Jan 4 2017

Ahh, The Company We Keep!


I regularly check out the website of Studio Art Quilt Associates because they frequently change their homepage banners. For me, it’s a weekly art fix. Well, wasn’t I surprised to check in the other day to find this amazing collage:

Jan 2017 SAQA Banner

Jan 2017 SAQA Banner

Wow, our Obama quilt is in great company! These artists have produced some amazing work, and we hope you click on their names to view more of their work. Let’s take a closer look at these “faces.”



Margaret Abramshe‘s “Zazen” is an explosion of color. She works with family photos to create compelling stories. Even subjects such as a pallbearer and immigrant are striking in their use of color.



One of our oldest SAQA friends, Mary Pal works with professional photographers in order to concentrate on portraits of older people. She is able to achieve remarkable and sensitive portrayals using . . . cheesecloth. Mary molds the cheesecloth into a story right on the person’s face, even if we don’t know exactly what that story is.

Masked Self Portrait

Masked Self Portrait

Kate Themel is known for her ability to create light. From the camera lens in this self portrait to her street scenes, look for her brilliant lighting effects. And, remember, she’s doing it all with fabric and thread.

Romancing Red

Romancing Red

Michelle Jackson often uses text in her work. In this case, she does so to great effect by interspersing words for the color red throughout the piece. It’s also an evocative portrait, creating other sensations associated with the color red.

The Picture is Only Half the Story

The Picture is Only Half the Story

Have you seen the Pixeladies‘s gallery of text art recently? We’ve been working away on pieces in our Language of Color series and our Walk a Mile in Her Shoes series. We use text to subtly influence meaning with specific word usage.

Always curious as to how things get done, I wrote SAQA’s multi-talented assistant executive director, Jennifer Solon, and asked her how these collages are selected and assembled for the SAQA banners. “I am still the person creating the banners. I select the artwork using the selections from the most recent online gallery,” Jennifer replied. We must note that among her many duties, Jennifer is still SAQA’s website master!

This month’s online gallery is called “Faces and Expressions.” You can access it by clicking here. Please take a look because there are so many other fascinating works of art in this gallery. Hats off to SAQA member Shruti Dandekar, who curated this particular online gallery!

Note: SAQA is always looking for guest curators. If you are an interested SAQA member, contact galleries@saqa.com for more information.


Dec 28 2016

The Power Of Word Of Mouth & Ohio


We’re in the middle of registration for our next series of Photoshop Elements classes, and we’ve noticed a curious thing. The last time we taught online, we had several Canadians enroll. This time around, 26% of the Elements 1 students are from Ohio. Ohio!! Over 1/4 of our students . . . so far . . . from the same state. We don’t know if folks in Ohio have been talking about us, but we do find it extraordinary to get so many students from one US state. This is the fun part about teaching online. We get to meet people from all over. Besides the US and Canada, we’ve had students from as far away as Sweden, Australia, and Greece. And in 2017 we’ll have our first student from the Dutch Caribbean. (By the way, the Dutch Caribbean has quite an interesting geopolitical history. Read about it here.) Needless to say, we don’t have the marketing budget to reach out to all these countries, so we have relied heavily on word of mouth. When students talk about their good learning experiences in our classes, it makes all the difference. Take fiber artist Kathy Loomis, for example. Her blog entries have steered several students our way. Read one of her entries about our classes here. Thanks, Kathy!

Back to Ohio. Ohio is special to us not only for the online students we have had. Some of our first exhibition opportunities happened in Ohio. Since it’s the end of the year, we thought it would be fun to talk a quick look back.

In 2007, when Sacred Threads was still located in Reynoldsburg, “Owuo Atwedee” enjoyed its premiere. Some nice person even sent us a review of the exhibition in the local paper because they had published a photo of our quilt with the review! We have another quilt traveling with Sacred Threads 2016 because our first experience was so wonderful.

Owuo Atweedee

Owuo Atweedee

In 2010, we had the honor of having “The Picture is Only Half the Story” exhibited in “The Journey of Hope in America: Quilts Inspired by President Barack Obama” at the National Afro-American Museum & Cultural Center in Wilberforce. We felt so welcomed. This artwork has recently sold, marking the end of a special time for us.

