Start the New Year by Freeing Yourself of UFO Guilt

by Colette Herrin

A conversation with my friend Jane about why we were stuck in neutral when it came to our creative process made us realize that we both had incredible guilt about the UFOs in our studios.  Both of us experienced a heavy feeling whenever we walked into our studios.  It was a feeling of things being just barely under control.  I had the feeling that any minute my studio might explode and I would be found days later in the middle of it all.  We knew we had to unload this burden in order to become productive again.

First step: We had to find out what we were dealing with.  Jane cleaned out her studio and found over 100 UFOs; I counted 72 in my studio! No wonder we felt stuck.  Jane went to work and devised this wonderful system.

The system uses two sets of numbers to evaluate each project. Adding the 2 numbers together will provide the final number. It works like this:

The first set of numbers represents the amount of time a project will take to finish.

1 = <2 hrs (less than 2 hrs)
2 = ½ day
3 = 1 day
4 = <week (less than a week)
5 = week or more

The second set of numbers represents the level of need or importance you place on the project:

10 = need immediately
20 = need soon
30 = need sometime
40 = want to do it
50 = can let go of this, but not right now

One of my projects is a green silk purse. I estimate that it will take me two hours to finish this purse and I really need it now.  So the final number assigned to this UFO is 12:  2 for time it will take to finish + 10 for the level of need.

NOTE:  If there is no date-sensitive need (birthday or other special occasion), then the project is a 40 or a 50.

Now to get organized. Place each UFO in a clear bag that has a tag or label inside (I use 3” sticky notes).  I number each project by the year — 1401, 1402, 1403, etc  — and the final number from the above-explained system.  This number is circled. As the bags are sealed closed, the project is added to a master list. I have this list on a clipboard in my studio so I can easily access it. My list of projects looks like this:

Project # Description Time to Complete Level of Need Final tag number Date Completed
1401 Green Silk Purse 2 10 12
1402 Angel Placemats 3 50 53

Store projects by Level of Need Number.  I have plastic boxes marked “10 Projects”, “20 Projects”, and so on.

Now you are ready to put the system to work.  When you have some time before an appointment for instance, look through your list and find a project by number that will fit the time frame you happen to have available.  Let’s say I have 3.5 hours in the morning before I have to be somewhere.  I can do project #1401 – Green Silk Purse because I rated it as taking me 2-3 hours to finish.  The fact that I need it immediately also comes into play.  I can start this project and not worry about being able to stop in time to leave for my appointment.  I just set the timer and get to work.

When I am finished with a project I line through it on my list and write the date I completed it.  Once you finish your first project under this system  –  OH THE JOY!!!  You get excited and set goals for the week for how many projects you will complete.  I have been doing this since March of 2005 and have completed over 300 projects.  Everything from sewing on a button to making a quilt count.   Things like cleaning the refrigerator have been known to show up on my list also.

Note: As you are going through your UFOs and discover a project that you doubt you will ever finish disassemble the package, put the fabric in your stash and file instructions or patterns. Put a line through the project on the master list and “LET GO” in the date completed column. Just for fun, put a tick mark at the top of the list to indicate those projects that you let go of.  You will find that this system helps keep down the clutter in your studio, gives you a real sense of control and incredible satisfaction.

That’s the system! You can work with it easily at this point or you can take the system one step further. Here’s what I do:

Each project has its own index card.  At the top of the card in the left hand corner is the number of the project.  In the right hand corner at the top are the three numbers assigned during the “grading process” followed by the title of the project.  My index card would look like this:

#1401                                                                  2         10        12
                               Green Silk Purse

I can fan through my cards very quickly and find all of the “2s” for instance and work on them during my three-hour mornings.  Or I can fan through and look for “10s” so I can get the most urgent projects completed first.

After a project is completed, I update the master list then I record the completion date on the index card.  The index card goes into my file box behind the tab labeled “DONE”.  It is very encouraging to watch that “DONE” portion of the file grow as time goes by.

I take a picture of each completed project and file it electronically in “Things I Have Made”. This is an easy way to document all my projects and another source of satisfaction.

The burden is lifted, my spirit feels free and I am at peace to sit and sew with a real sense of excitement and expectation of good things to come. You can achieve this sense of well-being too. It really works. So, get busy and free yourself of UFO GUILT!

Special thanks to Jane Koura for her great idea and for sharing it with me.

Monday with Vivian Aumond-Capone

Member Vivian Aumond-Capone has donated a 12-inch square quilt for the annual SAQA on-line auction. To learn all about the auction and how you can participate, click here.

