Nov 14 2017

MSU Museum Purchases “Drawing Humanity”


What a lovely surprise it was to hear that the Michigan State University Museum wanted to buy our “Language of Color 10: Drawing Humanity.” We said, yes, of course.

Drawing Humanity

The Language of Color 10: Drawing Humanity

The museum knows our quilt well because the museum, along with the Women of Color Quilters Network and the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, mounted Ubuntutu: Life Legacies of Love and Action. Artists submitted work that celebrated the contributions of the Tutus in promoting human rights, social justice, and peace in South Africa and around the world. When we heard about this exhibition, we challenged ourselves to create a celebratory piece in our Language of Color Series. In this series, we have been creating colored pencils and imbuing them with sometimes sharp-tongued observations about race in America (and elsewhere). Click here to view these pieces. It did indeed turn out to be a challenge to focus on positive words that could honor Reverend and Mrs. Tutu.

“Flesh Colors”

Our first challenge was to make “flesh-toned” colored pencils. Since we knew we wanted to make a range of flesh tones, we started working on our color tests. Which Pantone colors reflect real flesh tones? Our research led us to the photographer Angélica Dass and her incredible “Humanae” project, in which she photographs people in front of a white screen and then selects the Pantone color for the background based on the person’s nose color.

We were, of course, blown away by Dass’ incredible photographic talent. But, we were equally impressed by her goal to celebrate the multitude of “flesh” color, thereby breaking down the artificial notions of race. Click here to watch her amazing TED talk.
We made our initial collage without regard to color but instead to value. After choosing some of Dass’ Pantone colors as well as colors off L’Oreal’s skin tone chart, we overlaid those colors onto our collage. Yes, this took some testing!

Ubuntutu Exhibition

Oh, how we wish we could have gone to the opening in South Africa! The show ended up going to a further three venues. Click here to watch a video of Rev. Tutu viewing the exhibition. Before you click on the link, make sure you notate 27 seconds into the video. If you look very closely, you can see the back of our quilt peeking through just to the right of the stained glass quilt. At 42 seconds in, you’ll see people discussing our quilt — not that you can see it very well! To top off this amazing experience, the organizers produced a high-quality catalogue to accompany the exhibit. Click here for ordering information.



Sometimes, especially nowadays, it might seem as if ridding society of discrimination is just a pipe dream, but when we consider the work of people like Rev. and Leah Tutu and Angélica Dass, we have hope for the future. As Rev. Tutu once said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” We hope with “Drawing Humanity” that we have done a bit of good. Now on to more projects that invite viewers to contemplate what they see in new ways.

Oct 17 2017

Tech Tuesday: Opening Closed Eyes In Photoshop Elements 2018


As promised, I’m back with some tips on using multiple images at the same time in Photoshop Elements. Let’s start by reviewing why you would want to work with more than one image at a time.

  • You took a group photo, but in each one someone’s eyes were closed.
  • You want to create calendars or books, but you don’t like the layout choices.
  • You want to print a strip of fabric on the bias (diagonal), but you don’t want a lot of fabric waste.
  • You want to print a test of several images on one piece of fabric.

Today, let’s look at the first option: Opening closed eyes. A brand new feature in Photoshop Elements 2018 automatically opens eyes. I guess I’m not the only one who takes family photos where one person has closed eyes. So here’s my family eating the cookies that brother-in-law Harry sent to my dear husband. (We are all so happy he shared them with us.) Everyone looks good except my step-daughter has her eyes closed.

closed eyes

Closed eyes

Fortunately, I take a few photos when I take a group shot … just in case. To open her eyes, the first thing you do is open the closed-eye photo in Photoshop Elements 2018. Then go to the menu and choose Enhance > Open Closed Eyes….

enhance screenshot

Choose Enhance

A new window will open with circles around faces (or what Photoshop thinks are faces). Click inside the circle of the one you want to fix. The circle will turn cyan (aqua).

choose a face

Choose a face

Then you will choose a source for the open eyes. If you use Photoshop Elements Organizer, you can simply click on the Organizer icon and find your photo that way. If you don’t use Organizer, you have to know where your photo is. Click on the Computer icon and select the photo.

choose photo with opened eyes

Choose photos with opened eyes

Photoshop will look for faces with open eyes for you to choose from. Click on the appropriate image.

choose a face

Choose a face

Like magic, the closed eyes of your subject will be replaced with the new opened eyes. You can click on the magnifying glass with a plus underneath the main photo to zoom in, and click the Before/After button to look at each version. If you like it, click OK. The Open Closed Eyes window will close and you’ll have a great new group photo! Click on the image below to see my step-daughter “finally” open her eyes.