The Picture is Only Half the Story

The Picture is Only Half the Story

In 2013, “American Still Life: The Weight of the Nation” premiered at the Dairy Barn’s Quilt National ’13 in Athens. We loved the artist reception and the opportunity to meet and network with such talented artists.

American Still Life: The Weight of the Nation

American Still Life: The Weight of the Nation

We’re looking forward to teaching again in 2017. Photoshop Elements 1 begins January 16. Whether you are from Ohio, Europe, or Timbuktu, we’d love to have you join us. Click here for more class information. And if you are a student who has posted about our classes, thank you for spreading the word! Your good word is our best recommendation. Here’s to a creative, productive, and remarkable 2017!


Dec 13 2016

Tech Tuesday: What’s The Difference Between Layers And Brightness/Contrast In Photoshop, And Why Do I Care?


Our students often get confused when they first learn about levels. After all, they just want to brighten their photos, so wouldn’t it be easier to remember the brightness/contrast button? Seriously, what do levels mean anyway? If levels essentially do the same thing, brighten images, then why bother? Well, it’s all about the visuals.

Let’s start with Deb’s favorite view of Hong Kong. It is a great view, but the image is rather dull. Hong Kong tends to get hazier as the day goes on.  And since Deb rarely gets to the world’s highest bar at the Ritz Carlton before lunch, her photos can usually use a little adjusting. Here’s the original:

Original Image

Original Image

The photo is a bit washed out.  There are no very dark (black blacks) or very light (white whites) colors in the image.  Here’s a graph of the number of pixels at each of 256 values.

Graph of pixels at values

Black pixels are above the black triangle and white pixels are above the white triangle.  The higher the line, the more pixels at that value.  As you can see, there are no black pixels and no, or very few, white pixels (note the very short black line at the white triangle).  Usually the best photos will have some black and some white pixels.  We like to see this graph before we start fiddling with the photo.

How can you view this graph?  Click on Adjustment Layers (the two-toned circle) in the Layers Panel. (Press F11 in Photoshop Elements or F7 in Photoshop, if you don’t see the Layers Panel.) Kris fondly calls this icon the “Amerikaner” after her favorite German cookie. (Why this German cookie is called the American will take an entire blog entry itself.) Then click on Levels.

Adjustment Layers

Adjustment Layers

When the Levels adjustment layer dialog box opens, you see the graph along with a bunch of sliders.  Disregard the Output Levels slider.  First try to move the black triangle to the left edge of the pixels and the white triangle to the right edge of the pixels.

Then you can adjust the contrast by sliding the gray triangle to a pleasing look.  If you want, you can try moving the black and white triangles again to see if the photo looks better.

Gray triangle

Gray triangle

Once Deb played around with the Levels adjustment layer, she came up with this gorgeous view of Hong Kong. Compare this to the original. Much better!

Manipulated Image

Manipulated Image

Click on one of these two photos to compare the two:

To get back our original question, you can adjust the photo with the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer, but there’s no useful graph, so you just have to slide the slider buttons back and forth. If you change one of the sliders, you probably have to change the other.  Back and forth, back and forth.

Brightness/Contrast Slider Bar

Brightness/Contrast Slider Bar

In the “olden days” (pre Photoshop CS3, and sometime before Photoshop Elements 9) the brightness/contrast adjustment would actually adjust all parts of the image equally, which was absolutely the wrong thing to do. Now you have a choice, but we still prefer the Levels adjustment.  After all, we’re visual people, and the Levels adjustment graph provides visual clues to the adjustments your photo needs. By the way, if you only want to adjust the sky, that’s a different lesson!

Learn how to brighten your images and more by enrolling in one of our online Photoshop Elements classes. Photoshop Essentials 1 starts January 16! Click here to learn about our classes.




Oct 19 2016

Why We Go to Quilt Shows


Sure, we quilt. Sure, we like to meet up with friends. In the end, though, we go to quilt shows to get inspired. We usually go to the Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara every year, but the past few years have not been very inspiring. It seems the quilts got dark and brooding (not necessarily a bad thing) and coincided with the recession. This year seemed to be a good year.