Vivian Aumond-Capone, "Sunflower", 12" x 12"Spirited Kite can be seen as part of Flying High: The Story of Kites through September 29 at Delray Beach Center for the Arts at Old School Square in Delray Beach, Florida. For details click here.

Aumond-Capone, Spirited Kite

Rita Summers Takes Grand Prize!

Each year, Blarney Books and Art in Port Fairy, Victoria, Australia hosts a major competition and exhibition of art made from books.  Rita Summers, who was the only Tasmanian entrant this year, submitted Agatha’s Wardrobe, a mixed media artwork incorporating pages from an 1835 publication entitled Agatha’s Husband.

Rita Summers, Agatha's Wardrobe, 2013Rita’s entry, described by the judges as a ‘very subtle and emotional piece’, was awarded the grand prize of $1,500.  Blarney Books and Art have also purchased Rita’s winning entry for their permanent collection.

Art is a way of life for Rita, as can be seen from her original poem, included with her entry: 

art is like breathing to me

life and thoughts impressed on paper, cloth, the air

fleeting sounds and images

captured before they escape forever

Rita explains, ‘I like to push the boundaries in my art to create my own original style.   My qualifications and background focus on visual contemporary art, craft and design, and stitching is my chosen medium.  I often incorporate upcycled materials and found objects.  I like to combine a mix of artistic processes:  stitching, photography, digital manipulation, printmaking, collage, sculpture, painting, drawing and books or text.’

Agatha’s Wardrobe represents the hopes and dreams of a young woman from the 1800’s as she prepares for her wedding:  the shy delight she feels as she chooses her trousseau; the stitching of precious silks and laces for her ‘hope chest’ or ‘glory box’ (probably begun while she was still a child); the anticipation as she tries on her wedding dress; the mystery and uncertainty of love and its passions; the solemnity of the marriage vows.

Love makes us vulnerable to pain, as Agatha discovers.  Rita experienced this with her as she read the book and created this artwork.  She felt Agatha’s pain as she faced loss, betrayal, isolation, and a deep despair which almost drove her to suicide.  Ultimately, love triumphed, but not before it almost destroyed both her and her husband.

There are twelve dresses in the box – a dress for each month of the year.  Each dress has a swing label attached to it; each label features a phrase from the traditional marriage vows.

Rita Summers, Agatha's Wardrobe, 12 dressesRita added a key to the box lid as both a symbolic and practical embellishment – ‘the key to my heart’; the key which makes precious items secure; the key which keeps things private.

Safety pins and buttons – again, both practical and symbolic.  Hand crocheted lace, vintage (torn) silk, stitching – everything is given a hidden meaning beyond their intrinsic beauty and structure.

Things hinted at and not always explained.  Materials and skills which women have implemented through the ages.

In transforming the original book into something beyond the printed word, Rita hopes that Agatha’s Wardrobe touches the hearts of everyone who sees and absorbs what it has become.

Materials:  mixed media – wood, cardboard, vintage silk, found objects, specialty paper, old book pages, old sheet music, vintage lace, buttons, vintage key, dressmaker pattern tissue, stitch

Rita Summers is co-owner and operator of Gone Rustic Studio & Gallery, situated in Tasmania, Australia.

To find out more about Rita and to see more of her art, you can visit her blog at, or her Facebook page

Kay Laboda Installs a New Exhibit at Visions Art Museum

Kay Laboda has been a volunteer for Visions Art Museum in San Diego, CA, since 2007. Initially she worked with the exhibition hanging crew taking down the current exhibit and hanging the new one. Soon she was asked to be part of the exhibition committee. Her involvement in the process is now complete, from planning to hanging.

The committee, chaired by museum Director Beth Smith and including nine dedicated volunteers, meets once a month to plan the next three years of exhibitions for VAM. The committee has 2013 and 2014 planned and booked. Details for 2015 are being fleshed out now and the process of brainstorming for 2016 has begun. In addition to specific exhibits that will be booked, the committee coordinates a member challenge that will coincide with and compliment each exhibit.

For the past three years Kay’s duties have included designing the exhibits. Kay particularly enjoys the responsibility of placing each quilt. Considering the elements of individual pieces is only the starting point — the next question is, “Will the quilts play together well?” Showing individual pieces along-side art produced by another artist in a harmonious way takes an artist’s eye.

Kay walks us through her recent experience of preparing and hanging a new exhibition, Tracing the Steps: The Diversity of Fiber, new work by 17 artist members of California Fibers. Before the new exhibit is hung, the current exhibit is taken down, the art is returned to the artists and the walls are patched and painted. Now the new exhibit can be hung.