Animated gif with eyes

Click to see before and after

It’s great when it works like it’s supposed to. But sometimes no matter how hard you try, the automated method just doesn’t work, and you have to go back to fixing it manually. Click on the image below to see how the automation does not quite work with my grandson.

animated opening eyes

Click to see before and after

To learn more about Photoshop Elements 2018, click here. Take one of our online Photoshop classes to learn the skills you’ll need to manually open eyes. Click here for more information.

Oct 10 2017

Tech Tuesday: Inspiration, Spoonflower and Photoshop


This started out to be a post on working with multiple images in Photoshop, but it has turned into a post about inspiration and why I allow my inbox to be filled with promotions for this product or that service. Most of you know that I’m a saver. Kris thinks I’m a boarderline hoarder, but I can still walk in all the rooms in my house. The barn is another story. Lucky for me, it doesn’t take up much space to save digital stuff. But I digress. A while back I received an email from Spoonflower, an online fabric printing company, announcing their new Fill-A-Yard™ feature.

Spoonflower's Fill-A-Yard

Spoonflower’s Fill-A-Yard

You can put multiple designs into a yard of fabric to be printed. “Well, that’s silly,” I thought to myself. Just use Photoshop, create a “canvas” that’s 42” wide (or whatever the width of the fabric is) and 36” (1 yard) high. Create whatever you want on that canvas, upload it and let Spoonflower (or any other company, for that matter) print it. It’s nothing new. Spoonflower just created an automated way for you to fill that yard with any of the designs in their marketplace. Brilliant marketing, I say!

Because it’s a template, making up your own yard of fabric is easy. But it’s still a template. If you use Photoshop to create your own canvas, you aren’t limited to a specific template. We’ve even created bias strips of fabric that won’t waste a lot of fabric.* For you non-fabric people, bias strips are strips of fabric cut on the diagonal. In a woven fabric that doesn’t stretch, the bias will stretch a bit. When you want woven fabric to curve around things, that bit of stretch can come in handy.

Fabric design

A square of fabric that includes bias strips.


CyberInsecurity Necklace

Bias strips used in “Cyber Insecurity”

Why don’t you check out Spoonflower Magazine for some inspiration**, put your name on our contact list for the next Pixeladies Photoshop class, and come back next week when I’ll talk about working with multiple images in Photoshop.

Photoshop Elements 2018

Photoshop Elements 2018

By the way, Photoshop Elements 2018 (what would have been version 16) is available and has some nifty features for combining more than one image.

* The thing about cutting strips of fabric on the bias is that to get a long strip, you have to “waste” a lot of fabric. To get a bias strip that’s 2” wide by 36” long from a 42” wide piece of fabric, you need to buy x inches of fabric. What’s x? Approximately 28¼”. Here is the formula I used: √(22+22) + 36sin⁡45° = 28.27. I know what you’re thinking. Either

      • that’s a lot of fabric, or
      • she must have a degree in math (no, but my math teachers would be proud).

** Check out pages 40-41 for a really cool idea for wallpaper and 56-57 for bedsheets. I can hardly wait! (Use the zoom tool to see the actual magazine page numbers.)

Oct 3 2017

And What did you do on your Summer Vacation? Part II


For the first time ever, the Pixeladies took the summer off. If you want to know what a productive summer was like, you’ll have to read Deb’s post. My main goal was to find a part-time job to help pay for our new 2017 fully ELECTRIC Chevy Bolt! I am totally in love with this car! Charging for pennies a day (or for free when Neil takes the car to work), driving in the HOV/carpool lanes when I’m by myself, and feeling like I’m cleaning the air as I drive are just some of the reasons for my exuberance, but I digress. 

