Category Archives: Interview

Meet Kathy Temean, Illustrator, Author, and Children’s Literature Advocate

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Meet Kathy Temean, Illustrator, Author, and Children’s Literature Advocate

I first discovered Kathy Temean’s blog, Writing and Illustratingfive or six years ago, and I’ve been following it ever since. If you like to write or draw for children, you must check it out. Kathy has been a long-time member, speaker, and regional advisor of the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is very knowledgeable and helpful.

I have since found out that she herself is an award-winning illustrator. She is also a consultant who helps companies (and especially authors and illustrators) develop marketing plans and websites.

I am so thrilled that Kathy agreed to be interviewed for ARHtistic License.

ARHtistic License: What books have you written or illustrated?

Kathy Temean: I wrote and illustrated Horseplay and illustrated Yogi’s Team, and various book covers, and have written and illustrated many articles for magazines like Highlights and Sprouts. Plus I have done artwork for Individuals like Jerry & Eileen Spinelli, major corporations like McDonald’s, Pfizer and Merck, and businesses like Mullica Hill Merchant Association have commissioned my artwork.

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AL: How did you first hear of SCBWI?

KT: To understand that, I need to tell you about my writing journey: I went to college to study art. My only connection to writing was my Dad who wrote short stories for magazines, articles for the newspaper, and love poems for me and my mother. I am sure he would have loved to write a novel, but he worked hard to make a living to provide for his family. I had to do the same, working full time to take care of my family and doing my art on the side. When my mother and father passed away in 2001, I had the task of cleaning out their house and found all the treasures of my childhood and Dad’s writing. Oh, how I wish I had found them earlier in life. I would have loved to discuss writing with my Dad. I started write so much that I really thought my father had taken over my body. All I could do was write. Maybe it was because I was an only child and I didn’t have a brother or sister I could talk to, or just grieve, but I poured my heart out writing for hours every day and night for many, many months. With my art background and so many cherished memories and the inspiration of my father’s poems, I started writing children’s picture books. One night I got up from my desk and couldn’t take a step and had to have my knee replaced. I started thinking I should use my artistic talents to illustrate the books I wrote. Then I realized I didn’t know anything about how to write or get a book published, so I read every book I could find and did everything suggested. One of those suggestions was to join the SCBWI. I did. Went to the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York, won an award for my illustration titled “Boys with Bear” and met other writers, illustrators, agents, and editors.

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Boys with Bear by Kathy Temean

I had worked for some major companies setting up corporate events, so I volunteered my talents to the New Jersey SCBWI chapter in order to create programs that would not only helping me navigate the road to publication, but others, too.

AL: Did you win other kudos for your illustrations?

1. BABES ON BEACH

Babes on Beach by Kathy Temean

KT: I did. “Babes on Beach” (Society of Illustrators in NYC), “Homework Helper” (SCBWI Summer Conference),  “Cinco de Mayo” (PASCBWI Conference), “Exploring the Garden” (NJSCBWI), “Boys with Bear” (SCBWI Winter Conference).

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Homework Helper by Kathy Temean

AL: You were the regional advisor for New Jersey SCBWI. How long did you serve in that capacity?

KT: 10 years. I stepped down at the end of 2013 and still attend the NJSCBWI events. I have conducted workshops and have done critiques at some of the NJSCBWI annual conferences.

12. CINCO DE MAYO

Cinco de Mayo by Kathy Temean

AL: Tell us about your passion for children’s literature and the authors and illustrators who create them.

KT: I love children and I love to write and illustrate. Seems like a perfect combination to me. The thing I loved about being the SCBWI Regional Advisor was how I got to see writers and illustrators grow and succeed. Having a little part in that success was special. That is why I have kept up my Writing and Illustrating blog.

4. EXPLORING THE GARDEN

Exploring the Garden by Kathy Temean

AL: Tell us about your illustration work. What software do you use?

KT: I have done a lot of traditional techniques, but when Photoshop came along, I jumped on board and taught myself how to use the software. It was instalove. I love that I can play around with the colors, correct anything I don’t like. I just wish I had more time to experiment more.

AL: You also assist writers with marketing and with author websites through your consulting business. Why is an author website important?

KT: For the last two decades I have gotten upset with writers and especially illustrators for not thinking enough of their work to show it off. Facebook is nice, but not good enough. Having a website gives a writer/illustrator a chance to tell their story. Think of it as having a picture book about you. You need to put up something interesting, provide some unique content that will bring visitors back. Even if you don’t have a book out there, you want to put your best foot forward, show off a little, and get that editor, agent, or future buyer interested in you. You never know where your next opportunity will come from. Just make sure what you design and create is professional and interesting.

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Cover by Kathy Temean

AL: Besides a website, what are some of the most important things authors and illustrators can do to promote their work?

KT: Don’t run scared of having a blog. Just the word can make some of my clients faint. A blog is a great thing to include with your website. Why? Because it lets give you a place to put up pictures, notices, and stories about what you are doing to help build an audience. Your website designer will not be there 24/7 to put all the new things up on your site. With a blog, you will have complete control without having to depend on and pay someone else.

You don’t have to do something every day. Think about what you can reasonably do. Could you take an afternoon once a month to come up with four things to post? If so, you can schedule them to post on four different days during the month. Hint: If you see something interesting you would like to share, put it in a file so you can get your hands on it the afternoon you schedule to come up with your four posts.

Also get a Twitter account. You can set your blog up to automatically tweet what you post. That is so helpful. And people will click on the tweet and will be steered to your site.

If you have a new book coming out, make sure you put it up on your website. I know you are thinking Duh! But I have seen that happen too many times. Also, I know a debut author who did not have a website ready for their book launch. This is very bad. Don’t let that happen to you. You can’t expect to hire someone to do a site and get it up a couple of days. I have seen some sites take a year to finish and not go live until after the debut book has been out for months on the bookshelves. Make a marketing plan or hire someone to help you accomplish that. Don’t miss your window of opportunity.

AL: Your blog is one of the most helpful I know for writers. How often do you post?

KT: I started the blog in 2009 and have blogged every day since then. Even through major operations, pneumonia, and vacations, etc.

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AL: How do you keep up that blogging pace and still do everything else that you do?

KT: A lot of late nights and I try to plan what I want to feature a month ahead. Writers and illustrators should think about submitting something to me. Think about what they could send to get their name or books seen. I feature authors, books, illustrators, agents, and I am always looking for articles that would interest other writers and illustrators. I love to get submissions – an illustration I could use with a post or holiday post – poem — a how-to article – a new book with their journey – a good new announcement for a kudos post. It’s a win-win for them and me.

AL: My favorite feature is the weekly Illustrator Saturday. The posts are full of illustrations, some in various stages of completion, so that we can actually see the artists’ process. How do you find 52 illustrators every year?

KT: There are so many talented people out there. It really is amazing. I am in awe of all the talent. It is a lot of work doing Illustrator Saturday, but most illustrators see the benefit of being on a blog that gets thousands of visits every day from all over the world. Many of my visitors are agents, editors, art director, publishers, teachers, writers, and illustrators. All are lovers of children’s books.

I rarely get anyone send me a link to look over their illustrations or tell me about themselves. I think they should. Even if I don’t think they are quite ready, there could be an illustration that catches my eye and could use, which might be something that would catch someone else’s eye, which could lead to a job. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

AL: You also keep us apprised of upcoming new books in the children’s market and even run book giveaways. Do you seek these books out, or do the authors or publishers offer them to you?

KT: It’s a mix of both. In the beginning I asked writers if they would like to be featured, but now publishers are sending me books coming out, hoping I will feature the author and the book. It is funny how I have seen an author, illustrator, and even a publisher grow from posting this feature on the site. At first glance it might seem like it is just a chance to win a free book, but it is much more than that. I always ask the author to write up their journey with the book. Everyone loves to read what an author and/or an illustrator had to go through to get their book on a bookstore shelf and into the hands of a reader. There is a lot of knowledge being shared in those stories. Plus, we are all in this journey together, so we have support the new books coming out to keep the industry going. We want it to be strong when we submit a manuscript and have people see and buy your book when it comes out.

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Kathy Temean

AL: You profile agents who are building their children’s book lists and also feature an agent of the month, who critiques several submitted first pages of manuscripts. I am in awe of your contacts.

