I gave myself some slack.  When you are really off course it takes a long time to auto-correct and the inspirations are slow to come.  But they do come if you give them time!

Best wishes for your own re-set!

*A little humor note: Just to be clear I am not from New England because my parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were not born here. I just live here. My husband was duly corrected while in a tractor store when we first moved here 14 years ago. When asked for his address by the sales clerk he said “I am from Canterbury”. A graveled, stern voice nearby rung out “YOU are not from Canterbury. I AM from Canterbury.” Ok, I am not really a Yankee.

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During my re-set period I had time to finally finish piecing this Christmas quilt.  Next summer I will actually quilt it and be ahead of schedule for the holiday!

Impressionist-painted quilts

I find the nuances of color & light to be endlessly fascinating. The impressions that combinations make can fool the eye and trick the senses into believing something is, when it is not. Like a world inside a world, shape and content formed by color alone without the added benefit of line is what the Impressionist painters of long ago discovered. And it is this color science that has captured my attention in my recent textile artwork.

From my own observation, my eye tells me that shape formed through the impressionist style is characterized by the harmony and dissonance of various color combinations. When laid next to each other, colors that are more opposite to each other on the color wheel create a deeper delineation visually producing more shape. Colors that are closer to each other on the color wheel will visually blend more together producing a softer effect.

Since all my work begins with painted fabric, for the longest time I have been trying to figure out how to express what I saw in my mind’s eye; a quilted piece in an abstract Impressionist style. Hitting upon a floral motif recently has allowed me to play with this color theory, attempt water-color and give a nod to Claude Monet, my go-to guy for inspiration.

Here is my process: I soak a piece of PDF cotton with water, ring it out a little or a lot (a little produces more pastel work, a lot keeps colors more saturated) then spread it out taut on my painting board. I then paint with a round tipped brush using loose squiggly motions leaving white space in between each “flower” allowing for the color to bleed outward to connect them and leaving greater space in between where I come back to paint the green leaf background. I vary the back ground colors, some tonally closer to the flower color to blend in and some more opposite the flower colors to make them pop out. I blend my own paints. I use Jacquard textile colorless extender base and Createx pure pigments to tint it.



I then let the painted cloth completely dry flat on the board then peel it off to heat set the finished work with a very hot iron. If I want to reinforce the water-colorey pastel blur then I wash it and dry in dryer. If I want a more crisp look then I use simply use as-is.

When I quilt, I choose thread colors to reinforce the afore-mentioned color principles, quilting with thread colors that will add more or less shape. I like the flowers to pop and the leaves to set back in so I have been quilting the flowers with Complimentary or analagous threads while the leaves are mostly quilted with monochromatic threads.




Initially, when analyzing each individual step, the work seemed too loose or not defined enough.  However, in the end I feel it all comes together into a vibrant impression of flowers.  What do you think?



Come see these works plus many more at my Open Studio, Sat/Sun November 5th and 6th, 2016 9-5.  12 Cogswell Hill Road; Canterbury, NH 03224  Read more about it here…

Color and iconography

Entrance gardens; janebalshaw.com

Color has a visceral effect on us and, when repetitively combined with shape, can powerfully imprint our memories. As an art form I find this an endlessly fascinating method of creative expression. Think about it; Stop Sign red or a white apple or golden arches…Iconography in our daily life trains us, reminds us – even sells us – and therefore creates emotion.

When I started up my aesthetics business again after having retired from it years before, I used symbolic hues to reinforce the principles of my color theory. To represent the three color groups I chose a yellow skin tone peach, a red hued pinkish skin tone and a blue based cherry skin tone for my interior/exterior design as well as my graphic design.

I laid the floor in the aesthetics studio and painted the entrance hallway stair treads with these colors.Floor and stairs; janebalshaw studiosI made quilts for the walls in these colors…Circles quilt; janebalshaw.com. All rights reserved.IMG_3530And I created a logo for my skincare products….

Combined with the circle shape, this color combination has been a subtle nod  what I do, and now has evolved to become how people find me in my rural surroundings.

In preparing for my open studio a couple week-ends ago I decided at long last to hang a larger road sign at the back of our property along a well-traveled rural state route. I should have done it years ago but being timid combined with the promise of a very complicated process made it all daunting.  I finally took the challenge.

I designed the sign myself then purchased the light weight Alupanel sign board and vinyl lettering from my local sign company, Advantage Signs (they have been incredible to work with!)  I applied the lettering then I painted my own circle logo using artist’s acrylic paint sanding the board first then sealing it with a water-based clear polyurethane.

The sign itself was huge and because it needed to be hung from a tree I hired an arborist to hang it for me.

IMG_3432And, while this sign has presence, many people still miss the turn to my studios so I used iconography to direct them further. The town I live in says “only one sign per business” so symbols were the only way to direct people here.  I positioned the circles and color all along the route leading right up to the studio doors.

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Creativity happens when you least expect it.  Let me know how you feel about this post!

Entrance gardens; janebalshaw.com

Flowers in the snow; new artwork

Flowers in the snowMy studio was a cheery place this last month in December; the snow piled up outside while gardens grew inside.  Inspired by my previous abstracted-nature works, my client Heather Brountas commissioned me to create a painted and quilted textile art work to grace the wall behind her Portsmouth office desk. So I painted flowers and painted flowers and painted flowers…

The color palette came from her existing scheme of hanging artworks;  watery sky views, ocean pastels and the warm complex white on the walls.heather color layout

I painted cotton fabric using my mono-print technique—paint goes on my board then the fabric gets “printed” with it.  I stitched flowers together in random clumps then stitched the clumps together randomly.

