Me and my Phoenix, Quilting in the Desert students.

What don’t you do after five days of teaching twenty students?

Don’t try to edit your blog that’ll be posting that night. Especially don’t try to check it to see if your husband has scheduled it yet. Not when you’re not sure how to do it. You may end up posting it instead, before it’s ready.


About five seconds after hitting that wrong button I had my husband, aka co-writer, on the phone and he did what he could to halt the process, but it still went out to those of you who are signed up as email recipients, which is why you received a second post last week. Lucky you.

You know, I felt a little panicked when I did that. I was tired and I still had to repack for another week of teaching. Tom talked me down from that cliff and gave me some perspective. “It’s a weekly blog post, no biggie.”

Now I have even better perspective on this minor catastrophe. I realized that I was mentally in a place similar to that of many of my students. After carving out time from their busy lives to attend my class, they may have traveled far and are fatigued or distracted. What I’m teaching may be completely unfamiliar to them, making them apprehensive about it all. We have five whole days to learn the process, but then again, it’s only five days. We’re trying to squeeze in as much as possible. They may feel rushed and tired too.

Unlike that errant blog post, you can remove mislaid bits of fabric, move things around, and make your quilt better before you send it out to the world. Anyway, that’s how I spent my week in Phoenix—helping my students express themselves creatively, occasionally talking them down from the cliffs of fabric collage frustration, and then sharing their amazement at what they accomplished.

Quilting in the Desert

Thanks to Ginny Goodbar of Goodbar of Quilting in the Desert for inviting me to Phoenix, AZ to teach. Despite the abnormally mild winter we are enjoying in Maine, it was pleasant to experience some truly warm January weather.

I’m very proud of the effort that all the ladies put into their pieces. I think they all did a terrific job. It’s amazing even to me sometimes how far students come in such a short time. I hope they feel the same. The following slideshow documents each student’s progress.

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The first photo of each usually shows the piece after some preliminary progress. In many you can see the sketch they have made onto their backing fabric. The subsequent photos show the piece as it gets more filled in. Some, like Barbara Nicholson’s tiger, get far enough along to start auditioning background fabrics.

Also interesting is how some students chose to ignore realistic color, something I obviously encourage. Mary Lewkowitz’s zebra and Carol Hauerter’s hippo are good examples of this. Others, such as Patty Keasey’s lorikeet, use the naturally vibrant colors of their subjects.

What’s also apparent to me is how each student adapts the technique to her own style. Each comes away from the class with a piece unlike any others’. As a teacher and artist, this is highly rewarding. More than leading them through a project, I am helping them to find or strengthen the artist within.

Also Seen

While in Phoenix, a group of us visited the Desert Botanical Garden. While this would have been interesting enough during daylight, we were lucky to be there during a special night-time display: Bruce Monroe: Sonoran Light. This British artist is known for his “large immersive light-based installations.”

I took too many photos, but here is a selection. Some displays lit up cacti in the garden. Others were light constructions that imitated cacti or seemed to have been inspired by their natural shapes. The lights also played on some of the garden’s existing sculptures, including glass work by Chihuly.

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