KT: I am glad you find the info about different agents helpful. If writers and illustrators read the features, it could save them a lot of time trying to figure out who is out there and may be a good fit for them. Just remember, the industry changes frequently, everyone should check to make sure the agent hasn’t left the company or that they are still accepting queries. Last month, I had an agent who decided to close submissions and I didn’t realize this, since I had just researched her. So things can change on a dime. One day they can be working for an agency and the next they can be working for someone else or traipsing around the world with a new boyfriend. I do my best to keep up.

AL: What else would you like readers to know about you?

KT: I would like to let writers know I am currently working on organizing a Virtual Writers Retreat. I have done a full manuscript critique retreat for the last seven years. It has helped so many writers get published or opened doors for them with an agent. This COVID-19 and everyone being locked down and afraid of flying, I decided going virtually would be a good idea. If you write a novel, where would you get a chance to have an agent or editor read your full story. Plus, everyone gets assigned to a four person critique group and everyone gets a 20 page critique with one of the other agents. The retreat is open to picture book writers, too. Their cost is less. They get a total of four PB critiques and a PB critique group. Here is the link for more details.

Children’s authors and illustrators, now it’s your turn. Check out Kathy Temean’s websites. You can learn so much there! And take advantage of Kathy’s offer–she’d love to have some submissions about your work and your journey.

Meet Artist Alice Hendon

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Meet Artist Alice Hendon

I have been following Alice Hendon for years. I think I first discovered her through her old blog, The Creator’s Leaf. Then I found out she administers a Facebook group, Tangle All Around, which I often mention on ARHtistic License. Her current website is ArtangleologyI love her Zentangle® work, and I’ve learned so much from her and received so much encouragement. I’m delighted that she was willing to be interviewed for ARHtistic License.

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by Alice Hendon

 

ARHtistic License: You used to work in law enforcement?

Alice Hendon: I retired from law enforcement 21 years ago. As an investigator I specialized in crimes against women and children and was a state certified expert in child sexual assault cases. During the Gainesville Student Murders I was promoted to Assistant Chief of Police.

AL: I hear you have dragons. Did you make them?

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Alice Hendon and friend

 

AH: I am a lover/collector of dragons. We have nine dragons residing outdoors here in Maine in a special hollow. Haha! I say ‘special’ because it seems to be the perfect place. Kind of a bowl shape, hollowed out by wind and time, there are rocks rimming two sides, woods along the third side and the front side facing our house is open. Raspberries, strawberries and apple trees grow wild around the hollow. It is a great place to sit and draw, or read. I did not make any of these dragons myself. The big dragons were made by a friend in south Florida. He is a scrap metal artist. Mushu’s fringe around his face is actually bike chains. Teeth and claws were made using screws. Three of the dragons were made by a chainsaw artist living in North Carolina. He literally carved the dragons out of pine tree stumps using a small chainsaw. Two of them are connected with a bench for seating.

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by Alice Hendon

AL: How did you transition from cop to artist and Certified Zentangle Teacher?

AH: I had never made any type of ‘art’ before eight years ago. After I retired, I homeschooled my daughter for twelve years and I needed something ‘new’ to occupy my time. I literally found tangling on Pinterest. Art journaling with the bright beautiful colors drew my attention and soon I was seeing line drawings in black and white that led me to Zentangle. Just weeks later I arrived in Rhode Island for training with Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. I had never taken a class and had never spoken with a CZT. I have since taught some classes, including a semester-long course for homeschool students and a few moms. I set up the Facebook page Treasured Tangles as a place to post homework patterns and for the students to be able to share their artwork. We began with eleven members/ likes. Today the page has 1,917 members/ likes. I prefer ‘teaching’ through my Facebook group Tangle All Around, which currently has almost 6,300 members.

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by Alice Hendon

AL: You’ve authored six books, and collaborated on more. Tell us about each.

AH: There are currently seven books in my Artangleology! series, all available worldwide on Amazon. At the beginning I thought about the needs a new tangler has – or a person who wants to learn about tangling – and built the series around those needs.

Tangle Starts was the first book. I was one of the very first tangle artists to introduce color into tangling and heard from many others that they wanted to use color but weren’t sure where to start. With Tangle Starts I had already done the color work for them – all the pages are full color art just waiting to be tangled. Or used in any other paper crafting project.

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by Alice Hendon

Tangle Starts Planner is set up to be a tangler’s bullet journal, containing all the important features bullet journalers use. In addition it has 106 tangle patterns, a quick reference section, and pages to store your favorite tangle patterns and projects.

Tangle Starts Strings is just that. A string book. It holds 366 strings all ready for you to tangle, one for every day of the year and a few extra. Includes basic tangle instructions to get a new tangler started, storage area for your favorite patterns and pages where you can create your own strings to tangle.

Tangle Starts Treasures was made to be portable and to hold step out instructions for approximately 376 tangle patterns. It includes thumbnails to record your favorite patterns at-a-glance. Treasures includes basic instructions for beginners, a collection of strings to tangle, and blank tiles for you to add your own string and tangle. There is also a section to teach you how to deconstruct your own patterns.

Tangle Starts Planner, Into the Future is the newest planner, tangle journal, datebook and organizer all in one. The theme of this book is steampunk and includes 100 tangle patterns. All the books in the Artangleology series were designed to work together or as stand alones.

Tangle All Around the World is a collaborative effort from my Facebook group Tangle All Around. Referred to by some as the tangle Bible, this book features 450+ original tangle patterns from 50 different tangle artists located all around the globe. It is a reference guide – all you need add is paper and pen. This book held the #1 spot on Amazon for thirty days when it was published.

More Tangle Starts is the most recent book in the series. It takes Tangle Starts one step further with 100 full color pages of beautiful color backgrounds for tangling, art journaling, collage art, scrapbooking, origami, card-making. Perfect for any paper-crafting project.

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by Alice Hendon

AL: Wow, Alice, that’s impressive. What’s up next?

AH: I am currently working on a Bible based weekly tangle/ devotional type book.

AL: You’re an artist ambassador as well as a product reviewer. How does one that get a job as an artist ambassador or product reviewer?

AH: As an Artist Ambassador for Zebra Pen and Leda Art Supply, I receive product as it becomes available to the public. I use the product and review it on my website and on various social media platforms. Both companies provide me with product for giveaways. If you are interested in becoming an Artist Ambassador for Zebra Pen, you can follow this link for information.

I also product review for Hahnemühle Fine Art. I use the fine artist papers they provide me, then review them with links on my website and on various social media platforms. Hahnemühle provided the paper I used for artwork in the making of Tangle All Around the World and for the full color art backgrounds in More Tangle Starts.

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by Alice Hendon

AL: You’ve designed lots of tangle patterns and strings. How do you come up with your ideas?

AH: I enjoy designing tangle patterns. I keep an eye out for interesting designs or details and take photos with my phone. These all go into a file which includes rug designs, architectural pieces on buildings, sidewalk cracks, floor designs, tile designs, clothing details, those are just a few. You can find inspiration for patterns all around. Sometimes a new pattern just happens when you are trying to draw a particular pattern, then make an error but keep on drawing to see what happens. Many patterns come from this happy misadventure. My pattern golden came about this way. I was working with Bales and drew it ‘wrong’ but I just kept drawing the whole thing ‘wrong’, then made a record of the steps I followed, and named it golden.

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For strings, I usually just close my eyes and draw loopy lines! Hahaha! Or draw straight lines – with my eyes open – for a more structured string. No rocket science here.

AL: You make video tutorials. Do you have any tips for artist/instructors who would like to make videos to put up on YouTube?

AH: I am no expert at video tutorials. It is a work in progress. I usually have to film twice because I get stuck, or say a bad word, or something doesn’t work. Hahahaha! You probably are not going to want to use this response. Sorry. (Andrea’s note: I’m leaving this in, because I think your struggles are typical–and you do such a good job!)

AL: You moderate Tangle All Around on Facebook, preparing detailed weekly challenges and encouraging all the participants. It must be very time-consuming. How do you do all the things you do? Can you share some time-management tips for artists and teachers?