Lisa and Jan unpack a quilt for the exhibit.

Mapping out where the art quilts will be hung. Blue painter’s tape outlines the spaces.

Kay measures the spaces. Each quilt is centered on a space 60″ from the floor.

Hanging one of the art quilts.

Sally on scaffolding adjusting the lights.

Kay leveling three pieces.

Also on exhibit is Insights, a juried exhibition of 12 quilts by the members of the Visions Critique Group.  View the current exhibit here:

I’m Not Crazy Exhibit

Of 128 art quilts submitted by 86 artists Sue Reno had the task of selecting just 20 art quilts for I’m Not Crazy, an exhibit sponsored by Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA). The show was juried “blind” — names of artists were not revealed during selection — so Sue found out who was involved along with everyone else. According to curator Kathy Nida, “Together they create a compelling exhibition of work addressing issues of mental illness and the stigma attached to it.”

Karen Musgrave’s art quilt Glimpses of the Dark Angel is one of the 20 pieces selected to travel with the exhibit.

Karen says the call spoke to her immediately:
Mental illness carries with it a stigma; many of us have experience with disorders, temporary or permanent, curable or not, that in the past and in some cultures even today would be labeled as crazy. That stigma can make it difficult to admit its effect on our loved ones or ourselves. Disorders as common as anxiety or depression, or less common, like schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder, can have a devastating effect on families and friends, and on ourselves. Negativity towards those who have these disorders often causes many people to keep the diagnosis hidden from friends and family.
What does “crazy” look like?
What does it feel like?
How does the world look through the eyes of someone experiencing a panic attack or depression or other mental disorder?
How does loving or caring for someone with a mental disorder look and feel?
We’re looking for work that covers these experiences: from the eyes of the caregiver, the friend, the family member, and, of course, those who have experienced any of these disorders themselves. Your work can reflect the disorder or the chaos it holds on our lives, it can be humorous, it can be sad, it can be crazy or incredibly calm.

Here is the schedule of venues (more may be added):

August 16-19, 2012 Exhibit opening:
World Quilt Show–New England X
Radisson Center of New Hampshire, Manchester, NH
September 13-16, 2012 Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza XIX
Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, Philadelphia Area, PA
October 11-14, 2012 Pacific International Quilt Festival XXI
Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA
November 8-10, 2012 World Quilt Show — Florida IV
Palm Beach Country Convention Center,
West Palm Beach, FL
February 21-24, 2013 Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival XXIV
Hampton Roads Convention Center,
Hampton, VA
February 28-March 3, 2013 The Quilt Fest of New Jersey IX
Garden State Exhibit Center, Somerset, NJ
May 2-5, 2013 Denver National Quilt Festival VIII
Denver Merchandise Mart, Denver, CO
Unfortunately, Karen doesn’t think she’ll be able to attend any of the shows listed. If you have the opportunity to view the exhibit, please contact Karen and share your impressions with her.

Franki Kohler — Artist in Residence

I was invited in 2010 to be the Artist in Residence during one of the five sessions that Empty Spools Seminars holds classes at Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, CA. Arrival day was Sunday, June 17, classes ended June 22. My sister Christy met me here (she is taking class) and was invaluable in helping me to hang my work and set up my work space in Merrill Hall, a stunning Julia Morgan designed building. The size of the hall allows for ample space.  The free-standing wall behind my space holds Princess Bliss of the Land of 4 x 6 who came along to keep me company and display postcards for sale.

And here is the opposite side of that free-standing wall where I displayed more of my work. This also captures a portion of the balcony where we hung my Christmas quilt. It is so fun to see the work together in this large, important space!

Across from my work space Carolie Hensley, owner of Cotton Patch in Lafayette, sets up a pop-up quilt shop. Carolie has been doing this for over 12 years now. What a job! But what a necessary luxury it is for the attendees to have those supplies just steps away from the class room.

I wasn’t kidding — it really is a pop-up quilt shop!

The first evening during the conference involves a gathering in Merrill Hall to introduce all of the instructors and the resident artist. A bit of anxiety here, of course.  I spoke about the events that took me from being one who makes bed quilts to becoming a fiber artist, complete with Power Point images. The first minute or so of speaking the tension was high, then I settled down and began to enjoy it. Whew! It seemed to go well — no one walked out of the hall while I was talking.

Here’s the stage, taken from the balcony.