I, Deb, am going to start out. I’ll let Kris chime in later. I have to say, I’m not really interested in which quilts win prizes. Some quilts just speak to me. And mostly they just speak to me and not the judges. Here’s one of my favorites:

Sophia Wong Modern Urbanscape

Sophia Wong
Modern Urbanscape

I love the movement, the use of straight and curved lines and most of all the color combinations. I wish I were so daring. Who would think to put these colors in the same quilt?

Next I was looking at quilting. Since we are working on a quilt about water, I was interested in simple quilting that evoked water:

These three were interesting to me. The purple part of “Skyfire Shadows at the Monuments” looks like rippling water. You know, the shallow water running over rocks. The yellow part of “Symphony in the Sea” would be very effective, too. A more elaborate design like the pebbles and curvy lines in “Cracking the Code” might work, too.

Then there were just some nice examples of more elaborate machine stitches. Wendy Hill had several samples I really liked that just require you to add a zigzag stitch:

Paula Jolly’s “Instinctually Stitched” used a wide variety of machine stitches. It really made the quilt sing:

Paula Jolly Instinctually Stitched

Paula Jolly
Instinctually Stitched

Hand quilting with tiny stitches is not my idea of fun, but look at Andrea Stacke’s wholecloth quilt:

My last two photos are just eye candy. These dimensional beetles (or bead-les, as Kris called them) were magnificent.

The text quilts that Kris and I make don’t lend themselves to ornate quilting lines, but I love looking at interesting stitching.

And here is Kris chiming in: Yeah, what Deb said. And I just want to add this quilt because it made me smile:

Connie Kincius Griner  Le Chat de Mondrian

Connie Kincius Griner
Le Chat de Mondrian


Sep 26 2016

Bid On Our Quilt Starting Today!


As most of you know, we are proud members of Studio Art Quilt Associates, whose mission is to promote the art quilt. Their annual online benefit auction is currently underway, and you can bid on our quilt starting today at 2 pm EDT.

The Language of Color 9: Color IQ

The Language of Color 7: Color IQ

“The Language of Color 7: Color IQ” is one in the series of pencils we have been creating to address the issue of race in America. The colored pencils are created using words and phrases cut from magazines and newspapers. While many of these snippets show how often color is used in everyday language, interspersed among them you can find some biting, cutting, or difficult concepts.



Prices today are $750 per quilt, but you can wait, if you dare, to try and get the quilt later on at a cheaper price. If our particular piece doesn’t grab your fancy, we’re pretty sure you’ll like something in the auction. Click here to get to SAQA’s auction page. Bid early! Bid often! And support this wonderful organization. SAQA has helped artists like us since 1989.

UPDATE: The quilt sold today (9/26/16)! Many thanks to all the supporters of SAQA and especially to Del Thomas. Click here to read more about Del Thomas and the Thomas Contemporary Quilt Art Collection.


Sep 13 2016

Photoshop Essentials 3? Help Us With Our Next Online Photoshop Course


We’re taking a hiatus from online teaching until the new year so that we can work on revamping our design class. After a cursory review of the course, we realized that we had a bit of a dilemma, so we thought we would ask you for some help. Of course, we’ll intersperse our questions with some images to make the post prettier.

Design Elements

Design Elements

Question #1: the class needs a new name. “Designing Fabric with Adobe Photoshop Elements,” while descriptive, seems limiting. After all, while you learn how to create designs, the course is not limited to designing fabric. In fact, in this class you build upon what you learned in Photoshop Essentials 1 and 2 by working on:

  • review of layers and layer styles
  • blend modes
  • define pattern and seamless repeat
  • filter galleries
  • custom gradients
  • complex text tool manipulations
  • panorama stitching

4 Layers: map, color, pebbles, photo

4 Layers: map, gradient, doodle, photo

Understanding layers and blend modes, for example, is useful for any user of PSE, from fabric designers to photographers. Digital scrapbookers would benefit from learning how to define patterns and make seamless repeats – all those wonderful backgrounds can be so much fun to create. And that’s just a couple of examples. So, now you can see that “Designing Fabric” won’t appeal to all the people who would otherwise take the class. Any ideas for a new name? We’d love to hear from you. Just leave a comment at the end of the post.

