The Camera


Sometimes the camera tells a story.  Sometimes the camera is the story.

While exploring in some antique stores on Friday, I found some treasures.  Bits of lace, buttons, old hand embroidery.

 

And photos of unknown folks with a story to tell.

 

 

 

 

Jim found a treasure, too.  A miniature 35mm camera with leather case, original box, and paperwork.  He enjoys giving these tools new jobs to do, running a roll of film through them, letting the camera tell stories again.

On Saturday, he took it to a local shop to get a new battery.  The store owner, George, said, “I remember an occasion when I worked on a camera exactly like this one time before.”  It was at a gathering hosted by Phil Walden in the 1970’s.  A fellow came by with a camera like this in his hand, profanely exclaiming that it wasn’t working properly.  George asked what seemed to be the problem, adding, “I work on cameras, I can look at it for you if you like.”  Taking the offered camera, making the necessary adjustments, George got the camera working and handed it back.  Andy walked away and continued photographing the social event.

Years later, the two men’s paths crossed again in New York.  Andy looked at George and said, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”  After hearing, “I repaired a camera for you once in Macon, Ga.,” Mr. Warhol muttered, “Oh, yeah,” as he walked away.

Steel Magnolia

I heard her voice before I saw her.

While I was checking in with the receptionist, I heard her explaining to her husband about his procedure.  She lovingly, kindly, patiently explained the test they would perform on his arteries.

With my clipboard in hand, I sat near the husband on a couch in the waiting room.  I realized a woman in a wheelchair was near him, but didn’t pay much attention.  As I answered the questions about my medical history and symptoms with almost all no’s, I realized how fortunate I am to have these interruptions to my schedule – these bothersome tests that are recommended when one reaches a certain age – be nothing more than that.  I became conscious of the frail woman sitting near me.  She couldn’t have weighed more than 80 pounds.  But her leg braces and shoes looked much heavier.  She sat erect in that chair, though, alert and composed.

After her husband was called for his procedure, she sat quietly waiting.  When I heard a mechanical sound, I realized she had tapped her watch and it was audibilizing the time for her.  I paused to think of the challenges she has every day and now her husband is in for some tests.  My interruption to my day for this pesky test was seeming less troublesome by the moment.

Before I could complete my pages of family medical history and engage her in conversation, her partner returned.  He said, “ I can go now.  Should we call transport?”  “Yes, push me over and we’ll ask them to call.”  She tapped her watch again and it gave the time as “8:05.”  Then again, and it spoke “8:06.”  But it was 11:06 a.m.  Oh, my.

The pair approached the desk where, in a confident voice, she asked, “Could you call our transport for us, please?  The number is ….”. She recited the ten digits confidently.  And, then, “Thank you,”  in as strong a voice as any southern lady possesses.  That voice alerted me that this woman did not want my sympathy.  She has my respect.

I’ve thought of this couple many times in the days since that encounter.  I wonder about his test results.  I wonder who cooks for them.  I wonder if they get out a lot and interact with other people.  But I do not wonder if she is handling everything like a steel magnolia.  I know she is.

Art quilt notes:  The finished size is 13” x 17”.  The line drawing is free-motion machine stitched on a remnant of an old linen pillowcase.  The remainder of the work is hand stitching – layers of vintage lace, buttons, and an old quilt fragment complete the assembly.  The lace tablecloth remnant and linen coaster used as a label were dyed in my indigo vat.

Backroad Therapy

The past couple of weeks have been filled with busyness; so we decided on a day of exploring.  Our country drive took us past peaceful scenes of green, pastures filled with cows, fields of hay just mown – and some just baled, and irrigation systems at work.  We were headed to Molena and Woodbury, to check shops we like in those towns, and Zebulon to visit the bookstore.

We explored several antique stores.  A few items came home with us but we mostly collected ideas.  Ideas for the porches, for decorating, for repurposing some old crates and boxes and cans.