Chevy Bolt

“Filling up” at home!

I thought it would be very easy to pick up an online editing job, but my job search has been one of the most demoralizing experiences I’ve ever had. There are a lot of jobs out there, but you would think you’d need a Ph.D. (oh, wait, I’ve got one) and family connections (not when they’re all government employees) to land a position. Sigh. The search continues.

When not looking for work, I spent lots of time with family and friends. I went to a small town near Reno, Nevada, to see where my sister is building her new home. In less than four months, she will be a short three-hour drive away instead of fourteen. I can’t wait to have her so close again. As many of you know, I have been tutoring my grand nephew in Spanish. When I found out that his summer reading list included All Quiet on the Western Front, I begged to read it with him. With its seemingly simple and straightforward narrative, it’s no wonder high schools often require their students read it. I think its masterful pointedness gives it a universality that is relevant even today.

I also took trips to the Bay Area and San Francisco, one of my favorite cities. Taking my Precious Pup to see the Summer of Love exhibit at the De Young Museum was simply joyous. On another occasion, Neil and I spent a great day with old friends, Andy and Amy. It’s fun to hang out in this city with people who love discovering the spot where Miles Archer was gunned down by Brigid O’Shaughnessy.

I wasn’t very creative in that artsy way, but I did pick up my knitting needles again to knit washcloths to give away as gifts. It’s a nice activity when I’m watching television. Here are a few I finished. (Shh, the green and blue ones are a surprise for Deb’s new kitchen, so don’t tell her!)

knitted washcloths

Knitted washcloths

Now that the Pixeladies are back to work, I’ll return to cutting words and phrases out of magazines and newspapers. I think we may need to do this vacation thing again next year. I still haven’t organized my photo collection!

Sep 26 2017

And What did you do on your Summer Vacation?


For the first time ever, the Pixeladies took the summer off. Deb needed to find herself, and Kris, well you’ll have to wait until next week for that. I, Deb, really needed to find my paint rollers and paint the interior walls of my house. I had also planned a slight renovation of the kitchen, having a new roof put on the house, and entertaining some company. So what did I accomplish? At first I said nada. But that wasn’t really true.

I’m almost finished with the kitchen. Gone is my red Kohler sink and racing stripe and in came the much-more-subtle-than-I expected beige and gray. Yes, the cabinets are still the same. I really like the gray, and I still love my drawer pulls from the last remodel. But the new counter is Dekton–a super-duper composite that will do everything but clean itself.



I also adopted a kitten from the local animal shelter. Our old cat Barney passed away a year ago, and Lucy only likes my dear husband. Lucy doesn’t like Memphis much either, but as the weather cools off, they’re getting closer.

Memphis and Lucy

They’re almost touching

Our company was my German “sister.” I lived with her family 40 years ago. This summer she and her family came for a visit. We had a good time taking them to the places we like to eat–my mom’s for the best steak and Tom’s Burgers and Frosty in Placerville for the best hamburgers.

Steak dinner

Hamburger lunch

In between eating we did show them our favorite places around Northern California.


For fun I did some garment sewing. I had lots of fun creating frocks out of thrift-store t-shirts. It’s almost like quilting. You cut apart perfectly good clothing (fabric) to make new clothing (quilts).

Green Frock

Floral frock

Two frocks

Blue frock

Top from scraps

And, yes, I work best in a messy space.

We have the permit for the new roof, and I have organized all of the still-liquid paint and discarded the cans that were dried up. Maybe I’ll get to it this fall. Don’t hold your breath.

Jul 11 2017

Cover Girls, Exhibition, And Vacation, Oh My!


We certainly are starting our vacation off with a bang. For one, we were interviewed for the latest Patchwork Professional magazine, which just hit the newsstands. Patchwork Professional is published in Germany, so we had double the fun answering our interview questions in German. Yes, the editor was a bit surprised at that! The best part, of course, was when we found out that they used one of our quilts for the cover! Here it is:

Patchwork Professional 3/2017

If you’re in Germany, we hope you can find a copy and send us a photo of it displayed in the store. We’d love to see it in a rack among other German publications. Thanks in advance!

