Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Painting: Life in Sultanahmet!

Istanbul, a universal beauty where poet and archeologist, diplomat and merchant, princess and sailor, northerner and westerner screams with same admiration. The whole world thinks that this city is the most beautiful place on earth.
~Edmondo De Amicis

Life in Sultanahmet. Im not sure if this will be the official title of this painting, but it will be for now!

It's no secret, I miss living in Istanbul. I've become that sad woman who still pines for her long lost lover, in this case my former lover is the city of Istanbul. A year and a half later the city still plagues my thoughts, creeps it's way into my conversations, my dreams, the artwork I do. I have very good reasons for leaving, just as I'll have very good reasons for returning one day. But luckily for me, unlike former lovers, Istanbul isn't going anywhere, and will willingly take me back anytime I choose to slip into it's warm embrace. Ahhh, Istanbul, you're a whore, but my love affair with you is never ending. As Fatih Mehmet once said, "Either I conquer Istanbul or Istanbul conquers me."

When I think of wandering the streets of Sultanahmet with Rene,
I think of umbrellas, kitties and market days.

This painting is a bit of a special one, because I've painted some personal elements of my own life in the painting, not just the idillic aspects of life I usually aim for. Sultanahmet in particular is bursting with the kind of detail I thrive on. The cats are the sultans at street level, the seagulls reign over the skies. Everyday simple activities, such as stopping to pet cats, shaking out carpets, picking up the day's bread (Bread is very important in Turkey) and lowering a basket to collect your groceries are all awesome subject matter for painting in my opinion. I miss this simple yet colourful kind of life, of going to the vegetable markets on Wednesdays, chatting with neighbours, stopping for tea with Musa, peeking around the dark corners with Rene and discovering ancient things that were new to us.

You never know what could be below your feet in Istanbul.

One thing I loved about Sultanahmet in particular as that I always wondered what was below my feet, as Sultanahmet, being the seat of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, was often raised to the ground in fire and battle, creating the possibility for people to discover new things, such as palace rooms below carpet shops and houses, even abandoned cisterns under people's basements. I've read that people used to fish into the cisterns through holes in their basements. One famous cistern next to Hagia Sophia was built with Roman columns looted from a nearby temple, the giant head of the Pagan Goddess Medusa upside down and drowned in the water, to show that Christianity now ruled the Empire. Thousands of Janissaries were slaughtered and buried under the floor of the hippodrome, a place I usually walked through to get to the Metro everyday. Vlad the Impaler's head (better known as Dracula) once swung off a spike at the Topkapi Palace but was later misplaced- either sent to a watery grave in the Marmara Sea or buried somewhere under Bank Street, is the rumour. You can't make this stuff up! Istanbul is built on stories, each one fuelling, thrilling and inspiring. Sigh.

Aside from my sister and I returning from the Wednesday shopping trip at the market, I also included two famous (or infamous!) inhabitants of Sultanahmet- My neighbour Virginia, an American who owned the Family Pizza Pie Place in Sultanahmet and graciously agreed to host our first exhibit, Paintings Prints and Pizza! In 2009. She then moved shop over to Java Studio and we had another exhibit there later in the year. In the mornings we often had chats over the balcony, drinking coffee in the sun, admiring the weed-type tendencies of the grape vines on our balcony.

Musa, was our landlord, and I have written a blog about Musa's weaving. (Link at the bottom of the page.) He is a self taught weaver and uses mostly natural dyes. But Musa thwarts Turkish tradition and does his own Kilim designs, sometimes swirled patterns, sometime tulips or reproduced works of art in tapestry. The kilim above is one we bought for my mother for Christmas; She fell in love with Musa's weaving and so we traded our washing machine for this kilim when we left. I still keep in touch with Musa, Our emails short but hilarious. He is my Turkish Papa, currently hanging out in Muscat for the next month at a big exhibition being held there.
Sultanahmet Boy sometimes as pesky as the seagulls and the cats. But always with shiny shoes!

