Using the Long Arm with a free hand

I prefer to work on quilting with the long arm machine without patterns - just drawing and doodling on the fabric.  I like the organic designs that appear.  I feel I have been practicing this method long enough to trust the overall design will work well in the end.  

Here is a video of me drawing with the sewing machine.  I didn't add music or words.  Sometimes I put on music (usually with headphones) while I work.  Sometimes the work is all I need.

Latest Origami Book Collage

Here are two little videos of my latest Origami book - showing all the pages and how the book folds up.

DIY Origami Book Video

Sometimes a computer cleanup yields interesting memories and useful information.  

I found this video from my time in China, and a workshop I did in Szechuan Provence with Emma Chen making origami books with children in a village there in 2009.  

I make these books a lot, collaging the insides and out.  The workshop for these books includes a writing component that can be customized to the grade or subject being taught or done in a freeform/self expressive style, art-speak for whatever you want to include!

The photos from the workshop show you the conditions that children and families will go to have art experiences.  We had probably 50 children in a small room, using their plastic stools as tables, and drawing with ball point pens and sharing a few colored pencils between them.  Everyone was excited to participate, and parents simply watched and enjoyed seeing their children making books.  If you notice - there is one child with an injured hand making a book.  He had burned his arm really badly in a cooking fire (a common injury there).  He completed his book and helped others complete theirs.  At the end of the workshop we were urged to 'give a prize' for the best one.  Of course we gave the prize to him - his work was beautiful and his spirit tremendous.

Workshop at Yvonne Scarlett Golden Center

Here are pictures from the No Piece/No UFO Workshop in Daytona Beach on Saturday, April 22, 2018.  I was so impressed by the focus and determination of all participants - experienced and beginning quilters.  Everyone worked hard, supported each other and developed beautiful pieces to be finished at home.  Barbara Scarlett, niece of Yvonne Scarlett Golden (whose name graces the building) came with members of her quilt group that meets on Thursday afternoons at the Center.  I had a GREAT time and marvelled at the work created.  See for yourself!


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A mini video teaser

a mini tour of 4 pieces aat Yvonne Scarlett Golden Center in Daytona Beach.  Come by to see the other 33 art quilts.  Show up until May 18th!

My First Quilt

I made my first quilt when I was 7 years old.  The pattern was a traditional Log Cabin pattern with red center ‘hearths’ surrounded by logs from old men’s dress shirts. I don’t have that quilt anymore.  I don’t have a picture of it.  It probably looked similar to this:

An example of a traditional Log Cabin Quilt

An example of a traditional Log Cabin Quilt


The quilt started out as a rag wrapped around the spare tire of a friend (we’ll call him “E”) of my parents.  E had a flat tire and used our driveway to change to the spare.  I remember being interested in the rag as soon as he pulled out the tire. 

I asked E if I could have the quilt.  I remember him saying, “This ol’ rag?  Well what will I wrap my tire in if I give it to you?”  I immediately ran to my room and pulled a blanket (pink, from Kmart I think) from my bed and gave it to him.  We made the trade.

The Artist with her best friend, Barbara Harris at the time of the story.  Barbara's grandmother, Leona Ryan taught me a lot about quilting



My mother took this transaction as a teaching opportunity, something she did with every situation in the lives of her children.  We went to the library to learn about HOW TO CLEAN FABRIC PROPERLY.  The quilt was full of dirt, grease, and motor oil.  We asked people for advice.  Actually, we talked about these things and then I asked.  I wrote down the advice.  I made notes.  I washed and washed again.Once the quilt was clean, we could see what needed repair.  More study.  More advice.  There were trips to the thrift stores and garage sales for old shirts.  Hand sewing front and back to get it right. 

I imagine it took several months to finish.  I don’t really remember how long, just that it was very pleasing to see the quilt grow and change under my hands.  When it was finished my mother proudly showed it to everyone who visited, “look what my daughter did,” and her retelling the story of all the effort and attention I put in the piece.

E returned for a visit and I ran to show him the quilt and tell him everything I had done to bring it back to life.   I was so proud!

If you are wondering why I don’t have the quilt or a picture of it, I have to say, because E took it back.  He said it was his grandmother’s work, and he took it back.  I think he left without saying anything to my mother.  I remember being puzzled that he would use it for his spare tire.

When my mother realized what had happened, she was flame throwing mad.  I don’t know what happened, what conversations were held without children present.  I know she told me she wasn’t mad at me.  I know she told me that adults do mean things sometimes. 

What I do remember is saying, “Its okay, mommy, I can make another one.”  I did make another.  I kept making more.  I like to think my mantra about art making came from that moment of sadness, and thinking about what would help my mother not be angry any more.  I can make another.  Always, make another.

Homage to the Disappeared, Lauren Austin, 1998

Homage to the Disappeared, Lauren Austin, 1998




Nature and Me sketches

I am working on a series of art quilts about my relationship with nature.  I do this to explore my identity as an African American woman and how the natural world is part of that identity.  This idea stems from my mother's focus on being part of nature, through gardening, bird watching and environmental activism, and making her children take part in these activities.  I wasn't always enthusiastic about gardening or birdwatching, and the whiteness of Audubon and Sierra Club meetings often made me uncomfortable.  In retrospect, I am glad I took part.  I think my mother would have been interested in this series and where it is taking me.

New Growth, 2017

Plant thoughts sketch/collage

These images are part of the series - "New Growth" is a finished art quilt and "Plant thoughts" is a sketch/collage that may become a finished quilt or a card to send to someone.  I have many sketchbooks filled with drawings, doodles, grocery lists and writings.  I have saved sketchbooks for about 15 years.  My project now is to look through these books to pull out drawings I can use as collages - mining the past for artistic 'minerals.'

Real Natural, 2018

Real Natural, 2018

Leaves are her hair, 2018

Leaves are her hair, 2018

Our Lady of the Leaves, 2017, private collection

Our Lady of the Leaves, 2017, private collection

Here you can see the evolution from sketch to collage to quilt.  Evolution of ideas to art is not always linear - sometimes I rework the same idea indifferent ways both on paper and in fabric.  Leaves as hair and leaves in hair are themes I work again in different ways.

The leaves in "Our Lady of leaves" are made from a silk screen of photos of my sister in law's collection of leaves.  I enhanced the images in Photoshop and made a silk screen.  I then printed them on white fabric with the help/advice and guidance of Armando Rodriguez at Black Swan Screen printing Studio in Houston. I then dyed and painted the individual leaves and added them to the quilt.  

Yes, its labor intensive.  I like that.  I hope you like it, too!