You can see our “cover” quilt in person at Bay Quilts in Richmond, CA, which brings us to our other great news: the artist reception for our solo exhibition this past Sunday. (Yes, we have to come up for another word for our solo exhibitions since there really are two of us!). It was fun to meet up with some good friends:

with Cara Gulati, our first SAQA friend

Deb chatting with Alice Beasley, another SAQA pal

This exhibition would not have come to pass, if it weren’t for a chance introduction to one of our newest friends, Johyne Geran. We were shocked at how many mutual friends we had, yet we had never crossed paths before. Thank you, Marcia Russell, for bringing us together. Because of Johyne’s recommendation to Sally Davey, owner of Bay Quilts, our work is now hanging at the store’s gallery throughout July. Thanks, Johyne! 

With Johyne Geran, one of our newest pals

We can’t end this post without wishing you all a wonderful and peaceful summer. We are taking some time off to tend to ourselves, our houses, our families, and to just having some good times. Look for us again in the fall.


Jun 27 2017

Art And Politics: What Does An American Look Like?


I won’t mince words. Last November’s election for US president hit Deb and me like a punch in the gut. In fact, we’re still reeling from what seems like a daily assault on what we have always held as true; we have the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We’ve never shied away from “provocative” topics in our art, so we knew we would eventually protest this unjust administration. However, we felt paralyzed for a time, completely incapable of understanding how anyone, regardless of party affiliation, could have voted for someone who clearly had no respect for women, immigrants, or the US Constitution. Thankfully, ten artists* formed an alliance to mount a juried exhibition “to protest the Trump administration’s actions and policies.” It was the inspiration we needed to give voice to our despair. Our submission was accepted, and we are proud to say we are part of “Threads of Resistance.” (Click here for the touring schedule of the exhibition.)

Deciding on a theme for the piece was at first glance somewhat difficult. There had been so much bluster, banter, and so many outright lies that it was hard to pinpoint one thing above the others to concentrate on. In the end, though, we kept coming back to the topic of the so-called “Muslim ban.” We weren’t the only ones who felt this proposed ban was not only morally wrong but also unconstitutional.  Americans came out in droves on January 29, 2017, to protest the president’s Executive Order 13769. (Click here to read more about these protests.) This order was eventually replaced by Executive Order 13780.

Americans protesting the “Muslim Ban” in Houston, Texas on Jan 29, 2017.

Unlike the president, we are students of history and kept seeing the parallels between his proposed “Muslim ban” and the wholesale incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during WWII. February 19, 2017 marked the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066, which paved the way for the imprisonment of Japanese Americans in ten concentration camps within the United States. I kept thinking about my family, who ended up in what became known as the Tule Lake Segregation Center

A family friend, Uncle Pete, Auntie Yuki &
Jichan (Grandpa) Sazaki in Tule Lake

What had they done to deserve this? Absolutely nothing. Deb and I know there are many Muslim Americans who might suffer the same fate as my family did, so we looked for a way to express this notion. Around this time I went to an exhibition about the Japanese American community in Sacramento, California, and I happened upon a photograph of Mitsuye Endo, whose case to invalidate her incarceration made its way to the US Supreme Court. Deb and I admired her courage, fortitude, and resistance. You can read more about her story at, which  “preserves, educates, and shares the story of World War II-era incarceration of Japanese Americans in order to deepen understandings of American history and inspire action for equity.”

Mitsuye Endo

As soon as we saw the entire photograph, we knew we had to do Mitsuye Endo’s portrait. In this photo, she looked like a typical American secretary . . . except she wasn’t white. We were delighted to find out that the owner of the copyright of this photo was none other than our own alma mater, California State University, Sacramento, so it was easy to get permission to use it in our project. Collaging the portrait was relatively easy, too, because we had many good words and phrases to choose from the current news and the anniversary of Executive Order 9066. The one thing we had to debate was whether or not to use blue as the shading color on Endo’s face. In Japanese art, the color blue is often used on faces to depict ghosts or the dying. We finally decided that we wanted Endo to represent the death of the American dream, so the color befitted our intent.