Most shops weren’t very busy (one of the perks of being retired and being able to shop on weekdays) so we had Interesting conversations with shop proprietors.  There was the lady who had a midnight visit from a female cardinal in her workshop, there was the handyman who built a bench from an old spool bed, and we missed the Corgi named Macon in one of our regular shops.  It seems her owner had errands to run before opening the shop today, so Macon got the day off. We met Macon on an earlier visit I shared here.

The other customers who did appear offered opportunities for people watching and people listening.  I overheard a man say, “we could buy this and I could strip it down to the original wood.”  He was referring to a table I’ve admired before.  I admired it in part for its wonderful new chalk-paint finish.

Lunch was high on the agenda, because we remembered the fabulous food at The Blackbird Cafe.


The place is entrancing with tables and light fixtures made from pipes, peeling plaster revealing brick beneath, and condiments corralled in sewing machine drawers.  The food is wonderful, too.  Their homemade kaiser rolls were still warm from the morning’s oven and were just as heavenly as we had remembered.  Yum.

We were there early, so the photos showing the space without people is misleading.  The people did come.  They do come.  Every day.

 

More walking, more exploring, more driving about.  Then we went to Red Oak Covered Bridge. It’s the oldest in Ga, and you still drive across it.  We both marveled at the same feature – no graffiti.  Wow.  There is a sign saying “No Graffiti – $1000 fine”.  Maybe Meriwether County officials enforce that.

Another day spent enjoying the world, seeing the beauty close to home, and treasuring the pleasure of the moment.  Those are important goals since two funerals were included in our busyness recently.  Death is a part of life, but when it comes to someone we know, especially when it’s unexpected, we are reminded to enjoy the everyday.  Yesterday we did just that.

Quilters’ Retreat

A few days ago, I crashed a party.  We were on a backroads jaunt and I remembered that some of my friends were attending a quilting retreat at a nearby wildlife refuge.  I asked Jim to make a stop and let me say Hello.  He asked, “Can you just pop in?  Were you invited? “  I assured him, “It will be fine.  They won’t mind.  They will all be happy to show me their projects.”

And, they were.  They were busy.  They were happy.  And they did not mind my intrusion.

There is a reason many quilters like the bee motif.  Quilters and bees buzz about with a purpose in mind and get things done!

I was greeted with smiles and hugs from many friends, and made the acquaintance of new quilters as well.  Sheila and Barbara and Jean and Donna were the first to see me and report on the fun.  I didn’t get photos of everyone’s work, but everyone was busy and productive.
Angie was piecing some animals.  Mary was working with baskets.  Jean had stars on her design wall.  She had discovered that her alternate blocks were cut from directional fabric, unnoticed until they were put on the wall.  She had lots of advisors to help her decide how to deal with this dilemma.

Joyce had two big appliqué projects: a Baltimore Album that just needs a few details and a border attached, and a fabulous Kim McLean pattern all with big pieces of Kaffe fabrics.  Joyce is one of our guild’s charter members and she still produces more quilts than several of the rest of us combined!  She was sitting beside Hilda, her BFF for more than FIFTY years.  They have worked on many projects and been to many retreats and heard many stories in that time, don’t you know?

Dewey was there with his longarm machine and an eight-foot table.  He had already quilted two quilts at the retreat for other participants and was doodling on his machine while he waited for others to get backs prepared for him to quilt their tops.

Here is Donna working on a One-Block Wonder.  And Dewey had just finished the quilting on her Friendship Garden  before the retreat.  Now she can add the binding and label and it’s done!

Mary had run to the store, but her work-in-progress is here.  Mary is the organizer of this event.  Someone has to take charge and she does it well!  She reserves the space, organizes the guest list, plans the food, and assures that everyone has fun.  And she is successful, because these people plan their calendars around Mary’s retreat dates.  Because of her, the sisterhood thrives.

Candace is a local designer and teacher with her own line of patterns.  Here she is working on a new pattern design.  And there were some of her finished products with chickens made from her hand-woven fabrics.  Wow!

Lynn was putting the finishing touches on a garden scene, while Eleanor was working on a batik project complete with labels to insure that every block ended up in exactly the right place.

Getting away from home, focusing on a project or two, socializing while you work, learning from each other, what a blast!  I loved visiting this beehive.