This guy is no one in particular, but he's got two things distinctly Sultanahmet about him. One, he's got a loaf of bread tucked under his arm, which is an important part of life in Turkey. Bread is the staple of life, and so it is never casually tossed on the ground or in the garbage. This is a little bit of a hardship for foreigners like me who don't really want to offend the locals, but can't plough through a loaf of bread in a day, even if my sister helps me. I have also heard that birds are not set up digestively to break down gluten in their systems, so feeding stale bread to the birds is not necessarily a good idea (Depending on what you think of seagulls, of course!). Many locals soak bread in milk and feed it to the numerous stray cats, which might be a good way of disposing it, as I bet cats have tougher digestive systems. I could be wrong here though.

This guy also has pointy leather shoes, the big style for carpet salesmen working in Sultanahmet. I personally find them a little silly looking, but these men primp and polish their shoes lovingly as rich men polish sports cars. Just below the shoes you'll notice a pearl necklace lost in the dirt. If you look closely, you'll notice there is a coptic cross on the necklace, a shout out to the Byzantine Empire, and this is also a design element that pops up in the cave paintings in Cappadoccia in Central Turkey.

The sky over Sultanahmet.

And lastly the sky. I had a lot of trouble with this sky, partly because I'd drawn umbrellas into the composition but it wasn't raining. Any attempt at a cloudy sky didn't feel right. I wasn't getting it, and the rough sky didn't seem to fit with the rest of the painting. So I decided to lay a design over the sky to solve that problem. The sky is now one of my favourite parts about this painting. If you are familiar with my work you'll know that I like to work detail like this, and it is particularly fitting for a painting of Istanbul, which is covered in layers of it's own perfect intricate designs. I've never done any paintings with this tight, shell-shaped design, though this basic shape is found in the cobblestone streets all over Istanbul. I wanted something organized and perfect (but not too perfect! It still needs personality!), as much as Turkish design is based on geometry and perfection.