Following the introductions there was a buzz at my work space with lots of questions about the fabric postcards, my book, how I work. Lots of fun!

My experience at Asilomar Conference Grounds was exciting for so many reasons. Just being at this jewel-in-the-crown California state park is a wonderful experience. Here are just a few reasons why.

This is the sunset view from my room. (Click on photos for a larger view.)

Walking on the boardwalk. . .

Interesting stumps!

Notice the three new plantings that will replace the decaying tree.

So, back to the primary reason I was there. Because my work area was the first spot with quilts people saw as they entered Merrill Hall, my brother-in-law Marshall commented that I was like a store greeter. Well, not a bad observation. As Artist in Residence I was the only art quilter who wasn’t taking a class, so I had the opportunity to interact with everyone who entered Merrill Hall and there were plenty. Empty Spools Seminars was just one of many conferences scheduled for the same week. (Their 2013 schedule of classes is available now.) And we had many day-tripping folks wandering in to see the Julia Morgan building we were in as well.  I was working on two different projects during my stay so I could demonstrate a variety of techniques that I use often during my creative process. I did not finish the broken ginkgo piece I took, but I got a very good start.

The fact that I used dryer lint as a background for this project always drew a smile. I needle felted the lint directly to a fast2fuse backing, hand-stitched sea grass cotton thread for the outline of the leaf shape and beaded like crazy.

This was a wonderful experience. I will treasure the memories for years to come.

Member Monday: More van Gogh

Last Monday we shared four of the fabric postcards that were created during the recent trade — all inspired by the master painter van Gogh. Here are the other four.

Debbie Geistweidt of Texas was inspired by Cypresses. Her fabric collage is covered with sparkling tulle and heavily stitched.

Jan Johnson of Nebraska was drawn to Sheaves of Wheat. I’m sure her part of the country had an influence.

Janet Hartje of Minnesota used a fused-raw-edge applique technique and Pentel dye sticks to create her Sunflowers.

Debra Svedberg of Minnesota said that she is intrigued by van Gogh’s use of the impasto paint stroke (visible paint strokes). She used embroidery floss to ‘paint’ Les Alyscamps. Her focus was to capture the trees as van Gogh did — vivid with autumn brilliance. I’m sure you’ll agree that she was successful!

There are ten themes to choose from each time we trade. Among the theme choices for our next round of trading are Chagall, Klee and Monet (we seem to be on an artist kick). I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with!

Member Monday: van Gogh Inspired

During our last trade eight of us participated by creating fabric postcards inspired by  Vincent van Gogh. Each of us now have a fabulous collection of eight pieces of fabric art inspired by a master painter. Here are four of them.

Meta Heemskerk of the Netherlands created two thermofax screens, one from a Dutch postage stamp and a second screen using Dutch words that she associates with van Gogh. She used the screens to print fabric which she then stitched.

Sarah Ann Smith of Maine was inspired by Willows at Sunset. For her, van Gogh is all about color, spontaneity and line.  In the fall of 1888 he completed the painting and wrote to his brother

My dear Theo, . . . Everywhere and all over the vault of heaven is a marvelous blue and the sun sheds a radiance of pale sulphur, and it is soft and lovely as the combination of heavenly blues and yellows in a Van der Meer of Delft. I cannot paint it as beautifully as that, but it absorbs me so much that I let myself go.

Suzanna Bond of California painted an old linen tablecloth using acrylic paints. She then  cut it up, stitched it and mailed what she called “A Piece of Art.” Here is the full painting before cutting

and here is the piece of art I received

Even here you can see the thick strokes of paint she applied. And here is a photo of the group.

Franki Kohler of California also created a single piece that was cut into nine postcards. Her inspiration came from Starry Night. Here is the postcard she kept for herself. See the whole creation here.

This poem appeared on May 14th as the daily reading on the Writer’s Almanac.

On Mondays

by Marilyn Donnelly

On Mondays when the museums are closed
and a handful of guards
look the other way
or read their newspapers
all of the figures
step out of golden frames
to stroll the quiet halls
or visit among old friends.
Picasso’s twisted ladies
rearrange themselves
to trade secrets
with the languid odalisques of Matisse
while sturdy Rembrandt men
shake the dust
from their velvet tams
and talk shop.
Voluptuous Renoir women
take their rosy children by the hand
to the water fountains
where they gossip
while eating Cezanne’s luscious red apples.
Even Van Gogh
in his tattered yellow straw hat
seems almost happy
on Mondays when the museums are closed.

Watch for the other four postcards next week.