Gradients Explained

Gradients Explained

Question #2: Content. We’ve summarized the main areas of the class above, but it is very helpful to know what YOU want to learn. If you want to learn something specific, we might be able to add it to the class agenda. At the very least, your request might become the topic of one of our Tech Tuesday entries! Again, just add a comment at the end of this post, and we’ll see what we can do! Thanks for your help.

Finished scarf design

Finished Scarf Design


Sep 6 2016

Deb’s 2016 SAQA Dream Collection


Every year Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) holds an online auction of amazing 12″ x 12″ art quilts. They invite the public to post their dream collection. Kris and I just love curating the six quilts we would like to have in our houses (and, of course, really bid on). I started to create my collection when it was really hot, so all the pieces were a cooling blue green. Then I saw a couple of architectural quilts and built a collection around them. Unfortunately, Kris posted her dream collection before I did (view it here). I know we’ve been friends for a long time, but it would be embarrassing to post a collection based on the same subject with 5 of the 6 pieces being the same. (It’s the same as when we accidentally wear the same clothes to give a talk–teal shirt, black pants, clog-like shoes).

Okay, back to my collection. So I created a different collection based on pieces that had grids in them (or what I perceived as grids). I love little boxes with things in them, so I think that’s why these pieces appeal to me. Click on any image to start the slide show and to expose the title and artist for each piece. Links to artist websites are included below so you can explore even more of their work. The auction starts on September 16. Click here to view all the auction pieces. I hope you find a piece you’d like to bid on.

Brooke Atherton
Kate Crossley
Jane Dunnewold
Diane Glos n/a
Judy Langille
Karen Miller


Aug 30 2016

Visit your Local Museum and Learn about Yourself


Ok! Now I get it. I just never understood why some people have problems with quilts hanging on a wall. Art quilters have grown used to comments like the following: “They aren’t quilts, if they’re on a wall.” “Why don’t you make a real quilt?” “You can’t sleep under it.” “That’s not like what my grandma made.”

Implying that a medium must have a specific form or use is ludicrous, I would think to myself. Well, I recently discovered my own prejudice after visiting a lovely exhibition called “Little Dreams in Glass and Metal: Enameling in America, 1920 to the present.”

I love enamel, I kept telling myself. Why wasn’t I head over heels in love with the exhibit? Why were there so many “paintings?” Enamel is supposed to be used for decorating “things,” like jewelry and boxes and, well, useful things. This is what I thought:

Marianne Hunter Kabuki Kachina Conducts the Orchestra

Marianne Hunter
Kabuki Kachina Conducts the Orchestra

Arthur Ames Waiting

Arthur Ames

William Harper Labyrinth

William Harper

Edward Winder Vegetabilis

Edward Winder

But here are a few that have me rethinking my enamel/not enamel position:

Jean Tudor Gurness Broch

Jean Tudor Gurness

About Jean Tudor’s amazing “brooch” above. The attached part in the foreground: Enamel. The background: Not Enamel.

Mary Chuduk Veiled

Mary Chuduk

Then there’s Mary Chuduk’s Veiled. It’s almost an upside down bowl. But it’s not.

Katharine S. Wood Rocket Machine Shop

Katharine S. Wood
Rocket Machine Shop

Now I’ve really got a problem. Katharine S. Wood’s Rocket Machine Shop is flat. It looks like parts that could be made into a bracelet, but it’s not.

So here’s what I learned about myself: I just don’t like flat enamel. So it’s okay if you don’t “get” art quilts. I give you permission to not like them. And now I get it that you don’t think they’re quilts. Or, maybe we should all stop trying to pigeon hole things and not worry so much about definitions.


Aug 23 2016

Passwords, the Internet and Marriage (Part II)


Last week I talked about the advantages of using a password manager program like LastPass. Click here to reread the post. This week I want to talk about creating a secure, memorable password for that one password you have to remember. If your password contains the name of any of your family members, your phone number, or is on this list, you need to read this post and change your password NOW. Here are some hints for creating a secure password.

  • It shouldn’t contain easily guessed personal information such as birthdates, phone numbers, spouse’s name, pet’s name, etc.
  • It must be at least 8 characters long.
  • It shouldn’t contain words found in the dictionary.
  • It should use a variation of upper and lower case letters.
  • It should contain special characters such as @#$%^& and/or numbers.