AH: I do accomplish a lot. The reason I am able to accomplish so much is simple . . . I am retired. I do not work outside the home. I already did that. Tangle All Around started small and has built into something huge. And quite frankly it ‘works’ because of the members. They take care of each other. They encourage each other. They check on each other. I really have little to do except come up with the weekly prompts and behind the scenes details. I try to comment on as many pieces of art as possible, but truly I cannot keep up. We have so many people participating in the projects and posting art. It is amazing! I am so inspired by everyone! And I am thankful that my members comment on each other’s work. And even answer questions before I see them. They really leave me little to do except come up with ideas. And I love it! My group Tangle All Around is the best group on Facebook!  I make time each morning and each evening to comment on art and check posts. Early afternoon I work on my website. Late afternoon I work on art of my own. My husband and I eat meals together and we watch programs together at nighttime. We have settled into a routine, so to speak. And it works for us. Working on books gets stuffed into 5 minutes here, 5 minutes there, until I have enough to make a book happen. Then everything else stops until the book is done.

AL: What are some of your favorite tangle patterns, your own or others’?

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AH: I have go-to patterns just like everyone else. I start almost every piece of art with printemps. Actually I start by drawing my chop – my signature – and building the printemps around it. That way my signature is embedded in the art piece. I also like diva dance rock n’ roll. Of my own patterns I prefer cee-a-mosa and all boxed up. I try to focus on using 3 – 4 patterns in a piece of art. Sometimes 5, but focusing on just a few at a time. There are literally so many patterns it is hard for me to focus unless I narrow it down to a few. And usually I have some Netflix playing in the background. My favorites series are Merlin, The Musketeers, and Once Upon a Time. I can mostly quote those shows, so I can listen and focus on tangling.

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Interview with Vicki Riske, Puppeteer, Author, and Illustrator

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Last November among the booths at the Tempe Festival of Books, some adorable puppets caught my eye.

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I was hooked. I had to know more.

Vicki Riske, long time puppeteer, had recently written and illustrated a children’s book about the characters she had created as puppets many years ago. I was so impressed with Riske that I asked if she’d be willing to be interviewed for ARHtistic License.

ARHtistic License: How long have you been a puppeteer?    

Vicki Riske: I have been making puppets for about 50 years.

AL: How did you get started?     

VR: I started making puppets in undergraduate school for plays.

AL: Are your audiences mostly children?     

VR: Yes, most of the time my puppet audience are children, but I have also made puppets for adults, who have used them for theatre and television.

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Vicki Riske     

AL: Describe your puppet-making process. 

If the puppet is for a play, I read the play and analyze the character that the puppet is playing. I also imagine the actions that a puppet needs to be able to do. Is it necessary for the puppet to have a mouth that actually moves? Does the puppet have to carry objects? Then I do a series of drawings, first just pencil and then I may add color to the drawings.

AL: How do you come up with their personalities?    

VR: Every puppet that I make has a specific story that they are telling. The puppet characters relate to other characters in the story. They may have a specific characteristic that can dictate the design, such as Leo, my lizard. He needs to do push ups, so he needs to have joints that allow that activity. He is also a lizard, so he needs a texture consistent with ideas about lizards.

AL: Have you worked in television? 

VR: Yes, I had my own TV show back in the 70s for a CBS affiliate in Fargo, ND. I created two owls, a dog and a worm for the show.

AL: And you also worked in movies? 

VR: Yes, I worked as a scenic artist on commercials and movies around Arizona. I have a film credit on Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

AL: Tell us about We Are Puppeteers

VR: We Are Puppeteers is a small company. We write books, make custom puppets, and we do puppet shows with children. The children are the puppeteers. We have puppet shows that we have written and puppets that the children use to act out the stories. We usually rehearse with the kids and then they perform for their parents or other kids. We do the shows for events such as birthday parties.

AL: Who are some puppeteers who have inspired you? 

VR: Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop, Jim Henson, Edgar Bergen, Caroll Spinney, and many more.

AL: What do you like most about puppeteering?   

VR: I like the magic around puppets. You have an inanimate object that you can bring to life to tell a story.

AL: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in making puppets and/or performing with puppets? 

VR: Don’t be afraid of your own style. You maybe inspired by someone and copy for a while, but let your creativity come out.cover_Med

AL: Now you’ve branched out to writing and illustrating children’s books. You’ve used the same characters as your puppets. How did you come up with the idea of The Polka Dot Tea Party?  

VR: I have a granddaughter who loved tea parties. We would have one tea party after the other. She was 3 years old at the time. So she was my inspiration. I love the desert and would see shapes in nature, so I thought polka dots and tea parties was a great combination of topics.

AL: What is the hardest part of the writing process? 

VR: Editing is the hardest. Once I have an idea it usually flows, but reworking the text can be a challenge.

AL: Did illustration come naturally for you? Have you always drawn, or is it a new skill for you?    

VR: I have been drawing my whole life, but had never illustrated a book before.

AL: How long did it take to write and illustrate The Polka Dot Tea Party?   

VR: It took about 6 months to write and illustrate the book.

AL: What advice would you give to someone who would like to become an illustrator? 

VR: I would tell them to look at books that appealed to you. And daydream about your book. I find that ideas come to me when I am cleaning house.

AL: What was your publication journey like? 

VR: I learned a lot about publishing a book. I think I was a bit impatient at times. The process for publishing took a long time.

AL: How did you connect with Outskirts Press?

VR: I found them on a recommendation from a friend.

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AL: What will your next book be?

VR: My second book, Grandma Bibi, was just published in December 2019. It is a children’s book about shared memories and love. It tackles memory loss as a family issue and opens a dialogue for families to discuss what is happening to grandma or grandpa. I self-published this book. I found a printer in Michigan, 360 Digital Press, that has been great to work with.

AL: What do you like most about writing?

VR: Puppets need stories to tell and I enjoy writing them. I also like the fun of sharing my ideas with young people and bringing them joy.

AL: What do you like most about illustrating?

VR: Illustrating is challenging, creating an emotion with a drawing is the best. Illustrations set the tone of the story, whether it is light or serious. I make many drawings until I have the right one for a page.

 

To learn more about Vicki Riske and her work, check out her two websites: The Polka Dot Tea Party and We Are Puppeteers.

Meet Kathy Reeves, Musician, Quilter, Blogger, and Stitcher of All Kinds

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Meet Kathy Reeves, Musician, Quilter, Blogger, and Stitcher of All Kinds

It’s really hard to put Kathy Reeves in a box. She is so talented and distinguished in so many arts! I first discovered her through her blog, Sewing, Etc. and was blown away by her beautiful quilts. But she also sews garments, knits, cross stitches, and teaches piano. I’m so glad she consented to be interviewed for ARHtistic License, because I’m delighted to learn more about her.

ARHtistic License: What is your musical background? What do you do professionally? 

Kathy Reeves: It’s a little complicated! Musically, I started piano lessons at age 5, and started teaching at 14, mentored by my teacher.  Since 2017, I have been building my piano studio, where I teach a combination of Suzuki and traditional methods to students ranging from 4-67 years old. I also accompany, so usually do the school solo contests, recitals for the Black Hills Suzuki School, and 4-5 high school kids participating in the Concerto Competition. I have a BS in General Agriculture and an MA in Organizational Communications. I spent nearly 30 years as a Youth Development Specialist for the 4-H program.

ARHtistic License: Below is a collage of garments Kathy has sewn. (She’s got the modeling thing down, too!) Click on the smaller images to enlarge.

AL: I’m a little confused about the acronyms you use on your blog. What is SAL? What is HQAL?

KR: SAL stands for Stitch A Long, and HQAL  is short for Hand Quilt A Long.

AL: I love your beautiful knitting. When did you learn to knit? I love your patterned sweaters and mittens. What do you most like to knit? It seems to me you look at patterns but freely adapt them to reflect your own creativity. Is that correct? Do you also crochet?

KR: I learned how to knit during my time as an IFYE (International 4-H Youth Exchange) in Norway. My favorite thing to knit is sweaters. I especially love the Norwegian traditional patterns, and putting a modern twist on them by changing up the colors. I am just getting to the point where I experiment with a little pattern adaptation, mostly out of necessity, but it is giving me the confidence to consider drafting my own “perfect cardigan” in the future. I can crochet marginally…I don’t enjoy it as much as knitting, but I try making a doily every 5 years or so!

AL: What are your favorite kinds of quilts to make?