Drugstore Deli

Sometimes the quaintest treasures are right in our own backyards.  On a recent afternoon when we were out antiquing, we found a delightful lunch spot in an old downtown building in small town USA.

As is our habit, we were eating after the crowded hour, in fact, we had the place to ourselves.  It was open, inviting, very clean, and offered just the menu we were looking for; soups, sandwiches, salads.

Our waitress Vicki told us that the soup was almost gone, being in high demand on a such a cold day.  There was less than a serving (by their standards) left of today’s special so they gave us a complimentary bowl.  It was fabulous, as were our sandwiches.  But before the food was served, I was captivated by the decor.  There were quilts!  An old log cabin quilt first caught my eye.  It was hung above a beautiful dresser and its subtle colors and handwork stole my heart!  A more modern medallion quilt was displayed in another corner, and yet another eyecatcher, a blue and white quilt, was used on a table.

I asked permission to take photos and shared my fascination with the old log cabin quilt.  The conversation led to an old-home-week kind of reunion with people I’d never met.  Jo, the owner, came out of the kitchen to share the quilt stories.  The log cabin quilt came from her husband’s family.  Her father-in-law had two aunts,  Alice and Exor, who did a lot of needlework of all types.  One or maybe both of these women worked on this piece of family history.

 Jo is not a quilter, but has treasured the quilts these family members made and decorates her home and restaurant with them.  Vicki has done needlework in the past, but quilting is not part of her experience (yet) though she has friends who sew and quilt.

In the course of the conversation, I learned that Jo’s husband, and his quilting aunts, were related to Ferrol Sams. Yes, the same Ferrol Sams whose novels and short stories are part of the great storytelling tradition of the South.

The sisterhood of experiences connecting us with needle and thread is never to be denied.  Vicki told of her friend who makes bags, pillows, quilts, when she hears of a need.  I recalled the women in the Peachtree City guild who were making tote bags and duffle bags for children in foster care to use.  I never cease to be amazed at the generosity of women who sew.

I have a stack of muted red fabrics from the French General line that are waiting to be cut up and sewn back together.  After seeing that old quilt in similar colors hanging in the Drugstore Deli, I’m thinking log cabin is a good plan.

Our outing that day was a mere 20 miles from home, in Byron, Ga.  The Drugstore Deli is in corner building near the railroad tracks.

Fair Days

fair-boothI’m home after three days at the Georgia National Fair where I shared my work as one of their Artists in Residence.

Though I’ve long recognized quilts as an art form, I’m still surprised to see the word artist after my name.  This experience was affirming and fulfilling for me, and I hope it was informative and inspirational to others.

The photo shows my booth where I shared my quilting stories and demonstrated techniques.  I had several quilts entered in the fair, and three of them were easily visible from my booth.  Whether by design or coincidence, the fair organizers added opportunities for me to share more stories of making bed-sized quilts on a home sewing machine, improvisational piecing in the style of Gee’s Bend quilts, and Government Bird Goin’ for a Ride.

Jim and I enjoyed the opportunity to visit with former students, their parents, and now husbands, wives, and children.  We saw former work colleagues and friends, made connections with other artists in textiles, photography, woodworking, drawing, painting, and sculpting.  We made many new friends as people stopped to talk about quilts, my ragged lamp, and my Featherweight sewing machine.

fair-with-featherweightI took the Featherweight because it is my traveling sewing friend.  I take it to classes and work sessions at our local guild, I have taken it on a photo trip when Jim was taking a course and I would have time alone in a motel room.  It is compact, light weight, and a work horse.  Maybe everyone knows that.  But everyone doesn’t know that it can be used for free-motion quilting.

One of the goals of my days at the fair was to share the technique of hand-guided, free-motion quilting.  I chose the Featherweight because it is a simple straight stitch machine.  That’s all you need.  I wanted to erase the notion that you can’t quilt without a big, expensive, computerized machine.  The Featherweight conveyed that message well.

fair-with-childrenChildren were fascinated with the Featherweight.  Maybe because it is so small and sweet it looks manageable.  It’s certainly not threatening in any way.  I stitched names into quilt sandwiches for Marin, Christopher, Alexis, Catherine, Mark, and more.  Fragments of cloth, batting, and a bit of thread can bring smiles to faces of children of all ages.

