Look Up

Sometimes all it takes is a fresh perspective.

I remember my sister Anne, the photography teacher, telling me about the ‘worm’s eye view,’ the name for perspective I captured while lying flat across the snow, peering through the icy driftwood, and focusing across the water. The Lake looked massive, yet grounded—I still love that shot.

And as a textile designer, my eyes are always open for uncommon inspiration. In midtown Sacramento the other day, I was reminded of one of the simplest things I do to spark an idea.


Yup, I simply LOOK UP.

Especially when striding city sidewalks while enveloped in the tunnel of high-rises, we tend to see the place at our eye level. And to think about where we’ve been (that client meeting) and where we’re headed (Starbucks?!).

Granted, sometimes what we see left and right can indeed be striking. But so can the oft-overlooked world overhead. You might not believe what’s up there.

Check it out—Within one block and five minutes that day in Sacto, here’s only some of what I saw:

(Click on photos see more detail.)

The view at ground level:
Sacramento Architecture Street Level One

And when I looked up:
Look Up for Inspiration Sacramento Architecture One

Have I just been transported to a grand museum? To Florence?

Another building from the sidewalk:
Sacramento Architecture Street Level Two

And glancing skyward:
Look Up for Inspiration Sacramento ArchitectureTwo

A symphony of motif & pattern here! Click this photo and you’ll spy many starting points for designs.
So, are you a fellow looker-upper?

If not, do me a favor. The next time you’re hoofing it in the City (wherever the city may be), snap out of that ‘tunnel vision.’

Take an extra minute or two to pause…

and LOOK UP.
And tell us in the comments below, and show us (#LookUp on Twitter) what you saw…can’t wait!

The Modern Quilt Movement

Quilts aren’t only calico triangles and hexagons anymore. Interested in quilting since I was a teen, I’ve always especially favored the bold, graphic color play of Amish designs.

Having created some art wall quilts myself, I appreciate the effort and artwork involved in making any quilt. But early on, I felt as though we needed an updated idea of the quilt as art. Though beautiful, I wasn’t drawn to most traditional designs, and fabrics awash in tiny floral motifs.

Then I went to my first quilt show, and found a few kindred souls. There they were–quilts as art, with a fearless exchange of color and shape.
Happy by Carrie Wikander TheZenQuilter on Etsy
‘Happy’ by Carrie Wikander TheZenQuilter on Etsy

Quilts that–to me–belonged on a gallery wall. At home in a city loft design, or as a vibrant statement in a contemporary, eclectic abode.

Since then, the Modern Quilt Movement has exploded! Now, many, many artists delight in this medium.

Here are some favorites that I spotted at the latest Pacific International Quilt Festival (PIQF) in Santa Clara, California. A can’t miss show for any textile & design lover, wear your comfy walking shoes when you go, and stop often to soak up the creative energy. PIQF is also a fantastic venue for pro and amateur textile artists to take workshops from innovative quilting instructors (sign up early!!).

(Click on photos for the full effect, and to see more detail.)

From Surf to Snow with Many Faults Between by Isbel Downs
‘From Surf to Snow with Many Faults Between’ (detail) by Isabel Downs

Kapa Kai I by Maren Johnston
‘Kapa Kai I’ by Maren Johnston

Kapa Kai I by Maren Johnston Detail
‘Kapa Kai I’ (detail) by Maren Johnston

Santa Barbara to Denver 8 by Lou Ann Smith
‘Santa Barbara to Denver 8′ by Lou Ann Smith

Etsy is also a fabulous source for Modern quilts for interior design. Enjoy these standouts (including Carrie Wikander’s — top of page), that I hand-picked from fellow Etsy artisans:

Modern Wall Quilt by Ann Brauer on Etsy
Modern Wall Quilt by Ann Brauer on Etsy

Off the Air by Lauren Palmer of OliveTreeTextiles on Etsy
‘Off the Air’ by Lauren Palmer of OliveTreeTextiles on Etsy

Interested in trying Modern Quilting yourself? Start with The Modern Quilt Guild, that has chapters across the U.S.

Or peruse magazines like Modern Patchwork or QuiltCon.

Upcoming Shows to See Modern (and other!) Quilts in Person:

PIQF XXIV, Santa Clara, CA, October 15-18, 2015
QuiltCon (a show that focuses on Modern Quilts!):
QuiltConWest, Pasadena, CA, February 18-21, 2016
QuiltConEast, Savannah, GA February 23-26, 2017

Would you hang a Modern quilt in one of your room designs? Come on, chime in and share a quick thought below!

Contemporary Embroidery Exhibit

I often find artistic vision in everyday life close to home. Even so, I believe it’s essential to hit the road, dive into the culture of cities near and far, and soak in inspiration . Plus it helps to get away from your own work, and gain a fresh perspective.

Museum exhibits enthrall me, especially those related to art, design and, of course, textiles. So a couple years back, I was thrilled to discover a little gem of a place just down the road in the heart of Sharks country (oops I mean San Jose—my passionate hockey fan persona sometimes can’t help itself).

(Click on images for more detail.)


The San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles is a treasure for the fiber arts community and creatives in general, and part of an active, downtown arts neighborhood. Several exhibitions typically coincide in the museum, offering works by local, national and international talent.

Each time I step foot in the space, vibrant color and pattern lure me in, and over to each individual work. I stare, examine and contemplate:

‘Wow, I would have to never thought put those colors together, but it sings.’