KR: I prefer scrap quilts, probably because that’s all I knew growing up! Right now, sampler quilts seem to attract my attention, but there are a few patterns that I have on my someday list.

AL: What kind of sewing machine do you use for your quilts?

KR: All my sewing is done on my Necchi Omega, a Christmas gift for me about 15 years ago. It is one of the last machines to get a metal body, and it is purely functional. It has maybe 12 stitches on it, and cost about $300.

AL: Do you quilt on a sewing machine or by hand?

KR: I do both. I started Free Motion Quilting about three years ago, and have progressed to a pretty decent meander pattern. I have branched out a little, and now have a few patterns I feel pretty confident in executing. I started the HQAL to help me be accountable for working on hand quilting projects, and it has been wonderful to learn from others in the group.

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AL: Do you design your own quilts or work from a pattern?

KR: I do both. If I have a specific project in mind, I will draft my own blocks. I have a variety of reference books I collected early on, filled with blocks, and of course anything traditional has been put out on the internet. Lately, I’ve been utilizing quilting projects offered by bloggers and fabric companies, just to speed the process.

AL: What is your fabric shopping strategy? Do you have a particular quilt in mind when you shop? Certain colors? Or do you just buy whatever strikes your fancy? What is your stash like?

KR: Currently, I only shop for fabric when I am working on a specific gift, such as a wedding quilt, where I am trying to choose something that will be meaningful to the couple. My mother in law brought me her stash when she realized she would not be sewing anymore, and I inherited most of my mom’s stash when she passed away. I have always saved the fabrics I sewed clothes with, as well as the scraps from past quilting projects too. My daughters often wrap up a few fat quarters at Christmas time too. Because of this, my stash is quite the mishmash of colors and eras. I am on a fabric fast until I have used up what is in my drawers, except for neutrals, which I seem to run out of regularly.

AL: Who are some designers you admire?

KR: Kim Diehl – the way she combines piecework and applique. Lisa Bonjean – her embellishing on wool. Lori Holt – I am in love with her Farm Girl Vintage stuff, though I’ve held fast and not bought anything yet. I do want that cow pattern, though.

I love old Vogue sewing patterns.

AL: You do a lot of handwork—embroidery, cross stitch, hardanger. Do you do needlepoint or crewel? If you had to pick a favorite, which would it be? Do you work from a pattern or kit or design your own?

KR: My preference in handwork is to work on evenweave fabric, so its counted cross stitch and Hardanger with an occasional embroidery project. Crewel work has never been my forte, but I did the crewel work on my bunad (the national costume of Norway) when I came back from Norway. I stitch exclusively from patterns, mostly from a cross stitching magazine I subscribed to that had amazingly intricate designs. Until I finish all the projects I want out of those, I will likely not look for any other patterns!

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Kathy modeling her bunad. “Each county as its own pattern, and mine is from Nordland, where my grandmother came from.”

AL: With so many different types of crafts that you do, how do you decide what to work on?

KR: I generally have 4-5 projects going at a time: Piecing a quilt, stitching something, hand quilting, something to knit and periodically, a garment of some sort. Except for the crunch during Christmas, my goal is to keep up with whatever quilting project I am doing (usually an online block of the month or week), hand quilt one or two threads each morning, work on my stitching during a lunch break, and knit a few rows of whatever in the evenings. Being part of the SAL and HQAL groups helps keep me accountable, and has really increased my output!

AL: We creative types seem to hang around with other skilled artists. When we shop for supplies, we’re surrounded by people who love to make stuff. But the truth is, most people today don’t even know how to thread a needle. What advice would you give to parents who want to pass down a creative skill to their children?

KR: Kids are naturally curious, and when they see you doing stuff, they want to try as well. My girls “helped” me sew when they were toddlers. I put them on my lap to “sew”, and they stood on a chair watching me iron. Of course, it was more interesting if the project was for them! They both started sewing as 4-H Cloverbuds when they were 5 years old. The key was to select simple projects that were appropriate for them. The first sewing project we did was a nine patch pillow, followed by an elastic waist skirt. When they were about 8 we actually sewed a simple pattern. From there, they both experimented with cross stitch, and take on a project periodically. Having a mentor is the best thing, so whether that is you, a 4-H leader, or other trusted adult, that is the best way to pass along these skills.

AL: What is a project you’re looking forward to starting?

KR: I really want to knit the Orkney sweater designed by Marie Wallin, and I am working on how to incorporate Hardanger into my next MIWW (Make it With Wool) outfit. It may have to wait for a year or two, but I’m hoping to make it happen at some point.

AL: What else would you like readers to know about your creative work?

KR: If you want to do something, just try, and if you like it, find a mentor or a good reference book and keep at it. I had a fabulous sewing mentor for about a year, and a few wonderful hours learning how to knit, and the rest I have figured out myself. I’m no expert at any of these things, I just enjoy them.

Interview with Jenifer Tull-Gauger, Karate Instructor, Author, and Illustrator

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Interview with Jenifer Tull-Gauger, Karate Instructor, Author, and Illustrator

Jenifer Tull-Gauger and her husband, Kirk Gauger, run East Valley Martial Arts in Mesa, Arizona. Tull-Gauger has also been writing and drawing since childhood. Her most recent book, The Two True Karate Kids: A Dojo Kun Character Book on Battling Dishonesty, was released December 1, 2019. I met Jenifer through folk dancing, and reconnected with her in November at the Tempe Book Festival. I’m thrilled that she consented to be interviewed for ARHtistic License.

ARHtistic License: Have you always lived in Arizona? What are the pros and cons of living in a desert area?

Jenifer Tull-Gauger: I grew up in southern California and our young family moved to Arizona over 22 years ago. Arizona has provided opportunities that California couldn’t. We love the people here, and are so happy to be here now. A huge perk is the weather most months out of the year. And for me, a huge drawback is gardening in an arid climate. I don’t like working with cactus, so I must contend with big water bills.

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AL: You and your husband have been practicing karate for twenty years. How do children benefit from karate training?

JTG: Karate is great for people of all ages, but children especially stand to benefit from karate training because it helps them form values, inner strength and the knowledge of their power, in their formative years. For our children, we have seen improvements in self-confidence, self-defense, respect, and character-building in addition to the fitness it provides.

AL: I know a dojo is a karate school, but what is dojo kun?

JTG: A kun is an oath, so the dojo kun is the oath of a traditional karate school. Our Dojo Kun lists our most important rules and values that we uphold. Each student is expected to work on using them in daily life – both in and outside of our classes. For me as an instructor, I teach people how to fight or harm others for self defense, and these rules teach them how not to fight, or at least how to have a moral code for the use of force. Our Dojo Kun is the traditional one created by Shungo “Tode” Sakugawa around 200 years ago. It is translated as: 1) Strive for a good moral character. 2) Keep an honest and sincere way. 3) Cultivate perseverance or a will for striving. 4) Develop a respectful attitude. 5) Restrain my physical abilities through spiritual attainment.

AL: You’ve been drawing since you were a child. What sort of art training have you had? What advice do you have for budding artists?

JTG: I took as many art classes as I could in junior high and high school. Other than that, I have practiced a lot on my own, including learning Sumi-e, Japanese brush painting, from a book. That was fun. My advice for budding artists is to just do it! Practice with different styles and media. Sketch as much as you can (or would like to) and regularly. Youtube is also a great source for techniques, ideas and inspiration.

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AL: How is illustrating a book different from drawing pictures? What did you have to keep in mind as you created your accompanying illustrations? 

JTG: For me, the biggest difference (and thorn in my side) in illustrating a book is the editing process. In fine art, I create a piece and when it’s done, it’s done. In illustration, I receive feedback from my art editors and then make revisions to make sure the pictures are supporting the story I want to tell. With book illustration, there is also the use of left-to-right action and awareness of where the eye is led in order to encourage the turning of the page.

AL: Do you draw your illustrations by hand, or do you use graphic software? Tell us about your process.

JTG: I use a mostly traditional process, but with the help and support of technology. My process for the Dojo Kun Character book series is to do a rough layout sketch or book dummy, then create real-size pencil sketches. After input from my art editors, I go over the outlines in black ink. All of that is done by hand. Then I scan the line art into digital files, print it all out, and fill in the colors by hand with brush pens. After another round of editing thanks to other artists’ eyes, I’ll make additional edits. Then I layout the pictures and text in Microsoft Publisher before consideration of final adjustments. If images need more digital manipulation than Publisher allows (such as removing backgrounds or parts of pictures), I’ll use GIMP.