DSC06222 DSC06226 DSC06227 %22A stroll thru the garden%22; janebalshaw.comWhat do you think?


Images of water and First Friday fodder! 8/1

water series 2This Friday from 5-8PM, in conjuction with the First Friday art gallery openings here in Portsmouth, I am showing my newest collection of artworks at the Shapley Townhouse in Strawbery Banke.  All water themed, they might be fodder for your own inspirations!  Please come and share some light refreshments with me; 454 Court St.

Above; “Ripples and Rivulets” 22″x24″.  Hand painted and hand dyed cotton fabric, machine pieced, machine and hand quilted, hand appliqued.  Stretched quilt.

Quilt Floating on the Surface

Above; “Floating on the Surface”  30″ x 32″.  Hand printed/painted cotton, machine pieced, machine and hand quilted, hand appliqued.  Stretched quilt.

quilt, Piscataqua from the other side

Above; “Piscataqua from the Other Side” 16″ x 22″.  Hand painted and dyed cotton, machine pieced, machine quilted.  Stretched quilt.

Painting, On a Clear Day

Above; “A Clear Day” and “Another Clear Day” 12″ x 12″.  Hot glue and acrylic on canvas.

See these and many other works hanging in the halls outside my business Euchlora now through September.  454 Court Street, Portsmouth.  603-491-7305

The making of an art quilt

Jonquils at Sea

“How long did it take you to make that?” is the question most often asked.  The honest answer? Weeks.  And months.  To create something original in stitched fabric – without a pattern, without a super clear direction – it does take a very long time as the piece builds upon itself before one’s very eyes.  It’s as though the piece has its own end in mind and you are just along for the ride.

And unlike paint that one can joyfully swath onto a canvas with immediate results, that moment of inspiration is delayed through the process of finding the correct colored fabric, cutting it, stitching it then ironing it and hoping it is what you see in your mind’s eye.  And if painting or dying fabric is involved, add another 5 or so steps.  Creating art with stitched fabric takes at least 5 times as long as painting a canvas of the same size.

Here is the process used to create “Jonquils at Sea” above.

The Inspiration.  In strolling thru my bins of fabric color one day, my eyes stopped at the blue grey.  That got my attention;  I could see that color mixed with the complimentary colors of yellow and orange.DSC05598DSC05593

The design.  I walked around that bin in the studio for several days waiting for the color inspiration to create an image in my mind of how it should take form.  Suddenly I had it, so sketched out the form and the proportions quickly while the actual details I held in my mind.  I like my finished work to be slightly off-square thus one side longer than the other.  I use the golden ration to decide where to divide that “square” into parts.  28″ ÷ 1.61803 = approx. 17″;  28″ – 17″ = 11″…….. 25″ ÷ 1.61803 = approx. 15″; 25″ – 15″ = 10″.

Jonquils sketch

The mechanics.  I thought for a while on how I would execute what I saw in my mind’s eye on that left hand section, I envisioned variegated patterning with little rectangular splotches of color set into that grey.  I dove in trying a technique I had used before, strip piecing that then gets cut into random curved lengths that are pieced and stitched as I go, deciding what the color and placement should take place after the last one has been done, pausing and pondering after each strip to create “intentional irregularity”.


Because of the very small piecing (some finished splotches of color are only 1/4″ square!) it makes for bulky bundles of seams.  I random pressed them with a hot iron and steamed to be the most flat; some inward, some outward.  It makes no difference with quilting in the end.DSC05560For the top right hand section I used my random square technique of simply starting with a square or rectangle (in this case the white) then piecing around it like a log cabin block,  only I don’t cut the strips square so it creates a off-centered look.  I consciously work at alternating values and colors so that the over-all effect looks evenly patterned.  Again, this takes time because each piece needs to be made to fit up against the former one creating sections of blocks that are then sewn together.  Most of the fabrics used were hand-painted or hand-dyed at another time, each one taking hours/days as color is layered and dried, layered and dried, then set, washed and cured.DSC05553

I had envisioned the lower right hand section to be hand painted section.  I did not have any pre-painted fabrics so I custom-created a piece just for this section.  I mixed the paint to match the fabrics already used, then made several tries until I got what I wanted.  The process for this type of finish is to paint the board then brayer the fabric into it.  The pieces that did not make the cut will be used later in something else just like the pieces I used in the yellow/orange section.DSC05631

When the quilt top is finally finished and pieced I then create a sandwich of plain colored backing with “bat” in between.  I hold it together with curved safety pins.  I then begin the process of stitching the layers together with quilting.  I used my own techniques; some to mimic the look of more paint splotches, some to reinforce the design and some to add visual interest.  Most of this was done by machine but a bit was also done by hand. DSC05601DSC05603 DSC05602DSC05600

Once the stitching is complete the quilt is stretched over canvas stretchers bars and finished with a paper backing like a finished painted canvas.  Whew.  Complete.

This quilt will be on display & for sale at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s headquarters gallery exhibition, “Circles, Squares and Triangles” in Concord, New Hampshire July 11th through September 26th, 2014.  49 South Main Street across from the Capital Center for the Arts.  Join me at the opening reception Friday July 11th from 5 – 7.