Featured Artist: Kay Laboda

Texas-born artist Kay Laboda teaches and volunteers in San Diego, California. In addition to volunteering and making postcards and quilts, Kay makes pine needle baskets.

Tell me a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Texas.  My son once gave me bag with a picture of Texas and a cowgirl on it with the word GRIT written across it. Then in small letters it said: Girls Raised In Texas.  That pretty much describes me in many ways.  I tackle most jobs like I was roping a calf- full bore and with lots of gusto and determination.

I started sewing when I was about 8 years old by making clothes for my Barbie dolls.   My mom showed me quite a bit about how to make them and helped me with the hard parts.  I started making my own clothes in junior high.  I used to make clothes for my friends in high school to make extra money.  I started making quilts about five years ago when I was going through chemotherapy for breast cancer. A friend of mine gave me a prayer quilt and I decided that I wanted to learn more about quilting.  I took a class with Karen Cunigan through the San Diego Continuing Education program and fell in love.   I started and still facilitate a prayer quilt group through my church. Being able to make and give these quilts for others going through a tough time is incredibly rewarding for me.

I graduated from Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1975, with a BA in Fine Arts.  After graduation from college, I moved to San Diego, CA. I started working on my master’s degree in art at San Diego State University, but after getting married, I started having babies.  I never finished my master’s degree, but did go to San Diego Design Institute and received a second BA degree in Interior Design.  I worked several years specializing in Kitchen and Bath design.  Now I am retired, happily making quilts and babysitting for my grandson Nehemiah.

I do teach fiber arts classes for my church.  I have taught several fabric postcard classes that are very popular.  I also teach how to make fabric baskets and in the summer I will teach a one-day mystery quilt class.

Why did you join Postmark’d Art?

I found out about fabric postcards in the quilting class and discovered Yahoo groups.  I joined Art2Mail and when the group disbanded after a couple of years, I found and joined Postmark’d Art. and like the group a lot.  We have become friends and at times a support group.

How do you display your postcards?

I have them in a special album that you can view front and backs.  I also have some on my kitchen pass through counter top.  I change that up when I get new ones and I keep some on my desk in my studio.  I love sharing them with my quilting groups and with the people in my fabric postcard classes.  Everyone finds them so fascinating.

What have been some of your favorite themes?

I don’t know if I have a favorite.  I love the theme groups and always have so much fun making AND receiving them.  I love the landscape postcards that I have made and received. I think I will enjoy the upcoming Claude Monet theme, as he my favorite artist of all time. I also have enjoyed the alphabet group.  It really is amazing how everyone comes up with such creative and imaginative works of art.

Tell me about your other interests.

My other passion is for an organization called Royal Family Kids Camp. This is a camp that I help organize and run for abused and abandoned children that are currently in the state foster care system. They are ages 7 through 11. We take them for one week to one of the local camps in San Diego County for a week of safe fun. They arrive with frowns and withdrawn. They leave with smiles and hugs. You can read more about this camp at

I also volunteer at Visions Art Quilt Museum in San Diego. I serve on the Exhibitions Committee deciding on and planning the exhibits usually two to three years in advance. I also arrange where the quilts will go in the gallery once it is time to hang the next exhibit. I love this part of the job. Hanging the quilts is really such a privilege. We get the first look at the quilts and we get to hold and touch them (with white gloves of course). We always are in such awe of them.

Vivian Meets the Cloth, Paper, Scissors Challenge

You know what they say, “If you don’t enter, you can’t win.” Pretty simple, really. Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine challenged their readers to send them mail in the form of postcards. Don’t you wish you could have been at their offices when they started pouring in — all 200 of them, sans envelopes and in great condition?

Vivian Helena took the challenge. The result? Her postcard was one of 43 chosen to be published in the May/June issue that is on the news stands now. Here’s the first page of the article:Page 88 shows Vivian’s postcard (middle row, right).

The inspiration for this particular postcard was Vivian’s friend Jane, who sends beautiful birthday cards year after year. Vivian decided to take one of those treasured cards apart so she could use the wire flower on a special fabric postcard. Jane lives in Southern California, near the ocean so Vivian included water on the postcard. She used her hand dyed fabrics and commercial batiks. In addition, she hand painted the sky and used yarn, beads and wire flowers.

The editors of Cloth, Paper, Scissors said, “Be brave and send your art through the mail. You’ll make the recipient and the postal carrier smile.” We at Postmark’d Art would add that creating these mini treasures is a lot of fun!

You can find out what else Vivian is up to on her blog.