AL: How do you find time to write and work on illustrations?

JTG: It is tricky finding the time to do both. This tripped me up for years. Then I implemented two things that help me make this doable. One is prioritizing. I have one project at the top of my list that I work on regularly. I put most of my focus and energy into that project. (I’ll put things of secondary importance in my to-do list where I anticipate having a break in my primary project, such as when waiting on input from editors or “beta-readers.”) The second is I commit to working on my books daily, even if it’s only for a short block of time. And when my day allows, I spend more time. Using a to-do list helps. As did figuring out which one series of books I want to work on at this point and having one area of focus. It is true that my other stories, my poetry, and my personal journal writing are on the back burner as I’m focusing on my karate picture books at this time. But it’s worth it to see the progress of these Dojo Kun Character Books as they come into being.

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AL: You’re a member of SCBWI and you have critique partners. How did that help you on your journey to publication?

JTG: Both of these have helped me immensely. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has helped with my professional development and with teaching me the nuts and bolts of the trade. Through them, I’ve also met people who have helped guide me on my path to publication. I have found a lot of moral support and help in both the SCBWI and my critique partners. Plus, it’s awesome and inspiring just to be around other creative types. Additionally, it is invaluable how good critique partners can help you “see” the writing and illustrations through other people’s eyes or from other perspectives.

AL: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

JTG: I’m a mix of both, and depending on the story, I may lean more toward plotting it out beforehand, or flying by the seat of my pants and making it up as I go along. I actually enjoy both. When left to my own devices, I will usually have a solid idea plotted out in my head of what I’m going to write. But I try to stay open to inspiration and go with the flow of creativity while writing. I did a longer work, a children’s chapter book for NANOWRIMO a couple years ago, and was amazed and delighted at how some parts of the story took twists and turns that I hadn’t expected when plotting it out. There were times that I was writing my characters into trouble and had no idea how they were going to get out of it.

AL: What was the most difficult part of writing your books? What is the most fun part of writing your books?

JTG: The most difficult part of writing my first book was the uncertainty of what to do with the story and when to do it. I actually had the idea and wrote the first draft years ago. After I took it to my writer’s support group for feedback, it sat, going nowhere, for years. (That is the purgatory where most of my stories and poems sit.) The most fun part of writing and illustrating my book is just overall the adventure of it all. Some of the high points of the adventure are getting lost in the creative process, and learning of new (or previously unknown) helpful resources such as the Biteable app which eases the process of book trailer creation. I enjoy meeting new people at writers’ events or even on social media. It’s fun to encourage other writers and artists to find that spark within them and follow where it leads. And I love bringing my art and writing to the table in karate training, as well as bringing the most important lessons of traditional karate out into the world to help children, even those who may not train, improve their lives for now and for their futures.

Jenifer Tull-Gauger reading to students

AL: What types of books do you like to read? Which authors do you admire?

JTG: I like to read all types of children’s books. It’s important to keep up with the industry. I admire Tomie dePaola for continuing to support and encourage younger writer-illustrators in the SCBWI even though he doesn’t need to. And I admire many authors I have met who have helped and encouraged me, including Pat Curren who once won a Tomie dePaola DVD on the craft of picture books and gave it to me because she writes for teens. As far as my personal reading, I’m open to trying out any book from any author, but I will put it down if it doesn’t hook me within two pages. Dean Koontz is my favorite author to read.

AL: What is your favorite book about writing?

JTG: There are so many great books about writing! I would have to say my favorite is Natalie Goldberg’ Writing Down the Bones. It contains so much great advice and sharing of knowledge and writing experience. I also really like Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, which inspired me to get to know her better through her writing.

AL: Your book The Can-Do Karate Kid: A Dojo Kun Character Book on Defeating Laziness & Procrastination came out in May 2019, its companion coloring book came out in November 2019, and The Two True Karate Kids: A Dojo Kun Character Book on Battling Dishonesty came out in December 2019. What’s next?

JTG: My third Dojo Kun Character Book, about wrestling with quitting, is at the top of my writing and illustrating priority list. I’m also working on a companion coloring book to go along with the second book in the series. These will be released in the first half of 2020. And I’m looking forward to my book launch party for The Two True Karate Kids on February 15th, 2020. It will include a Karate with Your Dog Class!

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AL: Do you have a funny story about any of your books or about the writing process?

JTG: Maybe not really laugh-out-loud funny for most people. But I enjoy a dry sense of humor, and I find many of the “little things” in life hilarious. My picture book adventure has so many little funny things like that. Such as a five-year-old calling both the snail and slug monster in my first book “snails” (he’s from Arizona). Or his mom giving Procrastination (the snail monster) a voice, “Don’t do it now, you can do it later.” Or the response from a teen “beta reader” when she saw that I made the adult female karate teacher bald. (She was not on board with this idea.) I got to see her face as I was there in person: priceless.

AL: What is something about your books or about yourself that you wish your readers knew?

JTG: Hmm, I feel like I put all of these things out there in my weekly writer-illustrator and karate blogs. So this is a tricky question for me. But there is one thing that I may not get out there enough. I wish that all adults with elementary school aged kids in their lives knew I aim to make my books educational yet fun, character-building conversation starters with enough weirdness to make kids want to talk about them (and a can-do attitude, honesty, perseverance, etc.).

To learn more about Jenifer Tull-Gauger, check out her author website. And if you’ll be near Mesa, Arizona on February 15, you’re invited to the launch party for The Two True Karate Kids. Since the plot includes karate and the adoption of a dog, the book’s publication will be celebrated with a karate class that’s going to the dogs. The party will take place 9:45 a.m.—11:30 a.m. on Saturday February 15, 2020, outside East Valley Martial Arts, 1829 S. Horne, Suite 8, in Mesa. It will include book signings, a book reading, pictures with your dog and the author, and a Karate with your Dog Class. Participants in the class are invited to bring their dogs to go alongside them through a martial arts influenced obstacle course. Donations will be accepted for the Arizona Humane Society. Sounds like lots of fun, doesn’t it?

Creative Juice #167

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Creative Juice #167

Gorgeous artwork that will make your creative fingers itch to make more.

I have a recommendation for you. If you have access to Netflix and you’d like to see a different Santa movie, watch Klaus.

Meet Gwen Lanning, aka Textile Ranger

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Meet Gwen Lanning, aka Textile Ranger

Gwen Lanning is a blogger, photographer, nature lover, quilter, weaver, dyer, and investigator of all things textile. You might know her from her wildlife blog, Little Wild Streak, where she posts the photographs of species of birds, butterflies, reptiles, amphibians, and dragonflies that she’s observed in the wild. But I discovered her through the quilts she’s made and posted on her other blog, Deep in the Heart of TextilesShe recently consented to be interviewed for ARHtistic License.

ARHtistic License: What kind of quilts do you like to make?

Gwen Lanning: I love to make scrappy quilts with unpredictable color combinations. But someday I would love to make whole cloth quilts with beautiful thread work too.

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Most of my quilts are to be donated.  I make a lot of Log Cabins out of scraps.

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AL: What do you look for when you go fabric shopping?  

GL: Because I want all the fabric, I usually buy bags of scraps. I love getting a selection and deciding how to put them together.  I also like to look at the clearance section of a quilt shop, make a few choices, and take whatever is left on the bolt.  I feel that I am doing a service to the shop owner.  🙂

AL: Do you have favorite colors?

GL: I love turquoise and it works its way into every quilt. I also especially love Kaffe Fassett’s Roman Glass designs and that fabric works its way into every quilt too.  I am not alone in that and I love spotting it in other people’s quilts!

AL: What is your stash like?

GL: My stash is not particularly large – it fills one closet that is 30” deep and 48” wide. But I add to it faster than I quilt it up, and I would like to catch up!  It is roughly organized in plastic bins – whenever I start to fold it neatly, I just end up starting another quilt.

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“I like to use an improvisational style.  Sometimes the quilts are inspired by patterns in books, and sometimes not.”

