Gail Garber Designs
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Gail's Quilting Blog

Inspiration

Black Spruce

Black Spruce

It was during a previous trip to Alaska and also Canada when I fell in love with these hopelessly tall, skinny trees.  It seemed, to my novice eye, that they were so fragile that any strong wind would simply blow them over.  At about the same time, I was searching for a Northern Hawk Owl, an elusive species that I had been told liked to sit in the very tops of these trees!  So, I drove around this very large state looking, and looking and looking.

Black Spruce Bog

Black Spruce Bog

Sometimes Black Spruce grow along the edges of bogs, like these little fellows.  However, this is a well adapted tree, perfectly suited to life in the northernmost portions of our continent where permafrost can and does alter the surface of the land on a regular basis through frost heaves and other dramatic climate shifts.  After looking for that blasted owl for what seemed like an eternity, I just gave up.  There simply must be billions of these trees in Alaska and not all of them are near a road either, not that there are many roads in Alaska.  Soon I began to enjoy them for what they were, a plant that thrives where others fail.  They became my inspiration!  Upon returning home (from that previous trip)

Tiny Trees (c) 2009

Tiny Trees (c) 2009

I could not resist turning them into a small wall quilt.  This is one of the patterns in my book, Flying Colors.  And,

Land of Midnight Sun

Land of Midnight Sun

they also feature prominently in Land of the Midnight Sun, also from 2009 and featured in my book.  However, this quilt was inspired more strongly by the discovery of a fabric called Aurora Borealis in an Alaskan Quilt Shop!  What fun!

I hope I get to return one day!  What inspires you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell to Halibut Cove

Stillpoint Staff

Stillpoint Staff

We waved good-bye to the amazing staff at Stillpoint Lodge.  Most of them are working throughout the summer season in return for room, board and tips!  Each was dedicated and professional.  In conversation with several of them, I learned that most had found the job on a site called CoolJobs which bills itself as the coolest jobs in the entertainment industry!

Leaving Halibut Cove

Leaving Halibut Cove

And then we were off, to board the Danny J and return to Homer.  Once there, the hustle and bustle was impressive as everyone’s belongings got schlepped up the VERY steep board ramp (tide was out) and into the various vehicles.  We joined in the melee, packing up Maret’s SUV and heading down the road.  However, it wasn’t long after that that Maret suddenly pulled over on the side of the road.

Moose on Roadside

Moose on Roadside

There she was!  Our first really good look at a moose, not 30 feet away.  She seemed unconcerned abut us, taking many photos from the photography blind also known as a car.  We were careful not to get out so as not to disturb her meal.  What a treat!

On the way homeAs we drove northward, we looked out across Katchemak Bay at the other side of the peninsula toward the distant mountains.  That part of the peninsula, which is roadless and sans humans, leads to the elusive Aleutian Islands.

 

Good-bye Alaska Mountains

Good-bye Alaska Mountains

As we neared the Portage Glacier and the run around Turnagin Arm, we stopped for lunch and some photos.  It was our farewell kiss to the magnificence that is our northernmost state.  But, true to it’s very nature, Alaska still had a couple of treats up its sleeve.

Dandelions

Dandelions

Among the short grasses, a veritable bouquet of yellow bloomed across the countryside.  It was the lowly dandelion, brilliantly shining amid a thousand siblings.  Again, thanks to Maret Anderson of Seams Like Home for this amazing experience!

But wait . . .

 

 

 

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Three Days of Heaven

Were fast drawing to and end.

Maret Anderson and Gail

Maret Anderson and Gail

Many, many thanks to Maret Anderson, owner of Seams Like Home in Anchorage, Alaska for organizing this retreat and making our wonderful Alaska adventure possible.  It was simply the best!  The students thought so too.

Jyl and her Quilt Top

Jyl and her Quilt Top

Jyl had opted to bring a pre-printed panel and design fillers to coordinate.  She completely finished her quilt top!

Flying Colors at Stillpoint Retreat 2013

Flying Colors at Stillpoint Retreat 2013

It was simply the best time ever!  If you have a craving for an Alaskan adventure, I highly recommend this retreat.  The next one is scheduled for June 2014.  Read all about it at Seams Like Home.  And, thanks again Maret! All that was left to do was to pack up and head on down the road, first via the Danny J, then the gorgeous drive back to Anchorage.

Alaska still held a few more adventures.  So, stayed tuned . . .