Ángel Pagán

Ángel Pagán

One of the easiest ways to make a strong memorable password is to take a phrase such as Ángel Pagán is a beautiful baseball player. (Don’t tell my Dear Husband!) Reduce it to the first letter of each word


Doesn’t contain any personal information? Check. 8 characters? Nope. Using our list above, it’s too short. So why don’t I use BB for baseball. This would give us


Check off number two. Is it found in the dictionary? Nope. What about upper and lowercase? Gotta change that. How about


On to number 5. “It should contain special characters and/or numbers.” Need to fix that. A capital B looks like the numeral 8, why don’t I just make the B’s for baseball be 8’s

But I still don’t have any special characters. So why don’t I add something. Now how am I going to remember which special character I used. Try to follow my logic here. Pagán without the accent is just pagan. Now I’ve studied a bit of Spanish and a bit of French, and I never can remember which way the accents go. So why don’t I add a “^”? It sort of looks like acute and grave accents combined. I can remember that. Now I have


It meets all the rules above, but in my mind eight or nine characters are too short to be my master password, so I’d add a few more characters or even a random word. Keeping with my baseball theme, I think I’ll add the word herringbone to the end.


Why Herringbone? The stitch used to sew a baseball together looks like a herringbone stitch to me. And it is all about me, after all.

baseball Herringbone Pattern

And in case you were wondering, the ampersand reminds me of a treble clef, and the treble clef ”circles” the G line in a musical staff. Remember, the key thing is this password has to be strong AND memorable. And I can remember this! If it’s memorable to me and gobbledygook to you, I’ve succeeded!


Aug 16 2016

Tech Tuesday: Passwords, the Internet and Marriage (Part I)

What's my password?

What’s my password?
Click on image to see my consternation.

Do you have a secure password? Can you remember it? Is it the same for all of your accounts? I used to have a large written list of accounts and passwords sitting right beside my computer. That’s not the most secure thing to do, especially if your eyesight is failing and it’s written in an extra-large font that the neighbors could read from their dining room table. Another big no-no is to reuse the same password for every account. One of your accounts might get hacked, and the thief might just try that same password on another one of your accounts. And what do you do if you have an account you use on multiple devices (your phone, tablet and desktop computers)?

Here’s where a password manager comes in handy. That’s an app that will create secure passwords and remember them. Here’s a screenshot of the password manager I use, LastPass. It can generate a really long, really random password.

Password Generator

Password Generator

Could I remember that password? Not in a million years. But I don’t have to. I only have to remember the password for my password manager. One password! That’s it.

Now what happens when I need to use that impossible password to log in to an account from my cell phone? For a measly $1 per month, I upgraded to LastPass Premium. Now my password manager can sync to all my phones, tablets, and laptops, whether they are Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, or Android. So when I get an alert from my favorite airline that tickets to my favorite location are on sale for an unbelievably low price, I can just log in to my LastPass app, type in my one password, and tell it to log me in to the airline’s website. LastPass will remember that really long random password and the tickets are as good as mine.

Now here’s where the marriage part comes in. For those of you who know the Pixeladies, you’ve probably heard us exclaim, “After all, we have been married to each other longer than we have to our husbands. “ So what if Kris changed the password on our Facebook page, and I have just received news that we’ve been selected to show our work at the Museum of Modern Art. And let’s say Kris is camping in the backwoods of Idaho and has no internet connection (yeah, right!). With my Last Pass Premium account, we can share passwords with each other, and I can post the news on Facebook for all of you to see. The best thing is that the LastPass app will alert us when a password has been changed and will let me update the password. I can do the same with my DH. Everyone’s got their own LassPass account and password, but we can share them with each other.

Now as much as I love and trust Kris and my DH, there are times when I don’t want to share with either of them. Do either of them need to know that I’m a registered member of the Ángel Pagán fan club? (I’m sure both of them would be shocked to know that I even know who Ángel Pagán is. I’m not a baseball fan, and what the heck is a pagan angel?) So I don’t have to share that account information with either of them. How cool is that? Here are some links to check out:

  • If you’re ready to give it a try, use this link, and we’ll both get a month free of Premium service (up to 2 years).
  • If you want to read more about LassPass, click here.
  • If you want to read a review of other password managers, click here.