Deb working on Endo’s face

The last component of our piece was the background. Should we make it out of words and phrases like we did the face, or should we make it more subtle in order to bring Endo’s face into sharper focus? We kept talking about how Japanese Americans and Muslim Americans were singled out because of their looks, religion, or some other arbitrary marker to the point where we said, “Yeah, what does an American look like?” So that was how the background was born, but we didn’t stop there. Since we have many friends who speak other languages, we decided to ask them how to say “What does an American look like?” in other languages. This simple question begged further questions like “Do you mean physical traits?” “Do you mean what do they think like?” “Do you mean how do they act?” It turned out to be a compelling question. Here is the finished piece:

What Does An American Look Like?

Let us take this opportunity to publicly thank the following people for providing the translations. Be they academics, immigrants, artists, or business owners, they are above all our friends:

Arabic – Shahzad B.
Chinese – Clauda R. and Ellen W.
Dutch – Els M.
French – Eric F.
German – (Kris and Deb, of course!)
Italian – Susan A.
Japanese – Mario E.
Malagasy – Bakoly R.
Romanian – Danny M. and Paul B.
Russian – Amy A.
Spanish – Deborah F.

Here is the artist statement we submitted for the exhibition:

In 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the incarceration of Mitsuye Endo and 120,000 other Americans of Japanese ancestry. She became a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU to strike down her incarceration as unconstitutional. Despite governmental offers of an early release, Endo remained in camp in order for the case to make it to the US Supreme Court. Her victory led to the release of the prisoners in 1945. Fast forward to 2017 when we have witnessed President Trump sign first Executive Order 13769 and then Executive Order 13780, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” Both orders have been stopped by lower courts, so this “Muslim Ban” has yet to be implemented. This case is making its way to the Supreme Court. [Update: The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case in the fall of 2017 and has temporarily reinstated part of the ban. Click here to read more about this decision.]

These executive orders may be separated by 75 years but rely on the same fears of “the enemy.” That is why we pose the question, “What does an American look like?” Mitsuye Endo was an American. She was born in Sacramento, California, graduated from high school, and went to work for the California state government until she was fired from her job and incarcerated. So as you look around the room today, can you tell us what an American looks like?

* Our heartfelt gratitude to the Artist Circle Alliance members, who found the courage to resist: Sue Bleiweiss, Susan Brubaker Knapp, Judy Coates-Perez, Jane Dunnewold, Victoria Findlay Wolfe, Jamie Fingal, Lyric Montgomery Kinard, Melanie TestaLeslie Tucker Jenison, and Kathy York

Apr 3 2017

Digital Designing Is Finally Here!


Several years ago we taught an “intermediate” online Photoshop Elements course. We enjoyed teaching it very much, but we knew that what we really wanted to do was to get our students to the point where they could unleash their creativity through Photoshop. Ever since we revamped our PSE 1 & 2 classes, our students have been asking for the next step. Well, we finally decided it was time to teach a design course. We have the course divided into four units that cover the elements of design: line, color, shape, and texture. Students will work with the different tools – and layers, of course! – to create and manipulate these elements. Here’s one sample that Deb worked on. Using a photograph as a starting point, she “drew” a fuchsia.

We’re already looking forward to seeing everyone’s portfolio. Please join us for this four-week course. Class begins May 1. Click here for more information.

Feb 15 2017

What We Found at the Met


Yesterday I told you about the Met joining forces with Creative Commons. Click here to read the post. Today I’ll show you some of the goodies I found. By now you know Kris and I both love text. We don’t even have to know what it means to like it. My favorites (this week) are illuminated Persian manuscripts.