 

 

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Tide Pooling

 

The Tide is Out

The Tide is Out

The tides can range up to 20 feet in Halibut Cove. One morning, Michele and I signed up to go Tide Pooling with group leader, Becca, who doubles as the manager of Stillpoint Lodge.  At first glance, it looks like just a muddy mess, but

Anemone

Anemone

Right away, Becca found this small anemone, attached to a piece of the giant kelp that was exposed in the low tide.

Becca demonstrates the tactile abilities of a sea star

Becca demonstrates the tactile abilities of a sea star

What an exciting outing this was!  I learned so much, like the fact that these animals are not called starfish at all, but rather sea stars.  They don’t like being picked up and turned upside down either.  So, with little hairlike tentacles, they grab onto the hairs on your arms in an attempt to right themselves.

Sea Star

Sea Star

Much better now!  Here’s the not-so-little sea star right side up shortly before Becca returned him/her to the sea.

Sea Star Dining Opportunity

Sea Star Dining Opportunity

Sea stars are predatory echinoderms, members of the class Asteroidea.  This four-legged fellow must have lost one of his legs somehow.  Although it should grow back, it hasn’t yet.  Nevertheless, he was chomping on a mussel.  Sea stars extrude their stomachs into the animals they eat, sucking out the edible portions.

Michele and the sea star

Michele and the sea star

Michele was surprised by the grip of this sea star.

Sunflower sea star

Sunflower sea star

On another trip down to the tide pool, we unearthed two Sunflower Sea Stars.   These are the largest and possibly the and fastest sea star in the world.  It can move up to 3 meters per minute, and has been known to travel at least 3 km.  It has over 15,000 tube feet, the little tentacle-like protrusions that help it to move.  Found mostly in the north eastern Pacific, they are voracious predators, feeding on bivalves, snails, urchins, other asteroids, sea cucumbers, sand dollars, and crabs (in other words, just about anything it wants!).

Holding the Sunflower Sea Star

Holding the Sunflower Sea Star

Holding one of these sea stars is rather like holding a large handful of wet slime.  The little (yes, he’s still a little one!) one did not appreciate being out of the sea.

Upside down Sunflower Sea Star

Upside down Sunflower Sea Star

This one didn’t like being upside down either, but enabled us to see all the little feet trying to right the animal.  What amazing creatures these are.

Decorator Crab

Decorator Crab

Last, but not least, Lucas unearthed this Decorator Crab from the tide pool.  These little crabs ‘decorate’ themselves with various materials to help camouflage themselves from predators, like the sunflower sea star.  Our excursion introduced us to the wonders that lurked beneath the surface of the water right at water’s edge!  Definitely educational!

Stay tuned, more stitching ahead . . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stitching at Stillpoint

Debby Stitches

By days two and three of class, students were making good progress.  Several of the designs included themes based on the aurora borealis, or the northern lights.  Here Debby paper foundation pieces one of the sections of her design.

Wall Art that reflects the mountain nearby

Wall Art that reflects the mountain nearby

It is impossible to not be inspired at this incredible facility, where every small detail has been attended to, like:

Sea Star Art

Sea Star Art

this strategically placed, dried sea star nestled among the roots of the tree, and:

Peace Rock

Peace Rock

this small design in the sand beneath the wall art.  Art is everywhere, strategically positioned to surprise the viewer and inspire all who pass through the doors of Stillpoint Lodge.

Janis and Debby

Janis and Debby

Janis and Debby were table partners, good friends enjoying the class and inspired by our beautiful surroundings.

Kathy completed a good strip

Kathy completed a goose strip

 

Kathy was one of the first to complete a goose strip.

Janis and her Tiny Tree

Janis and her Tiny Tree

Soon afterward, Janis completed the tiny tree in her design.

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle

And, all the while, this juvenile Bald Eagle watched rom outside, but also scanned the panorama spread before him/her, a place he called home.

Michele

Michele

Michele, when not taking photos, spent time working on hand applique for the quilt she is making for her grandson, Henry.

The Man in the Tree

The Man in the Tree

While the Man in the tree looked on through the window.

Stay tuned . . .

 

 

 

 

 

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Flying Colors at Stillpoint Lodge

Class Demo

Flying Colors – Day one

There’s nothing I love more than teaching a multi-day class.  In Flying Colors, we begin by learning about drawing tools that take the ‘scare’ out of that blank piece of paper.  This class was sponsored by Maret Anderson at Seams Like Home in Anchorage, Alaska.  Maret offers this as an annual retreat with a different teacher each year.  It is a delightful getaway from the hubbub of our urban lives.