I talked to men and women whose mothers or grandmothers quilted and they wish they had learned from them while they could.  (I’ll be your substitute Grandma.  I didn’t listen to mine like I should have either, but other quilters and I will be glad to step in and fill in the gaps.  Send me an email (sandy@sandygilreath.com) with a question and I’ll link you to a tutorial online or try to answer you in some way.)

fair-grownupsI talked with women who made one quilt, or started one, then became frustrated with a skill they didn’t have, and put it away.  I talked with those who work full time and can’t work it in their schedule.  My answers: “Relax, it’s supposed to be fun.”  “Join a guild.  Someone there will offer advice and assistance,”  “Start with something portable, like English Paper Piecing.”

I talked with young families wherein the husband/dad wants to explore quilting.  One asked if he could start learning with a $100 machine from a bargain store.  My advice was to find a reliable used older machine.  I fear that a new one made with plastic parts will be less sturdy and operate less smoothly than an old one.  “I’m afraid if you have frustrations with tension or mechanics as you are learning, you might think you don’t like sewing; but what you don’t like is a cheap machine.”

I have almost all my baskets unpacked and things back in place in my sewing room.  My brain is bursting with ideas generated by conversations over the past few days.  Fun times stitching ahead!

Memories for Sale

photos family birthdaysIn the Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron advises artists to “take your inner artist on a date once a week.”  Go to a museum, or a movie, or the beach, to feed your soul.  Go alone.

I don’t do that.  Not exactly that.  No schedule, no plan.  But I do enjoy the moment when it happens.  Seize the day.  Or the hour.  Or the 15 minutes in a hot, old mill where antiques are sold.

photo shopping SGThat’s where you see me in this photo.  Shuffling though family memories.  Not my family, but a family for sale.  Well, their memories are for sale.

Sad, you say.  Yes. It is sad that a bunch – I estimate 500 or more in the bin I picked though (I looked at every one, bought dozens) family photos were sold in bulk to a stranger. The names and places may be gone, but the stories are still there.

I don’t know the name of the family, the location of the photos, or even the time frame for certain.  But because they look so much like old photos in my family, I can guess 1950s and 1960s.  I know they lived in a house with a backyard, that they built a water feature there at some point, they had a spot where they always took photos on birthdays.  As the children aged, the bushes at the corner of the house grew and matured.  The birthday boy or girl was almost always situated in the same spot with that corner of the house in the background.  photo birthday boyUsually it was the child alone with the cake, sometimes sitting on the ground, many times with the cake on a stool from inside the house.  Later there was a picnic table added, and the cake sat there.

And, then the birthdays moved inside.  My photographer husband notes that they got a camera with a flash.  I didn’t think of that, but I’m sure he’s right.

I know this family dressed up for Easter, for Scout meetings, and what I hope was “tacky day” at school.  They hunted Easter eggs in an area with pine trees and broomsedge.  They visited older relatives, went to the beach a few times, to the mountains, and had family members in the armed forces.  They fed ducks and went to a petting zoo. There were graduations, engagements, and a big anniversary celebration in later years.  They bought new cars now and then, kids got wheels, too – wagons, tricycles, and then bicycles.

The core family consisted of a Mom, Dad, son, daughter.  There were extended family members; brothers and sisters of the parents, their spouses, grandparents, close friends.

Mom baked cakes and kept an immaculate house.  Dad worked hard and enjoyed playing with the children after work.  They paid their bills on time, added a few improvements to the half-acre they called home as extra money allowed, and were good neighbors.  You may think my imagination has run away with me here, and you could be right.  But I think I know these people.

At least I know a family I imagine like this and that makes my day better.  If I can create art from these photos that conveys part of that good feeling, that’s good for even more people.

So, is it still sad for the photos to be sold?