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AL: What kind of sewing machine do you use?

GL: For about 10 years, I used my mom’s Viking, and then last year I got a Juki HZL-F600. I love both of them, but always wish for more room to move the quilt around of course.

AL: Do you quilt by hand or machine?

GL: I quilt by both hand and machine – I love hand quilting the most.  But most of the quilts I make are for charity so I need to finish them quickly and make sure the stitching is sturdy.

AL: You also buy vintage quilt tops and finish them off. How do you find them? What do you look for?

GL: I find vintage tops at antique shops and guild sales. (I have not let myself look for them online because I would go crazy and buy them all. Do we see a pattern here?)  I get almost all the ones I find, but I especially love the ones that I know I would never piece myself, with tiny triangles and diamonds.  Also the ones with wild pattern and color combinations.

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“This is my favorite out of all the vintage quilts I have bought – I love how the fabrics faded, resulting in random placement of the colors.”

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Detail of the above vintage quilt.

AL: Whose quilt designs do you admire?

GL: It was the designs of Kaffe Fasset that got me into quilting – I loved the big bold prints and simple piecing, and his designs struck me as very fresh.

I saw the Gee’s Bend quilts here in Houston and I have always loved that improvisational look. In the old quilts I collect, I really love it when some of the colors have faded, leaving an unpredictable composition of color.

In the quilts I make for myself I try to have asymmetrical compositions and those unpredictable color combinations. (I am more restrained when I make quilts for others.)

I also love Alexandra Ledgerwood’s clean modern designs and have made a few of them.  When it comes to art quilts, I love Judy Coates Perez, Kathy York, the free motion extravaganzas of Teri Lucas, and the thread sketches on transparencies of Rob Wynne.  And I have just learned about Jill Kerttula and I love the multiple techniques she used in her art quilts.

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Dutch Bouquet, which Lanning made for The Endeavourers improv challenge.

AL: Do you also spin yarn? On a wheel or a drop spindle? 

GL: I know the basics of spinning, but I would not call myself a real spinner. I have spun wool and cotton, on drop spindle, great wheel, and flyer wheel.  I would love to spin more, and I love reading Ply magazine and seeing all the possibilities.

AL: What kind of loom do you use?

GL: My favorite loom is an 8-harness, 54” Gilmore, but I also have a 4-harness, 36” Harrisburg.

AL: What kind of materials do you weave? 

GL: I have woven with cotton, linen, rayon, wool, and silk blend yarns.

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“I also designed my own panel and coordinating fabrics, to make a one-of-a-kind quilt for a grandson.”

AL: What do you weave?

GL: I love to weave rugs, but lately I mostly weave dish towels. Just like with the fabric scraps I use in quilting, I have lots of little bits of yarn, and I like combining them in striped and checked towels.

AL: What is the hardest part of weaving?

GL: For years I didn’t like warping the loom, but now I love every part of the process. It is so soothing.  Now the hardest part is deciding on what pattern I will weave this time – there are so many drafts I want to weave, but I also love weaving a favorite draft again.

AL: What is the best part of weaving?

GL: For me the best part is that once you throw that shuttle, that part of the cloth is done. If you had to cut it off the loom right then (and could stabilize the edge), it would be ready to go just like that.  With quilting, there is the cutting, then the piecing, then the prep of the quilt sandwich, then the quilting, then the binding, and you can’t really call it done until all of those steps are finished.  You can’t be sure it is even going to look complete.  With weaving, you get that feeling of completion with every shot.

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“I take photos and print them on fabric with my regular printer — there are lots of different fabrics available to print on, cotton, silk, silk organza.  You can also iron freezer paper on the back of regular fabric and run that through too, so I have done that with old fashioned calicos, and it gives a nice background texture to the print.”

AL: You also make your own dye using plants. Tell me more about that.

GL: We moved to our farm 10 years ago, and right about that same time, I found out that you could do natural dyeing with the same process you would use to make sun tea – put in the plants in a glass jar outside, pour boiling water over them, and see what color develops. I tried every plant I could find, and I was excited to find out that some of the best colors came from some of the most nondescript “weeds.”  It was a great help in learning to distinguish those plants.

It works best on wool, which we don’t use a lot of here in Texas, and the colors do fade over time, but it is a lot of fun.

AL: Do you still knit? What do you like most to knit?

GL: I knit and crochet a little. Someone gave me a huge sack of leftover crochet thread, (and then I bought an equally large sack of leftovers, in case I somehow ran out of something from the first sack), and I am slowly crocheting those into place mats and baskets.  I like to always have a project of that sort going, to take along with me when we go visiting or traveling.

AL: Do you still cross stitch or do any other kinds of embroidery or needlepoint?

GL: I hand stitch a little to embellish art quilts, and I keep telling myself I am going to do a stitch journal, but I have not done as much as I would like in that area.

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Green Mist, practice with textile paints and thread sketching. “I love to do little exercises to try out different techniques and nontraditional materials.”

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March Materials Madness,  an exercise in using household items.

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“Artist’s Alchemy, from The Endeavourers’ Change/Transformation challenge.  I think this is my very favorite art quilt.”

AL: Do you have any funny quilting stories or weaving stories or other craft-related stories?

I used to work at a historical park, where we had a big loom set up. Kids could sit down next to me and I would help them weave, but usually the parents were not patient enough to wait for the five minutes this would take.  One woman and her 8-year-old daughter poked their heads in the door, and the woman said, “Oh, she’s making candles,” and pulled the child back out before I could say anything.

AL: Is there anything else you would like readers to know about your textile endeavors?
GL: I really enjoy being a textile dilettante, and experimenting with different techniques and materials, and that attitude also extends to my blog.  I love dipping into different eras and cultures, and sharing what I have learned about topics as wide-ranging as medieval French weaving laws, German operas, Minoan archaeology digs, African wax cloth, and Turkmenistan camel yarns.  Following those textile paths where they lead has brought me new adventures and friends, and I look forward to many more!
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Gwen Lanning with her husband, Bill.

Interview with Cindy Stohn, Professional Quilter

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Interview with Cindy Stohn, Professional Quilter

I am honored to introduce you to master quilter Cindy Stohn. I met her this past summer, when I decided to hire a professional to quilt a top I’d made maybe ten years ago. I checked the Arizona Quilters Guild website for a local quilter, saw Cindy listed, checked out her website, and gave her a call. I’m absolutely delighted with the results! (I’ll show pictures in a future post.) I recently invited Cindy to answer some questions about her work.

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Blow Flowers by Cindy Stohn

ARHtistic License: Tell us how you got started quilting.   

Cindy Stohn: I come from a long line of quilters and creative people that make and fix  or invent things.  Several generations of the family – however not everyone quilts.   I made my first quilt when I was 15.  I adopted a work in progress that my Mom had started  – piecing by hand  – medium sized hexagon shapes cut from the scraps of the baby clothes she had made me.  All very 1970’s fabrics.  Fabrics included denim, corduroy, flannel, among standard woven cottons.  We tied it with yarn.  I remember shopping with her for the backing fabric and I intentionally looked for something hideous, because in my mind at the time, a quilt could even make an ugly fabric look good.  I still have the quilt, but it has not held up well.   I didn’t make many more until my kids were born – then I started making them left and right.

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Rainbow Hexi Strings by Cindy Stohn

AL: Would you hazard a guess as to how many quilts you’ve made or how many quilts you’ve quilted for others? 

CS: I have probably made 200 or so quilts personally – all sizes, most very easy patterns.  We all start out that way.  I tried different stuff along the way.  I can’t say there is much that I don’t like.   I’ve quilted about 550 quilts for others (since I started my business), several for family before that.   

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Cindy Stohn with Navaho Ruby

AL: What kind of quilts do you most like to make? 

CS: I love scrap quilts, modern quilts, and art quilts.  When I started getting into quilting heavily about 20 years ago, I made a LOT of string quilts.  I liked the idea of creating my own fabric and using pieces left over from the clothing I had made for the girls.  Truly there isn’t much I don’t like.  As of late, most of my quilts have been art quilts, or quilts made with the express intention of entering them for competition.  A baby quilt or two might sneak on the list. 

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Chutes and Ladders by Cindy Stohn

AL: Do you design your own quilts, or do you use traditional or commercial patterns?