Friday, January 21, 2011

On Teaching and What I Learned From Betel Nut Bruce

Dad and Betel Nut Bruce, cooking Christmas dinner, 2001

I recently listened to John Hardy’s TED talk on building a Green School in Bali. There wasn’t anything I didn’t love about this talk- a retired jewelry maker from Canada watches Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” and finds the inspiration to build Green School in his adopted homeland. Not only is he reforming the way classrooms are designed but he’s reforming the way the whole business of education is approached. I won’t tell you all of the things he said, but I’ll include the link here in case your interest is piqued. I could write a whole blog about what I loved about this talk but I’m going to leave it for now, because I’d like to learn more about the Green School before I blog about them.
Anyway, it got me thinking about my teaching career and I think I have one really good story about why I’m inspired as a teacher and I thought I would share it with you.
I first got into teaching for the sole purpose of paying off my Canadian Student loan. I flew off to Taiwan to join my sister at a Taipei Language school. Should be easy, right? Teaching English. After all, I was outgoing, and I spoke English. What else did I need? My sister was thriving there and everyone who worked there told me what a brilliant teacher she was. (And she still is.) But for some reason, I fell flat on my face straight out of the gate.
My first observation was horrible. And then there was the day I screwed up and taught the wrong pages. Then the gossip started, and my boss walked up to me one day and told me that I would be observed everyday until I improved because “Your teaching is so bad.” No joke. I ended up crying in a very stinky Taiwanese bathroom stall during the ten-minute break.
Some of the Western teachers had taken a disliking to me too. They hid the homework I’d marked, threw away my attendance list, stole all of my whiteboard markers right before class. One teacher even put glue on my doorknob. Apparently they did this to the new people. But I was the new person for six months. And I admit, one evening after a particularly bad class I completely lost it, went to the pub and got very drunk. And in my drunken wisdom I made a deal with myself that if I were still the world’s shittiest teacher in three months, I’d go back to Canada and work at McDonalds to pay off my student loan if I had to.
And then I was given an adult’s class who clearly didn’t want me as their teacher. They’d requested another male teacher, Brad, but the secretaries had lost their request form and so there was a flap and a flurry when I walked through the door. I was twenty-four at the time, and one male student , nicknamed Betel Nut Bruce because what was left of his front teeth had been stained dark red from years of chewing betel nut, decided I must actually be twelve and obviously a teacher that looked so young couldn’t be a good teacher. He took it upon himself to be the leader of the class to get me replaced- ten minutes into the first class.
So I bent over backwards for this class. I gleaned every book I could trying to make things interesting. I was focused on fun activities and less on their language acquisition. But nothing was working. Betel Nut Bruce spent his class time sitting in front of the secretaries, arguing with them that the students should at least get a discount in their tuition fees because I simply wasn’t Brad. Every so often he’d walk in, interrupt my class and update the students in Chinese and storm out again. The other students were letting it go, but Betel Nut Bruce was determined that either I’d go or they’d get their money back.
Two things happened at this point: I decided to stop listening to all of those who were trying to micromanage my teaching, and figure out a way I was comfortable with teaching this material. I was guilty of trying to do too much and I wasn’t leaving time for the students to get the hang of things before we moved on. So I simplified everything.
The second thing was, I lost it with Betel Nut Bruce. I absolutely hated him and was happier when he wasn’t there. When he did attend class, I picked on him. When he couldn’t answer correctly, I chastised him for spending too much time sitting in front of the cute secretaries and not enough time in class with the books.
“How are you so convinced I’m a bad teacher when you don’t even attend the class?” I snapped at him one evening. I was going down here, I might as well go down with guns blazing.
I opened his book.
“See? You haven’t done any homework either. And you blame me for not being able to teach you English.”
I didn’t care if he understood me or not, and he had to get my harsh words translated, but funnily enough, my bitchy jabs had the opposite effect than I thought it would: Betel Nut Bruce started coming to class.
Close to the end of the session, (and I was counting the minutes until this class was over, believe me) Betel Nut Bruce came to see me after class. He was obviously going to fail and he knew it. He’d paid full tuition for a class he barely attended and now as his friends all moved onto the next level, Betel Nut was going nowhere.
As a teacher, it appeared had the power here, but truthfully, I couldn’t send him on; He hadn’t given me any gas to fuel his vehicle to the drive up to the next level. I went through the book with him, and tried to explain the topics of the lessons. And the more we flipped pages, the more I realized I hadn’t ever sat down and really looked at the textbook as a whole- only at the pages I had to teach that night. Betel Nut had been right. I’d been a crap teacher. I hadn’t been looking at the units of the book or the points of the lesson- I’d been looking at how to survive the next two hours with these people, week after week.
So we sat for two hours and went through the book, and by explaining to him, I taught myself how to lesson plan for the future. But Bruce didn’t notice. Instead, he offered me a big apology, said he was wrong about me, and would I consider being his private teacher?
Hell no. After this class was over, I never wanted to see him again. No! No no no no, never ever and a big fat no, hell to the No a thousand times over, I would never, ever teach Betel Nut Bruce again. Good riddance.
And then came the hangover of Beetlenut Bruce’s visits with the secretaries: He’d made my life a miserable hell for the past two months and given me the reputation of being the worst teacher that ever set foot in that Language school. In fact, I started losing classes and at one point I was teaching six hours a week. Not enough to get me by in Taipei let alone pay off any student loans back home. Things were looking pretty dismal.
