October 27, 2008

A Visit to Pittsburgh, part 2

If you are a regular churchgoer, or a lapsed one, you are familiar with the mindset of going to church. You approach the large building, with its imposing architecture and intricate stained glass windows. You mentally and spiritually prepare yourself for the ceremony and ritual the next hour or so will hold. Now imagine that when you enter, and look ahead to the altar, you see this:
That's the beginning of The Church Brew Works experience. Where the altar once stood are the glowing brew vessels. The pews have been re-purposed as seating for the tables. The area off to the side of the altar, where the choir would have been, is the server's station. It's a very creative and adaptive use of the former St. John the Baptist's Church, and the renovation was done with painstaking attention to detail. Here's the view looking back towards the door:

And the view to the side:

I am happy to report that the beer they are making there is worthy of the setting. I am a bit of a beer snob and do not make this endorsement lightly! I enjoyed a Pious Monk Dunkel, which was excellent, and tasted a few others, including the Oktoberfest and a unique and intriguing Mexican Mole Stout, which had a heat that snuck up on the taste buds. The food was good as well.

I'll round out my Pittsburgh saga with a view from inside Heinz Stadium, taken at a Pitt game. When a touchdown is scored the neon bottles of Heinz ketchup on the signboard flip on their sides and pour out virtual ketchup. I have added witnessing this to my life list of interesting and unique experiences. I am not normally a big sports enthusiast, but in Pittsburgh it's a big part of the ambiance. It seems like everyone is a Steelers fan, and/or a Penquins fan, and/or a Pirates fan, and/or a Pitt fan, and it gives the big city a sort of small town, we're-all-in-this-together feel. Go if you get the chance!

October 26, 2008

A Visit to Pittsburgh

If your mental image of Pittsburgh is of a dirty steel town, it's time to update. Pittsburgh is making a lot of "best place to live" lists, as well as "most-affordable" lists, and for good reason. I had a chance for another quick visit recently, and enjoyed exploring a few new-to-me areas.

First up was a lovely morning spent on the Strip District--not a red light district, but a neighborhood full of ethnic food emporiums, restaurants, and funky shops. On weekends there is also an open air farmer's market and plenty of street performers. I didn't take a lot of pictures, as I was too busy enjoying myself and buying gourmet goodies, but I did pose for this one with "Bob" the accordion player:

Nothing makes a good day better like hearing "The Pennsylvania Polka" expertly played on the accordion.

Next up was a visit to the Dusquene Incline. (You can read the interesting history of it here.) The cars have beautiful decorative details, and the wooden parts are nicely creaky.

Here's the view looking out the back window on the trip up--it's very steep!

Here's the station at the top. It's chock full of wonderful historical photographic displays, and there's a spot where you can watch the machinery working:

It's a perfect place to take pictures and to see the confluence of the three rivers-- the Monongahela, the Allegheny, and the Ohio. (Read about how they were cleaned up here.)

Here's a view of Heinz Field:

I love this shot with the coal train and the boat. The water in the Point State Park fountain is pink to raise awareness about breast cancer.

Finally, on the trip back down the incline, I spotted a fascinating conglomeration of what appears to be incline mechanical spare/old parts:

Next: I go for a beer.

October 23, 2008

PIQF Feedback

I often wish I was as well traveled as my work....The Pacific International Quilt Festival was last week, and I've received some nice emails from people who saw my work there. Del Thomas was kind enough to feature my Reed Run and Prickly Sow Thistle in her current blog post. Thanks, Del!

She also spotlights the work of Franki Kohler, a longtime online friend of mine, and the organizing force behind Postmark'd Art. Franki's work is beautifully conceived and beautifully crafted. I hope to see it in person someday.

October 14, 2008

Luray Caverns

Today I'm sharing pictures of my visit to Luray Caverns in Virginia. I paid my money, waited in line, took the one hour guided tour, and took lots of pictures.

Here are stalactites reflected in a shallow basin of water:

Photography was tricky--the installed lighting is incandescent and tends towards the orange end of the spectrum:

Where I could get close enough that my flash was effective, cooler tones were revealed:

There was also a lot of natural variation in the colors of the structures, as well as in the shapes:

It's hard to convey the scale of the larger chambers:

My idea of a good time usually involves hiking around secluded areas and taking time to observe and reflect on the wonders of nature. A tour with a crowd of people and a chatty guide was not my optimal path to spelunking satori, so I tended to be the laggard in the group. I couldn't lag too far, as the next group was hot on our heels, but I did get a few moments to gaze in silent awe.