CS: For the most part I design my own projects.  That was not always the case; especially in the beginning, I always used patterns.  Then I started to modify the pattern,  or choose a different layout, then after my skills improved I had the confidence to just figure my own design out by myself.  Not to say that it is a smooth process.  There are plenty of times I need to rip something out because I have made something the wrong size or put it together in the wrong order. 

Cindy Stohn with another of her award-winning quilts

AL: Tell us about your fabric stash. 

CS: Out of control.  No doubt.  I will say that I have moved low grade fabrics out of my stash.  At one point I decided that if I was going to put so much time and energy into these quilts, and I wanted them to last and the for colors stay their best, the higher grade quilting fabrics are they way to go.  I have several projects I made early on that my family loves, but they are faded, and not as I would like to see them.  But that’s okay – it’s what I could afford.  We learn as we go. 

AL: What are your favorite colors?

CS: I cannot choose.

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Quilt by Cindy Stohn

AL: What kind of batting do you like?

CS: For the past few years I have used Quilter’s Dream batting – almost exclusively.  But that does not mean that others are not good too.  I used Warm and Natural for a long time, and I still like it.  Hobbs had a good product as well.  Again, I would go with quality for anything that we pour our hearts into the way we do with quilts for those we love.

AL: Did you tell me you had quilts at Houston? Or was it Paducah? 

CS: I have had my work displayed in several AQS (American Quilter’s Society) shows including Paducah – but my pieces have not ribboned there so far.  Still trying to up my game for that! I have also had pieces in the Road to California Show where two of my pieces were awarded ribbons.  I entered for the first time this year in the IAQ (International Quilt Association) Quilt Festival in Houston.  I had two pieces accepted, and one was awarded a ribbon.  I was able to attend the award ceremony on Oct 29th, and was awarded 2nd place in the People Portraits and Figures category.   It is an honor just to be accepted into these shows, and I LOVE to attend and see what everyone is doing.  My favorite thing is to see if I can talk to the quilt makers there at the show.  It is always fascinating to me the evolution of the pieces.  Rarely, it would seem, does the quilt we see in the show reflect the original vision of the maker. 

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Quilt by Cindy Stohn on the long arm machine

AL: Tell us about your Guild affiliations. How has being  a Guild member influenced your quilting journey?

CS: For most of my quilting years I was an “introvert quilter.”  I stayed in my sewing room, was educated by TV shows or on (what I like to call) the University of YouTube.   I did whatever  projects I liked and I showed it to nobody outside my immediate family and friends.  I had no interest in quilt guild meetings.  It was a nice existence.  But once again, as time has taught me, what I say I don’t like – MAYBE I do.  Since I stared attending some of the local Arizona Quilt Guild chapters a couple years ago as well as the PHX Modern Quilt group, I have made so many friends and met so many lovely, lovey people who can really help expand the knowledge of quilting, and who can appreciate all that goes into what we do.  My family appreciates the quilts I make – but they do not notice the little extra effort or detail that a fellow quilter will notice and comment on.  PLUS – every meeting has show and tell – and you already know that I love hearing people talk about their projects. 

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Quilt by Cindy Stohn

AL: Tell us about the quilt(s) you’re making right now.

CS: I’m making an art collage quilt – sort of – a Day of the Dead lady in costume.  I hope it works out.  I’ve inventing the process as I go along. 

AL: Tell us about the favorite quilt you’ve made. 

CS: My favorite quilt – if I have to pick – is usually my latest project because each project stretched my skill set.  I try to learn from each project.  So for today, it is the one I sent to this year’s Quilt Festival in Houston.  I like it because I believe that the technique is original – something that has not been done before – and it was challenging – and I pushed myself to finish – even when it was not going well.

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My Big Face by Cindy Stohn won a second place ribbon at the International Quilt Festival in Houston this year.

AL: What are some of the joys and challenges of running a quilting business?

CS: I don’t know if I’d say there are any real challenges – time management maybe.  Sometimes I get clients who do not quilt, but are in the possession of quilt tops – usually very old quilt tops from family that have sentimental value.  These folks sometimes need a lot of education about the quilting world, and how a quilt goes together, the time and materials involved.  They usually just are not exposed to the process and have no idea.  Sometimes these are projects can be challenging to work on, and the tops are usually hand pieced and generally do not lay flat or square, etc.  However, they bring the greatest rewards and people seem to reconnect to family and memories through textiles and quilts.  I think that’s the most amazing thing. 

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Quilt by Cindy Stohn

AL: What long arm machine do you use, and why did you choose that particular one?

CS:I chose the Innova Longarm Machine by ABM.  I chose it because I felt is was more industrial, and I liked the software.

AL: Do you have any funny quilting stories?

CS: Only the people at the quilting groups.  There are some crazy hilarious folks out there.

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Quilt by Cindy Stohn

AL: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you or your quilts? 

CS: Maybe not so much about my quilts – but in general:

  1. People should make what they love – the love will show.
  2. Don’t apologize for any mistakes in your work.  We were all beginners once, and I can tell you (for an absolute fact) that there are mistakes in the quilts that make it to the shows – even the ones that win.  Be proud that you finished. When someone is warmed by your quilt they do not care that the points don’t match.
  3. Try something new and different.  it’s the only way we grow. 

 

All the quilts pictured and all the images in this article are by Cindy Stohn. To see more of Cindy’s quilts, check out her Instagram page.

An Interview with Author Edward Hoornaert

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I became acquainted with Edward Hoornaert several years ago, when I was a participant in Weekend Writing Warriors, where authors post snippets of their works-in-progress for feedback. Hoornaert is a prolific author who earned the nickname Mr. Valentine for his romance novels (Mr. Valentine is also the title of a romance novel by Vicki Lewis Thompson which was inspired by Hoornaert), and then turned to science fiction. (See my reviews of Alien Contact for Idiots and Newborn on my Books Read page, #3 and #1 respectively under 2017. A review of Alien Contact for an Enhanced Nutcracker will be coming soon.)

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Edward Hoornaert against the backdrop of the Canadian Rockies, Ed’s “spirit’s home.”

I recently sent Ed some questions about his work, and these are his responses:

ARHtistic License: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Ed Hoornaert: I’m a plantser, or maybe a potter. Not Harry, unfortunately for me. [Andrea’s note: I call myself a plotser.]

My first ten or twelve novels (out of 20) were written ‘by the seat of my pants.’ However, I had too many failures that died around page 50 because I discovered there was no ‘there’ there. So now I write an outline, 5 to 10 pages long, of the first two-thirds of a book. Plotting further than that tends to be wasted because the book inevitably takes off in (slightly) new directions. I always have a vision of the ending, though.

Actually, I spend more time getting to know what makes my characters tick than I do on plotting. Come to think of it, in the best books you can’t really separate the characters from the plot; different characters would result in a different story. That’s what I aim for.

AL: How long does it take you to write a book?Farflung

EH: I drafted The Guardian Angel of Farflung Station in about three weeks. Then I spent more than twice that long rewriting and honing it before I submitted it to my small-press publisher. It remains one of my favorites because it came so quickly.

At the other end of the spectrum, The Trial of Tompa Lee, a sci fi novel that was my final book for a traditional publishing house, took about three years. Interestingly, the gestation period says nothing about the books’ quality. They’re both among the best I’ve written, based on reviews.

AL: What is your biggest writing challenge? 

EH: My biggest challenge is holding the world and my family at bay long enough to write. I’m still not comfortable with the selfish side of writing at home. It’s tricky, you know? I have a great marriage and family, and I want to keep it that way.

AL: Do you cut a lot from your drafts when you revise? 

EH: Back when I wrote by the seat of my pants, I had to cut a lot from my drafts, but now that I sort of plot my books, I almost always add rather that delete. My draft scenes are often sketchy, sometimes all dialogue, so I flesh them out and add sensory details. Until the last couple passes, that is, when I’m looking to trim clumsy or wordy passages. Then I aim to cut around 5% of my words.

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EH: Lordy, yes. Usually, there’s one of two reasons:

  • First, I didn’t plan out my idea or my characters well enough to know whether the conflict will sustain a book. Getting stuck like this is often fatal.
  • Second, I sometimes need time to pause to figure out what, exactly, should happen next and why it matters. These may be conflicts between plot (what the plot wants a character to do) and the character, who’s like an actor asking a director, “Why on Earth would I do something as silly as that, instead of this?” I need to dig deeper.