But Betel Nut Bruce kept coming back, asking me to be his teacher. I told him I was too busy the first few times. But then I realized I’d have to swallow some pride. I was broke. So when Betel Nut came by one afternoon and asked me again, my pride broke down and said yes. But my pride also told him double the price I usually taught at. Shockingly, he agreed.
For two years, my Wednesday nights were dedicated to Betel Nut Bruce, who eventually became known as “Bruce”. He got a nice new set of teeth and traded Betel Nut for simple cigarettes, but he wouldn’t smoke during our lessons (It’s too expensive to smoke when I’m with you- I’ve got to make good use of this time,” he told me.) We read books, we chatted, we talked about love, and our consistent lack to find any of it for ourselves. For my birthday, He bought me my first mobile phone in case he had to cancel classes. I never brought it with me and so Bruce always had to meet me upstairs at the Starbucks on Badeh Road for class.
He introduced me to hot pot, ordering only the things I was willing to eat, his pot filled with congealed pigs blood and intestines. He would drive me home on his scooter after class and show me parts of Taipei that had changed since he was a kid.
“Here, I used to play in a rice field. Now it’s Sogo department store.” It was hard to imagine that it changed so much.
One Saturday he took me to Tanshui and showed me a Taoist temple that was built under a mountain. We ate ice cream on the walkway overlooking the ocean. “That’s my home right over there,” I said, pointing out to sea. “It’s amazing to think that the other side of this water is touching Canada.”
“Let’s get a boat, you can take me there. I’ve never left Taiwan in my life.” Bruce admitted.
Our lessons hit a stale spot. I felt I’d reached a level where I couldn’t teach Bruce anymore, and Bruce was stuck in the idea that I was the only one who could understand his English. I thought long and hard about this problem, and so I went to our Starbucks lesson one afternoon and told Bruce,
“I can’t be your teacher anymore.”
Bruce looked at me with panic in his eyes.
“But you are the only one who can teach me. You are the only one who understands me.”
“See? This is the problem.” I told Bruce. “You only talk to me. So this is my ultimatum. If you want to keep being my student, you’ve got to go to Canada and stay with my parents for a month.” Single guy with no girlfriend living at home with his parents, he could afford it.
And so our next month of classes was taken up planning his trip. He could go for ten days, he decided. This way if no one understood him, he’d only spend ten days in hell, rather than a month. He’d have to change from international to the domestic side of the airport in Vancouver and this terrified him. I drew him maps of the airport, We'd practice role plays of the questions they’d ask him during check-in, explained how customs worked, even packed his luggage in the form of a list of things he’d need to take with him. And then I sent my student away, like a mother sends her child off on the first day of school. I held my breath until I got the phone call from my mother, that Betel Nut Bruce had arrived safely and was sleeping in my old bedroom in Canada!
Bruce came back ten days later a changed man. He’d found confidence wandering around the little village of Naramata. People out gardening waved and said Hello. And he understood them! He stopped for small talk, not realizing that this was normal in a town like Naramata. He thought my parents had told everyone to talk to him. When he discovered people were doing this because they were friendly, he couldn’t get his head around it. So instead, he let go and decided to enjoy it. He went "small talking" every day, chatting with anyone who'd listen. They all told him his English was excellent, and he proudly made sure all of them knew who his teacher in Taipei was, not realizing at all it was himself he should thank for all the hard work he'd put into learning this convoluted language.
Bruce told me his airport transition was euphoric for him, having spent much of his flight over the Canada fretting over the language barrier. But when he got momentarily lost in the airport and could ask for help, and subsequently understood the directions and the check-in procedure at West Jet, he realized his English skills were good enough and his world completely unzipped. Beetlenut Bruce had gone international!
My Dad had a business trip to Alberta and Bruce was all too happy to tag along, driving through kilometers of BC forest and into the prairies. My Dad gave him a baseball cap from his business and the two of them stopped in Banff to see the famous landscape of Lake Louise. I have a picture of the two of them, in matching hats, arms around each other, my dad smiling, and Bruce absolutely beaming. (It's in a box somewhere in storage. If I find it, I'll post it.)
He told my Dad on that trip that he knew he’d made my life a living hell back in Taiwan, and he’d always felt guilty for it. It’s why he agreed to the hefty fee I charged him (And subsequently tried to reduce months later, But Bruce wouldn’t hear of it.) Bruce told my Dad I’d changed his life. And he had certainly changed mine.
Bruce left Taiwan as my student and came back a member of my family. Years later, he came back and spent three months in Canada, studying English, living with some friends of mine as he attended a Language school in town. He even spent his first Christmas with us (Picture above.)
But I didn’t tell this story to point out one of my success stories as a teacher. In fact, I hope Bruce never reads this story because really, I owe him a whack of tuition for lessons I learned from him.
The very first lesson being that I should never write off a student, no matter what the case is. Bruce, taught me how to be a teacher. I didn’t know how to approach learning or lessons before I met Bruce. Often teaching someone is the little part, it’s the breaking down the barrier to get to that teaching is what makes someone a successful teacher. And I had written him off, not realizing that out of all of the students, he was the one who needed my help the most. Had I written him off completely, Like my pride had tried to do, I would have been the one who missed out on all of these lessons learned, a good friend, and a good story.