Is this what Julia Cameron wants to come out of my date with my inner artist each week?

I’ve already been working on more photos on fabric since Flag Bearer was done.  Several are in various stages of completion; you’ll be seeing some soon.

And I’m pretty sure you expect a fabric story based on these children and their birthday cakes.  Yep, I’m doing that!

Backroads

country storeHow long has it been since you saw a young lad execute a backflip from a wooden platform into the river below?

My answer to that question is “a few hours.”

On a day trip to Warm Springs, we took a route we’d not followed before.  All routes there are backroads, but most are some we’ve traveled many times.  A new path holds wonder.  With a favorite remark my driver likes to make, “this time and one more will make twice I’ve been on this road,” we were off on a new adventure.

Taking grandsons on a historic field trip, we saw numerous churches and cemeteries, a small community populated with an old store, schoolhouse, and church, all white buildings wearing red roofs.  We found two small towns filled with antique shops, a delightful restaurant with homemade bread, hamburgers topped with pimento cheese, and met a Corgi named Macon.

At the Little White House museum, I learned more about barkcloth than I ever realized I didn’t know.  Someone gave FDR a gift of beautiful yardage of tapa, and the story led me to new details about one of my favorite fabrics.  Who knew I would learn fabric history on this adventure?

It was on the way home that we saw him.  As we crossed a bridge over the Flint River, we saw the jump.  We were too high to see how cleanly he made his entrance into the water.

It doesn’t matter.  He had all afternoon to perfect his form.

We had had our moment.  A glimpse, memories triggered, stories to share.  Time travel.

People Watching

SatterfieldsEating lunch at a local restaurant, I couldn’t help but imagine the story behind the man sitting behind my husband.

This man was alone.  He was neatly dressed with not a hair out of place.  His wardrobe was casual blue collar – a sports shirt advertising motorcycles tucked into neatly pressed blue jeans.  His hands were clean, but probably not professionally manicured.

He was tearing up a garden salad while intently listening to his phone.  The restaurant was a bit noisy so seeing the phone held with the speaker right in his ear was not surprising, but he never talked, just listened.  A podcast, perhaps?  Audio entertainment for dining alone? No, maybe voicemails.  Someone working outdoors couldn’t hear his phone and might use lunchtime to catch up on missed contacts.

Had he been wearing galluses over a white shirt and pleated trousers, I would have thought he was waiting for a jury’s verdict.  Or getting dirt on a witness from his private eye in the field.

I was impressed with his power lunch.  Then the waitress brought the rest of it.  One-half of a roasted chicken, three vegetables and bread.  With his trim physique, he doesn’t eat like that every meal unless he is doing some physical labor somewhere.  But not a sign of sweat anywhere.

Hmmm…  “the man in the gabardine suit is a spy.  His bowtie is really a camera.”

 

Serendipity

 

suset Mt Dora

We recently visited Mt. Dora, Fl. (elevation 176 feet).  It was spring break but there were no crazy balcony jumpers there.  Mt. Dora is a nice little old Florida town with a modern art museum, art galleries, shops, and a lake with a lighthouse.

On the evening before we left home for our trip, we had dinner with friends.  En route to their house, we stopped at Publix for a bottle of wine and dessert.  Jim said, “something chocolate” when asked for a recommendation for the menu.  I found their Decadent Chocolate Cake and bought my first one ever.  It was decadent indeed.

In Mt. Dora, our innkeeper was Melanie.  Over coffee, she revealed that Publix bakes fresh bread for the B & B’s gourmet breakfast every day. Our menu included strawberry and ricotta stuffed french toast, served behind a tropical soup of strawberries, blueberries, yogurt, and banana, topped with diced Fuji apple.  Yes, if you suspect that this was amazingly delicious, you are right.

MelanieMelanie knows that Publix uses only the best ingredients because the company was one of her customers when she worked as a salesperson for some of the world’s finest chocolate.

In fact, Publix’s Decadent Chocolate Cake?  She developed that recipe.

Jobs well done, Melanie; at breakfast in Mt. Dora…and on the cake recipe.  I just love unexpected connections.