One of the advertised high points of the tour is The Great Stalacpipe Organ,
which employs mallets to tap stalactites to produce tones. I was anticipating that this would be the cheesiest part of the tour, but much to my surprise it was quite wonderful--I was unexpectedly and somewhat embarrassingly moved to tears. The notes were pure and full as they came from all directions in the chamber, and it was transportive.

All in all, worth the time and trouble.

October 13, 2008

Upon the Blue Ridge Mountains

I'm back from a quick but refreshing trip to the Shenandoah region of the Blue Ridge mountains in Virginia. I began the adventure with a climb up the Woodstock tower in the George Washington National Forest, which afforded great views of the bends in the Shenandoah river, above.

Next was a quick stop at Arrowhead Lake in Luray; I have wonderful memories of swimming there years ago, and while it was too late in the season for a dip, it was just as beautiful as I remembered it:

From there it was over to the Skyline Drive to revel in one glorious view after another:

In this shot you can see some of the "blue ridges" that give the area its name:

The foliage was just beginning to turn. The vivid red in the middle of the picture is poison ivy growing up a tree--it was plentiful and brilliant:

Long stretches of the road were lined with well crafted stone masonry walls, built by the Civilian Conservation Corp:
In addition to driving and admiring grand vistas, I also hiked a few trails and got a closer look at things. I was tremendously excited to find some milkweed plants where the leaves were developing fantastic patterning and coloration:

I've had a milkweed quilt on the back burner for some time...perhaps this will jump-start the design process.
Next: Luray Caverns.

October 3, 2008

Watt and Shand Summer Update

There's been a lot of progress made on the renovation of the Watt and Shand building in Lancaster since I last posted about it in May. (If you're new here, or just want to refresh your memory, click on the Watt and Shand label to the right to track back.)

The biggest change visually was that by June construction had progressed to the point where the scaffolding was no longer needed to hold up the facade. It was a lot of fun watching them de-weld the joints--all those sparks!

It reminded me of taking apart an Erector set:

In July the scaffold continued to come down. I like all the angled elements in this photo:

I was sorry to see all of the cool angles and shadows of the scaffolding go, but it did free things up for better views of all the details on the facade. The workers often wave and watch me taking pictures:

By August the emphasis was on adding floors to the new construction:

Here's the curved window that so captivated me at the beginning of the project. The view into it has changed considerably. I'm beginning to wonder what it will be like on the inside, looking out. Hopefully it will be part of a public room and I'll get the chance sometime.

In September it continued to rise and acquire windows:

Yesterday they lifted the final beam to top off the structural work. You can read an article in the local paper about it here.

October 2, 2008

The Elephant and the Donkey

I'm spending way too much time and emotional energy following political current events right now...Above is an embroidered elephant from a vintage tablecloth in my collection.

I don't have any donkeys in my collection, but I do have this wonderful embroidered panel of two horses. I like the way the texture of their coats is done with lots of short straight stitches, in waves of color:

October 1, 2008

Open Your Heart With Quilting

Some time ago I was contacted by Kelly Smith. She had seen my work at Sacred Threads, and asked I would like to be interviewed for possible inclusion in a book she had in the works. Her project looked interesting, and I was happy to answer some questions for her and sign a release.

A few weeks ago a complimentary copy of the book Open Your Heart With Quilting arrived. It's an enjoyable and interesting read. (I'm not really self-promoting here--I am but one of many contributors.) It's not just an instruction/resource book--although there are some basic instructions for beginners--but rather an overview of how to "Use what you know and love to improve your life". The back cover suggests that quilting will allow you to "explore your creativity" and "deepen your spiritual connection to the universe". I'm all for that!

One of my quotes in the book references a quilt I made while healing from surgery a few years ago. At the time, working on Skunk Cabbage and Possum was challenging and difficult, but the creative process helped me transcend any temporary physical limitations, and I've long since stopped thinking of this work in that context. And despite the skull imagery, it's a rather cheerful work, in my opinion.