I'm proud to say that when I gave my notice three years later, the manager of the adult department told me it would be a great loss to the school.
"Not many female teachers come to Taiwan to teach," He said. "And of those who do, only a fraction of them can teach as well as you do."

Phew! Thanks for teaching me how to teach, Bruce!
Bruce in my Dad's hat in Banff, Canada. 
Link to Tom Hardy's TED talk at

Monday, January 17, 2011

In the Beginning There Was... Ochre!

French Ochre? In honour of the caves of Lasceaux, perhaps?

"To reach the farthest chamber of Lascaux, it's likely a man had to snuff out his light, lower himself down a shaft with a rope made of twisted fibers, and then rekindle his lamp in the dark so as to draw the woolly rhinoceros, the half horse, and the raging bison there. A long spear transfixes that bison, and entrails pour from its side. Beneath its front hooves lies the one painted man in all of Lascaux: prone, spindly wounded, disguised behind a bird mask. And below him, until its discovery in 196o, lay a spoon-shaped lamp carved of red sandstone ... Hold it again as it once was held, and the animals will emerge out of darkness as you pass. Nothing stays still. Shadows nestle in the cavities; a flicker of light across pale protruding rock turns a hoof or raises a head. One shape recedes as another emerges, and everything lingers in the imagination."
Jane Brox (Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light)

The Indian Painting on the side of the Highway, three km from our house in Naramata, BC.

I am sure the first artistic markings in the entire history of Earth were probably created by drawing in dirt with sticks. And I imagine the second artistic markings were drawn with tiny pieces of charcoal fished out of a cold fire and applied to a cave wall. But without a doubt, the first colour used on those caves walls in combination with charcoal was most undoubtedly a coloured clay we now know as ochre.

Beautiful cave paintings, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka.

Yellow ochre is a deep yellow or brown clay found and used on every continent on this planet. If you heat it in a fire, you can turn that yellow into red ochre. Black ochre also exists, but so does charcoal, so we don't hear so much about black ochre. White (creamy) ochre also exists. (More on white at a later date!)

Modern Temple Painting, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.

The Australian Aboriginees still use ochre in tribal ceremonies, some so secret if anyone other than the male participant sees them well, you just might find you go missing, buried in an ochre deposit somewhere in the outback. Red ochre can symbolise blood, so a good red ochre is extremely valuable. Aboriginal art and dijeridoos are still painted in the ochre dots so easily recognised by the rest of the world, and ochre deposits in Oz are highly sacred protected places.
Ochre coloured Statue, Madurai, Southern India

Reading about Australian Aboriginal uses of ochre made me think about the Natives who used to roam British Columbia decades, even centuries ago, painting on rocks with ochre. About three kilometres from my house there is a Native Indian Painting on a rock next to the highway. It's been there for as long as I can remember. My father recently told me of another painting, only accessibly by boat, in a tiny cave like rock formation along the cliffs past Indian Rock on Okanagan Lake. I've never seen it, but if I'm in the Okanagan this summer it will be one of my missions to find this painting.

Ochre coloured landscape, Hangzhou, China.

But it leads me to the question, How come these paintings are still with us? They should have washed off the rocks long ago in spring rain, the harsh rays of summer and cold snowy winters if they were painted on there with simple clay. The caves of Lasceaux had been closed in fear that the visitors breath was adding to the decaying of the the paintings. So much, that the original caves were sealed up and replicas built for tourists. (Bravo, I say. But you don't have to go to France at all, if you don't want. You can have yourself a virtual tour right in your own living room if you click the link at the bottom of this page.) So what did the Natives use to adhere the clay to the cliff surfaces?

Ochre Umbrella, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

So I emailed the Enowkin Centre in Penticton to ask them what Natives used to paint the paintings littered around cliff surfaces in the Okanagan, but I didn't get any replies. However, over Christmas dinner at our neighbour's house, I got to chatting with one of my childhood friends Shaun and his girlfriend Linnette- Two avid Okanagan hikers who knew a little about ochre in the Okanagan from their travels.

Ochre coloured statues at Dawn, Mount Nemrut, Eastern Turkey.