‘Such intricate stichwork—must have taken months.’

‘I wonder what pain in her life drove her to create such a moving piece.’

…and so time vanishes.

My recent visit reminded me that contemporary embroidery artists are creating remarkable, and original works!

Enjoy this sampling from ‘A Common Thread’—one of three concurrent exhibitions at SJMQT, ongoing through July 5, 2015. Building on age-old traditions, but with a vibrant, modern energy…this embroidery goes way beyond samplers and tea towels.

A testimony to fearless color is ‘Secret Oceans’ by Amanda Valdez (top)—love the juxtaposition of hot and cool—marvelous.

Ten Thousand French Knots detail  by Jeana Eve Klein
There really are Ten Thousand French Knots in this aptly named work (detail) by Jeana Eve Klein. Just one of several of her triumphant pieces in the show.

1871 detail by Joe Cunningham
As a Bay Area architecture geek, I was drawn to the fantastically detailed quilting in ‘1871’ by Joe Cunningham. Those that know my recent fascination with shingles in my textile work, will understand why my jaw dropped right open.

Here’s the full piece, giant and superb. You must see it in person, but click on this image for more detail.
1871 by Joe Cunningham

Untitled detail by Emily Barletta
‘Untitled,’ a mod herringbone by Emily Barletta, is one of a series of her works on display, that are stitched in brilliant threads onto paper.

Love Letters by Joetta Maue
Lastly, a tug on the heartstrings. One of Joetta Maue’s ‘Love Letters’ series of monochromatic, and touching works.

I hope you’ll make time for a visit to SJMQT—more to see, including two more diverse exhibitions, a gallery of works from local fiber artists, and a fun shop.

Here’s the scoop:

The San Jose Musem of Quilts and Textiles

520 South First Street
San Jose, CA 95113

Website: sjquiltmuseum.org
Tel: 408.971.0323

Wednesday to Friday 12pm – 5pm
Saturday and Sunday 11am – 2:00pm; 2:30 – 5:00pm
First Friday of every month (except January and July): Pay what you can 12 – 7pm and free 7pm – 9pm

General: $8.00
Seniors and Students with ID: $6.50
Member and children 12 and under: Free

Don’t only read—chime in below in the comments, with your take on these works, or the Exhibitions. And tell us about the jewels of art and design in your part of the world!

San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2015

Ready to immerse yourself in Design Deliciousness? In a home overlooking the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge? And did I mention said home was designed by architect Julia Morgan, of Hearst Castle Fame?

Well, hop the BART and the 38R, and stroll over to 3630 Jackson Street for the 38th Annual San Francisco Decorator Showcase!

A fundraiser for San Francisco University High School, the Showcase opens tomorrow, Saturday, April 25. Details below, and now for a sneak peek of the 29 artistic and beautiful spaces.

(Click on the photos to see greater detail.)

Will Wick Design Master Bedroom

Drink in the rich color palette of Will Wick Design’s sumptuous Master Bedroom. This glowing pink shade against the cream headboard, and the deep, moss green walls? Remarkable.

Heather Hilliard  Pretty is Back Dressing Room

And FASHION is a recurring theme. An air of calm, chic elegance fills Heather Hilliard Design’s “Pretty is Back’ Dressing Room. More than a dressing space, the room (overlooking the Bridge!) includes this luxurious sofa and custom ottoman, featuring Heather’s signature curves.

Molly Ringwald Dress from Heather Hilliard Pretty is Back Dresssing Room

And the glass-fronted closets are a parade of swoon-worthy fashion, including (I am told) this pretty, pink dress that once belonged to Molly Ringwald herself!

Tineke Triggs En Vogue Salon

DO NOT MISS Tineke Trigg of Artistic Designs for Living’s ‘En Vogue Salon,’ inspired by a James Malone Vogue Magazine fabric, that she and her team converted to this slick wallpaper.

Oodles more in this space than I show here. Just know that if you are a fan of black and white graphic patterns, striking artwork and unusual light fixtures, bring your EMT friend, ’cause you might just faint right over on the tile floor!

Closeup of Shou Sugi Ban Desk in Brittany Haines His Office

Not to omit a space for the stylish man, Brittany Haines of Authenticity B. Design’s ‘His Office.’ This Shou Sugi Ban -treated desk anchors the strong, yet plush space.

Brittany Haines His Office

Enjoy your day in the City, as much as I did! MORE than worth it to attend, you’ll come away from this year’s Showcase with a smile on your face, a head full of color and pattern, and the desire to make your spaces delightful.

Follow me on Twitter @HomeWorkshop for more, tasty design tidbits (and a few extra sneak peeks of the Showcase w/ the hashtag #SFShowcase.) Watch for a feature story about another space that blew me away. And please comment below!

The deets:

San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2015

3630 Jackson Street (between Spruce & Maple.) Check www.decoratorshowcase.org for details.

April 25 – May 25, 2015
Tuesdays through Sundays; closed Mondays except for Memorial Day

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday:
10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (last entry)

10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (last entry)

Sunday and Memorial Day:
11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (last entry)

Closed on Mondays except for Memorial Day

Available at the door
$35 general admission; $30 for seniors (60 and over)
Group rates for 10 or more can be arranged in advance by calling (415) 447-5830

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