“”Abu’l Mihjan and Sa`d ibn Abi Wakkas Before a Ruler”, Folio from a Khavarannama (The Book of the East) of ibn Husam al-Din”
by Maulana Muhammad Ibn Husam ad Din (Persian, died 1470)
via The Metropolitan Museum of Art licensed under CC0 1.0

Here’s an excerpt from Met’s description:

This manuscript of the legendary exploits of ‘Ali, nephew and son-in-law of the Prophet, is illustrated in a style associated with the White Sheep (Aq Qoyunlu) Turkoman dynasty ruling in the western part of Iran during the last third of the fifteenth century. Within a conventional framework, the artist of this miniature has combined a harmonious and balanced composition with sureness of drawing, crisp forms, pleasant colors and a variety of decorative patterns. (To read more, click on the link below the image.)

I like the flat look of it. After you learn about perspective and how to realize it in your own art, it’s fun to see examples of really “flat” art. I like the text in the next piece I found.

“Anthology of Persian Poetry”
via The Metropolitan Museum of Art licensed under CC0 1.0

The diagonal text on the border is very different. For some reason the text made me think of Dancing in the Louvre by my quilting idol, Faith Ringgold. 

Then I broadened my search and found other art movements with interesting text.

“Design for a certificate, awarded by the city of Vienna for the most beautiful floral balcony decorations (balcony below text)”
by Erwin Puchinger (Austrian, Vienna 1875–1944 Vienna)
via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

“Chinese Junk”
by Utagawa Yoshitora (Japanese, active ca. 1850–80)
via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

“Story Title Page,”Maria Morevna”, verso: text”
by Boris Zvorykin (Russian, Moscow 1872–1942 Paris)
via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

“Wind among the Trees on the Riverbank”
by Ni Zan (Chinese, 1306–1374), China
via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

I finally stopped when I came up with this one. No text, just beautiful colors

“Blue and Green Landscape with Figure”
by After Chen Hongshou (Chinese, 1599–1652), China
via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

But I did have to lighten it a bit so I could see the beautiful design. 😉

Blue and Green Landscape with Figure (cleaned up)

To go directly to a Creative Commons search for art from the Met, follow this link. If you sign up for an account with Creative Commons, you can create lists of images and tag your favorite pieces. Oh yeah, I sure loved using the links Creative Commons provided to credit the art.

Feb 14 2017

Tech Tuesday: The Met Goes Public–Domain, That Is


There are real advantages to collaborating. Here’s one I hadn’t thought of. Kris and I don’t read the same articles, websites, and blogs. So when one of us sees something exciting, we share it with the other. Kris stumbled across a good one. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) has partnered with Creative Commons to make images of public-domain art in the museum available for free and unrestricted use. So why is this such a big deal? Let’s say you are creating a class on digital design (we are), and you would like to have some great examples to use in your class (we do). And let’s say you want to use these images for commercial purposes (yep, that’s us). We don’t have to contact The Met to get permission to use these images anymore (Are you kidding me?). And, the images come with text and html credits. (OMG! Do you realize how much time that saves us?)
So here’s how it works:

Go to this website: I did a search for lotus textiles.

Creative Commons Page

When I click on an image, I am taken to another page with Creative Commons information. Click on the “How to use this work” link,

“How to use this Work” page

and I’m taken to the Met’s webpage and I get a wonderful 3811 pixel x 3009 pixel image that I can save to my computer.

Kyōgen Costume: Jacket (Suō) with Design of Lotuses

And I don’t even have to make the citation. Click on the “Copy credit as text button,” and when I paste it I get this:

“Kyōgen Costume: Jacket (Suō) with Design of Lotuses” by Japan via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

When you paste it into a document, it comes with the italics, etc. But even more impressive is when I use the “Copy credit as HTML” button I get this:

Which, when copied to my blog post, gives me this fully formatted link and caption:

“Kyōgen Costume: Jacket (Suō) with Design of Lotuses”
by Japan via The Metropolitan Museum of Art
is licensed under CC0 1.0

It almost makes you want to go back to school and write research papers, doesn’t it? The Met also has a “Print” button that will allow you to print (or print to a file) all the information about the artwork with links to related objects.

If you know anything about us, we can’t just stop at one image. We browse and search, and pretty soon we’ve wasted the whole day. So you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see some of the cool things I found. Until then, back to work.