They'd been hiking around Princeton, and gave me some convoluted directions to Vermillion Bluffs. (You know where the Tim Horton's is? Well, down below that is a really long tunnel go through that, and hike up the trail about a kilometre and a half. Or something like that.) I've never been, but they promised to take me anytime they decide to go for a day hike. I did find this information on the Website about the History of Princeton:

Yak-Tulamn (the place where red earth was sold) was home to First Nations for many millennia prior to the arrival of the first settlers. Known today as the Upper Similkameen Indian Band, the original inhabitants were industrious miners and traders of ochre and chert. People from as far away as the prairies and Oregon coast brought buffalo hides, eagle feathers and other goods to the Similkameen to trade for the sacred ochre, which is used to make ceremonial paint. The earliest scientific evidence places the Similkameen People in the area at least 7,500 years ago; according to the First Nations people their inhabitance has been since the beginning of time. The many villages, campgrounds and trail routes of the Similkameen people are evidenced in the numerous archaeological sites in and around Princeton.

Ochre coloured Camels and some green lips. Al Ain, United Arab Emirates.

But it still didn't explain how the natives made the ochre adhere to the rock for so long out in the open. Simple clay would have washed off long ago!

But lucky for me, Shaun and Linnette were on it! They went hiking again in a different spot and found this sign:
The sign Linnette and Shaun found which answered my burning question, Kelowna, BC.

Bear grease, Fish oil, lichen, tree bark, charcoal, time and patience. All natural substances that would dwindle in the elements alone but together they are a force to be reckoned with year after year, decade after decade. (Thanks Shaun and Linnette!)

Tiles on the roof of the Forbidden City buildings, Beijing China.

One last interesting little tidbit of Ochre history: The Beothuk tribe The Newfoundland area use to paint their bodies, implements and corpses for ceremonial purposes. If you were a disgraced member of the tribe, you had to wash off your red ochre. For this reason, when the Europeans landed in New Foundland and met the Natives, they nicknamed them the Red Indians. Because of our favourite natural clay pigment!
New Foundland Coat of Arms featuring Beothuk First Nations people as drawn by the Europeans.

For your own personal 3D tour of the Caves of Lasceaux, Click here.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Busy Bee! Quilting!

In Seattle, you haven't had enough coffee until you can thread a sewing machine while it's running.
~Jeff Bezos

Next project up! Quilting.
And for quilting, I decided to tackle my fear about using a sewing machine.

I have used a sewing machine once or twice before- When I was taking Home Economics in grade eight. I wasn't too thrilled with the barking nasty Home-Ec teacher though. So I'd sew rather slowly and do a lot of flipping of material to look busy, and then I took my apron and my shorts home to complete on my mother's old sewing machine so if I really screwed up, it wouldn't result in marks taken off me. It worked! And in grade nine, I went into cooking instead of sewing and said goodbye to the sewing machine forever.

Well, forever lasted until this Christmas. My mother and I were out Christmas shopping when I mentioned I needed to look at fabrics for quilting.

"Well, have you been to the Quilting Parlour? It's just down the street."

The quilting parlour was a tactile textile lover's dream. Except it wasn't cheap! I found a fabric I really liked, a black and cream pattern, and spent 8 bucks on two tiny pieces that probably made up a quarter of a meter. I decided because the pattern was grid-like, I'd make a rectangular patchwork runner for my first project. Something nice and easy if I were to practice using a sewing machine.

Have you ever seen the Grinch who stole Christmas? You know that part where the Grinch is imagining the Whos opening their presents on Christmas morning, and the Whos are banging their barbinklers and driving strange contraptions around hooting and honking? Well, the sewing machine for me is just like that. All thread and this winds around here and pops out there, and if you open this flap you'll find the bobbin and you've got to press this to get it out and make sure the thread is going counterclockwise and don't do this or you'll break the needle and then you'll have to read this 564,739-page manual to learn how to replace it etc. Blah blah blah. Luckily my mother was very patient showing me how to fill bobbins and thread the machine. I even filmed her on my camera just incase I got into trouble when she wasn't around.