Drawing Demo

Drawing Demo

Using easy techniques, students move on to working on their original designs.  The facilities at Stillpoint Lodge are spacious and the views spectacular.

Drawing Day 1

Drawing Day 1

It is impossible not to be inspired here.  Students spend the first day working on their drawings.

Everyone Draws

Everyone Draws

The designs ranged from simple to complex.  Some brought ideas and images with them to class, while others had a blank palette waiting to be filled.

Dining Hall with Melanie Janis and Linda

Dining Hall with Melanie Janis and Linda

Delicious gourmet meals arrived three times daily, featuring the local seafood and greens grown in the Stillpoint garden.  Our every comfort was attended to so we could focus on our projects.

Stay tuned . . .

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Welcome to Stillpoint Lodge

Stillpoint Lodge

Stillpoint Lodge

Stillpoint Lodge would be home to 20 of us, Michele and me from Albuqueque, and 18 others from the Anchorage area who would be taking my Flying Colors multi-day workshop (more on that in the next post).  The lodge is open only during the summer months and hosts a variety of retreats.

Da Crab

Da Crab

An artists’ pastoral retreat, the grounds boast hidden sculptures and other art, like this little crab that shouted a silent welcome.

Bird Art

Bird Art

This little pair of birds was strategically positioned alongside one of the walking paths.

Tree roots

Tree roots

Even the tree roots appeared to be artistically arranged.

View from the Deck

View from the Deck

My favorite view from the lodge was the one from the main room, and my classroom, as well as the deck.  It looks out onto Katchemak Bay State Park.  There are glaciers behind them thar mountains!

Pipe Art

Pipe Art

I was shown to my very own little cabin where this pipe art marked the turn off to my path.

Hermitage View

Hermitage View

My cabin was called the Hermitage, a tiny little place with the tiniest kitchen ever.  Talk about a well-planned cabin with an incredible view!  Not a morsel of space was wasted, but it was comfortable and homey!

Shell Wreath

Shell Wreath

A little shell wreath graced the wall next to my cabin door!  What a restful retreat from the world and a wonderful classroom environment!

Next up:  Class begins!

 

 

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Onward to Halibut Cove

Michele Hymel

Michele Hymel

My friend, Michele, who accompanied me on this trip, was sure excited about the boat trip that would take us to Halibut Cove!   In the end, we took the skiff, not the ferry because the smaller boat could get closer to the famed Gull Island!  It is a protected island where human entry is not allowed, a place for birds.

Gull Rock

Gull Island

We were not disappointed either.  There were birds everywhere nesting in incredibly tight quarters.   A few skirmishes were bound to occur and we witnessed some too.  Most memorable were the two kittiwakes that seemed intent on drowning one another and oblivious to our presence.

Common Murres

Common Murres

Most numerous were the Common Murres, packed together and surrounded by Black-legged Kittiwakes.  We had heard tales of Puffins, but only got a few glimpses of them on the very top of the rock.

Tufted Puffin

Tufted Puffin

Finally, two Tufted Puffins floated nearby and, with the smaller boat, we were able to get this one image!  Cute little devils, aren’t they!

Coming in to Halibut  Cove

Coming in to Halibut Cove

It wasn’t but about 45 minutes and we were already pulling into Halibut Cove.  We were told that this used to be a ‘perfect’ arch, but part of it collapsed recently.  I wonder how long it will be until the land bridge disappears altogether.  It was so beautiful, and exciting to think that we would spend the next several days in an area with no cars and no roads.

Halibut Cove

Halibut Cove

Idyllic might be an apt description of this lovely community that has about 40 permanent residents.  The tides in Katchemak Bay and Halibut Cove can range up to 20 feet, hence the excessively long boat ramps.  We dined at the Saltry, the only cafe in the community, accessible only via the local ferry, the Danny J.  There, we were entertained by the antics of a cheeky Northwestern Crow who had clearly figured out how to get many free meals!  Halibut Cove hosts several art galleries, all connected by a raised boardwalk.   One cannot help but relax in this pastoral environment.  Later, we stopped at the coffee shop, where even the local beagle found a relaxing spot on the sofa.

Chubby Beagle

Chubby Beagle

She did seem to have claimed this as her very own.  We did not challenge her!

Float Plane Lands at Halibut Cove

Float Plane Lands at Halibut Cove

After coffee and art, we adjourned to the boat dock to wait for the skiff.   The only other way to get to Halibut Cove is by float plane, like the one we watched landing on the waters of Heavenly Halibut Cove.

 

 

 

 

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