AL: You got your start writing romances for Harlequin Silhouette. Then you turned to sci fi and sci fi/romance and self-published. Why self-publishing?

EH: Actually, I got my start with Tab Books writing a couple of computer books for children before I went to Silhouette. After Silhouette, I published with Five Star Speculative Fiction, an imprint of another big publisher. For the record, some of what I write these days is put out by small presses.

I left the rat race in 2012, by which time I’d gotten the rights back to my sci fi novel. I brought it out as a self-published book that year, along with two sequels that make up The Trilogy of Tompa Lee. It’s impossible to sell the last two-thirds of a trilogy, and I couldn’t find any houses interested in reprinting the first book just to get the sequels. Self-publishing to the rescue! The second book in the trilogy has a 4.8+ rating out of 5, so some readers are glad I took the leap.

Self-pubbing is perfect for me. My career in technical writing had been perfect training. The technical issues of formatting and production were child’s play after software manuals, and being in a two- or three-person department had drummed into me the absolute necessity of going over and over a manuscript until I was sick of it, and then going over it some more.

AL: What, for you, have been the benefits of self-publishing? What are the benefits of traditional publishing?

EH: Main benefit of self-publishing—I don’t have to wait forever and ever; the wheels of large publishing houses grind very, very slowly.

The main benefits of traditional publishing were 1) money, because with the Harlequin behemoth behind me, I made decent shekels; and 2) I didn’t have to do any of my own marketing. I hate marketing.

AL:Your Harlequin books were written under a pen name: Judi Edwards. Why? Was it thought that men couldn’t write women’s fiction?

EH: No, I don’t think that was the reason. A fair number of romance novels back then were being written by men, such as Donald Maass (now a literary agent and author of some of the best books about writing available). I even heard rumors that up to 10% of romances were male-authored. The folks at Harlequin Enterprises — I actually wrote for Silhouette Books, a Harlequin subsidiary — knew that men could write romances women would read.

Although I wasn’t privy to their reasoning, I got the impression the powers-that-be were afraid some women wouldn’t buy a book if they knew a man had written it. Maybe they’re right. There is a bit of prejudice against men working in the genre.

AL: Alien Contact for an Enhanced Nutcracker has just come out. What’s up next?Nutcracker 6

EH: Nutcracker is the sixth book in my Alien Contact for Idiots series and the first new book in the series in a year; I took time off to write two books in my space-opera series. Although I haven’t decided for certain—an idea has to grow in my mind to the point it “takes over,” and whether that will happen is unpredictable—I’m probably going to take a hiatus from both series and work on a standalone book.

Several years ago, I drafted a manuscript about a colony of people forced to explore the relationship between madness and creativity. I’ve always thought the concept was dynamite, even if the execution was a popgun. I’m fifty-four pages into a rewrite, concentrating on changing and sharpening the character of my female lead. She was a bit boring because I didn’t understand what drove her. Assuming the book “takes over” it’ll be near-future science fiction with elements of romance. The working title is Never Seen a Purple Cow.

AL: What is something about you and your books that you’d like your readers to know?

EH: One of the tried-and-true paths to success these days is to publish a lot of books—every month or two if possible. The problem with this approach is that quantity takes precedence over quality, and I hate the idea of publishing a book that isn’t as good as I can possibly make it. I rushed one of my books, and I’ve regretted it ever since.

So I’d like readers to know that I’m old school. I rewrite and hone until a book is as engrossing as it can be. Quality over quantity!

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Ed’s cat, affectionately known as Effing Feline, makes a weekly appearance on Ed’s website.

An Interview with Quilter Stephanie Finnell

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An Interview with Quilter Stephanie Finnell

Meet Stephanie Finnell, the blogger, sewer, crocheter, and quilter behind the Katy Trail Creations blog and Etsy shop. I’ve followed her blog for years and recently reached out and asked if I could interviw her for ARHtistic License. Here are her responses:

ARHtistic License: You care for pre schoolers in your home. How do you find time to quilt?
Stephanie Finnell: I’ve been caring for children ages newborn through 11 years for over 25 years and have learned to utilize naptime pretty efficiently lol. Otherwise there are evenings and weekends.

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AL: How did you get started quilting?
SF: I have sewn nearly all my life. My earliest recollection is making a toy ‘snake’ with scraps with my grandmother Inez on her treadle sewing machine. I took sewing in 4-H with my mother as the project leader and after I married, I bought my first machine. The quilting part came along after my daughters were born and I wanted to try using up a bunch of scraps. I’d made quite a good amount of dresses for my daughters and used them on a crazy quilt. I don’t have a photo of it (guess that should be a priority).

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AL: Do you prefer traditional quilt designs, or do you like contemporary designs as well? What is your favorite kind of quilt to make?
SF: I do have a love for traditional but I really admire the contemporary quilts I’ve seen online. My favorite ones lately are from old Kansas City Star patterns. I’ve collected a few books that feature these and love trying them out. Some turn out great, others not so much lol.

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AL: Are there any particular quilt designers you admire?
SF: I think I need to give credit to Fons and Porter for their influence with PBS as well as other tv quilters (Alex Anderson, Ricky Tims, Eleanor Burns, Sharlene Jorgenson) for jumpstarting my interest as well as giving all the wonderful instruction. There aren’t many quilters in my family and none that I’ve actually sewn with. I am slightly partial to Fons and Porter as they hale from my grandma’s birthplace in Iowa.

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AL: You do a lot of hand quilting. Do you ever quilt by machine? Do you stitch-in-the-ditch or do you do free motion quilting? What kind of sewing machine do you use?
SF: I’m glad you asked. I definitely use machine when I can’t take as much time in completing a quilt. I like using the walking foot so more line quilting or serpentine styles when using a machine. There’s also tying when really pinched for time. I own a Bernina 1080(a real workhorse) and an Esante but use the Bernina most. I have also used embroidery with the Esante on a couple quilts. It worked really well on a cathedral window quilt.

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AL: What are your favorite colors for quilting?
SF: I think red and white quilts really are my favorite. (This has reminded me of a UFO-stack of red & white blocks downstairs lol.) Also blue and white. But as you can see in my completed photos, I’m a lover of all color combinations.

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AL: What is your fabric-shopping strategy?
SF: Usually sales and a need for specific colors to match.

AL: Do you usually have a particular quilt in mind when you go to the fabric store, or do you buy whatever strikes your fancy?
SF: When readying for the A to Z Challenge I’ve got a color scheme in mind.

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AL: What is your stash like?
SF: It is pretty large with much of it in tubs. I am fortunate to have a designated space but as I’m working on projects, they overflow into my recliner for ease of access. Recently a local fabric store closed due to the owner passing and my mother and I had to restrain ourselves with all the fabric available. It was still a bit more than we could do and we both spent a significant amount but all fabric lovers justify their purchases and seem to have enabling spouses lol.

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AL: What kind of batting do you like?
SF: All cotton, low loft. Much easier for hand stitching.

AL: What are you working on right now?
SF: Another eBay find. It’s a wedding ring-ish type but it is has a square border all around. Someone used Precious Moments fabric on it in the rings and will make some little girl an adorable keepsake I hope.

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AL: How do decide what kind of quilt to make?
SF: I often try to decide how many fabrics I want to use, So for a red and white, the options are fewer in block pattern choices. Other times, I just use up my scraps so they aren’t continuing to pile up.

AL: What is the hardest part of quilting?
SF: Finding enough time. If I had to do it for a living though, I’m sure I wouldn’t enjoy it as much.

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AL: What has helped you the most on your quilting journey?
SF: Working at home gives me more time than most people, I think. Out of sight, out of mind in so many hobbies and being here it’s pretty much always in my line of vision.

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AL: Do you have any funny quilting stories?
SF: Well recently, my daughter who really does know better wanted a quilt by 1 pm the same day. I agreed only if I had her assistance in cutting and tying. It was the quickest quilt in history I think! Lol Glad we spent that time on it together though. Warmed my heart 😊

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AL: What else you would like readers to know about your quilts?
SF: I just hope they bring someone joy. That’s a quilter’s ultimate goal.

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Stephanie Finnell with her husband.