Anyway, my mother's friend Nancy heard I was attempting my first quilt and sent over a beginner's quilting book for me to peruse. So following the step by step procedure on page seven, I started my quilting career.

Supplies pillaged from my mother's sewing room: a rotary cutter (Like a pizza wheel exacto knife for fabric) an old ruler that Joseph most likely whittled for Mary on the way to Bethlehem, my fabric, and underneath this is a large piece of cardboard to protect the table in case the rotary cutter slides of the self-healing cutting mat.

Once the strips were cut, I laid the fabric out like this and measured them carefully with the ruler. I drew lines (on the black I used a soapstone pencil and on the cream I used a water-soluble black pen) measuring the strips to be three inches wide exactly. Then I ironed creases down the black and matched them up perfectly with the lines on the cream.(You want the edges underneath to be folded under the black, because if you fold the black under the cream it will be visible in your finished project.) And then I did something that might be against the purist quilter's rules, but I fusible hem-taped the hell out of these stripes!

Time to sew it altogether!
My mother made fun of me for using so much fusible hem tape when all I was doing was sewing in straight lines.
"You can't trust yourself to sew in a straight line?"
"No, I can't! Not yet!"

Once the striped were sewn, it was back to the self healing mat, more measuring, and more cutting with the rotary cutter. When all the stripes had been cut into squares and ironed down the sides to make the creases, I skewed every second stripe in order to make a patchwork design.

Voila! It looks pretty good for a first try.
But I was off on the measuring a little on one end, so it's not entirely perfect.

The finished project!
If you look closely on the right you can see where the squares don't entirely match up.

Not bad. But... not really creative.

So! I decided to branch out. And the inspiration started with these pillows from Coccoon in Turkey. These are suzani pillows, but I'm pretty sure if I started trying to embroider these now I might be able to be buried with them when I'm an old lady. So I thought about silk screening them, but each colour would have to be a different screen @ 30 bucks a pop. So this would be at least four screens and let's face it, not as cool. So I decided to come up with my own one-screen design.

The beginning: My silkscreen primed and ready to go.

I made mom take me to the fabric store several times during the creation of this project, because I kept running out of material. I needed two meters each of burnt orange, turquoise and cream, and three meters of black. That's nine metres of material!

About my design. As many of you know I love travelling, and I love coffee. It's a good thing the two compliment each other immensely. I also love the look of tea crates with their lorigin and logos usually spray-painted with a stencil on the side of the plywood. If I ever find material that looks like plywood, I would love it! But I just decided to go for funky colours this time. The Arabic reads "Coffee Arabic". I forgot that Arabic reads right to left and got the words switched. Whoops!

My mother once told me she thinks she cleans up most of our creative messes. I'm telling you, Ma, you don't see a tenth of it! What we get up to while my mother is at work. I love the message on the TV. Ten points if you can figure out which video I was watching when I was taking this photo!
Sometimes I have genius creative moments. This might not look like much, but I needed a way to measure the squares to be the perfect size and centred. So I cut a hole in the centre and drew a kind of teapot- just enough to match up the measuring.

Once the silkscreening was finished, I roughly laid out the colours on my parents' kitchen floor. I wanted the colours to be a little bit random, but not bumping up against the same colour. I thought I had this one perfectly laid out the way I wanted it, but you can see in the bottom two rows I put two burnt oranges together. I caught it during the sewing though! I then took masking tape and labelled each one A1, A2, A3, next row B1, B2, B3.. etc. stacked them up in a pile and headed to the sewing room to figure out what to do next! Whenever I got confused, I referred to this photo.

What you see here is two days of work, and two panels that were sewn together. I had to make six panels and sew them all together in the end. And yes, I used fusible hem tape for most of it!

A sea of coffee pots!

Two days of silkscreening, one day for two panels= three days, a day to put it all together, a day to put the backing on, and two days of going back and forth from the fabric store. That's nine solid days of working on this quilt!

And here it is on the pull-out couch I sleep on while I'm at my parents'. As you can see, it's massive and hits the ground on both sides!

But guess what? I've got to do it all over again if I'd like one for myself. Because this one belongs to my big sister now.

Happy Birthday, Nae!