Archive for the ‘workshops’ Category

The Urn Quilt Evolves

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Sassaman Urn Quilt 1

Many people think that making art just happens by magic. They think that it comes out effortlessly and fully formed. Unfortunately, this is far from the case. There are hours and days of trial and error, fits and starts. One of my students once said that she was surprised by the emotional highs and lows she went through my the 5 day Abstracting from Nature workshop. She had discovered that the creative process is not always comfortable and sometimes just downright frustrating.

So I thought I would take you through a sequence of design dilemmas that I struggled though in the past two weeks while working on a new quilt idea.

For the past year I have been concentrating on mostly smaller abstract quilts, as a way to play through some new ideas. But I was feeling the urge to work in a larger scale again. I had also been thinking about the opulent and symbolic Dutch still life paintings called “vanitas”. Vanitas paintings portrayed life’s brevity through symbols like watches, skulls, smoking oil lamps, partially consumed food, etc. Since I have always been attracted to divine
decadence in art, over the years I have accumulated my own slightly subversive symbols that often appear in my work… skulls, spiders, dandelions, moths, spiky seeds, dangerous plants.

So this is where my idea started. I imagined a skull sprouting dark leafy plants. The skull became an urn. An urn brings to mind Victorian plants and lavish layers of composition. So these are the subjects that I started with… skull/urn, elephants ears, purple black sweet potato vines, coleus, moths and an egg behind it all.

The scale of the urn determined the size of the leaves. I have pinned the urn to a piece of tracing paper to make it easier to move and hold itself together. Most of the fabrics are hand dyed Cherrywoods.

Sassaman Urn Quilt 2

I made some paper clouds to act as frames, almost like curtains on a stage, and some oversized moths in lovely subdued colors. The Passion Flowers have been in my orphan file for years! Looking good.

Sassaman Urn Quilt 3

The clouds are now in fabric. Then I thought I could fit in some of my favorite dandelions, so I cut them out of paper to test them. The moths had to move.

Sassaman Urn Quilt 4

I made the dandies in fabric and added a spider, for good measure, and some smaller moths.

Sassaman Urn Quilt 5

But the dandelions are floating in space, so how to anchor the dandelions to the ground? By adding a forward layer of leaves and a darker horizon line.

Sassaman Urn Quilt 6

But the whole thing is just too damned busy, too many small scale shapes. So a couple more elephant ears are added and that seems to help… but not enough.

Sassaman Urn Quilt 7

I hated to remove the dandelions before I had another direction to head toward. So I took a picture of the composition and blocked out the dandies in Photoshop. Yes, it is better without them. Rats! Out they go, but now I have some nice leaves and stems already made for another project.

Sassaman Urn Quilt 8

What about adding some more clouds? I pulled out the paper models again. Too curly!!

Sassaman Urn Quilt 9

Back to Photoshop to take out the busy spirals. Nope, try again.

Sassaman Urn Quilt 10

How about a moon to add some nocturnal mystery. I seem to have moths and moons on the brain lately! But it’s working. Less seems to be more in this composition and I’m feeling pretty good about it. And yes, the blue background will go all the way to the top eventually.

Sassaman Urn Quilt 11

A moth to block part of the moon and a bit of tweaking here and there and we are good to go! Now as I begin to embroider each individual character, I can study the piece from my sewing station and make adjustments over the next weeks of stitching.

I hope this gives you a little insight into my collage process. Yes, there are lots of decisions to make, but that is what makes this appliqué technique so satisfying. If you would like to join me on this creative exploration, you are invited to come to one of my 5 day workshops and see what transpires. I hope to see you there!

New Small Quilts

Monday, June 8th, 2015


The landscape is lush with Peonies and Irises this week. And the first summer heat is steaming things up after some dark rainy days.

As I mentioned in the last post, I have been yearning to get back to the craftsmanship of art quilting. I seem to be doing way too much piecing (with my FreeSpirit fabrics) and not enough applique. So after seeing Gwen Marston’s exquisite small quilts at Empty Spools Seminars this spring, I have decided to make as many small quilts as possible during the month of June. I’m having a blast with two quilts completed and one ready for stitching so far.

Since I had no special subject in mind when I started, I decided to pull shapes from my “orphan” collection… all the left over pieces from previous quilts that didn’t get used. Then I let the shapes start talking to each other and see where they take me. I love working in this collage technique, as the results are always a surprise.

Sassaman Spring Bud Quilt

Here is the first composition, Spring Bud, which is 14.5″ square. As the shapes fell into place a little bud started to develop. The wavy shapes hopefully imply the energy of growth. I did have to make a couple new pieces to fill out the idea, but basically, this little quilt was sitting in my scrap box just waiting to be discovered.

Sassaman Spring Bud Quilt Detail

Here is a detail of the stitching. The edges were finished with satin stitch on the quilt top. All the other stitching is quilting, including the small zig-zagged squares. All the straight stitching is done with Sew Sassy 12 weight thread by Superior. I love the confidence that the heavy threads supply.

Sassaman Spring Sprouts Quilt

Quilt number two, Spring Sprouts, is 14.5″ wide by 15.5″ tall. I am pleased with this abstract little piece. Obviously I gravitate to very graphic shapes. The power of combining contrasting shapes is quite evident here. The quilting was the icing-on-the-cake, though.

Sassaman Spring Sprouts Quilt Detail

Using some decorative stitches on my BERNINA 880, I quilted the black sprouts with branches and leaves. It was a pleasant surprise to see how this softened and enriched the whole composition. The little leaf motif was also used for quilting the background spaces. Lots of threads to bury, but worth the effort.

I hope these photos give you some inspiration to get into the sewing room and do some stitching and perhaps to sign up for a quilting workshop one day soon!

Madeline Island 1

Madeline Island School of the Arts, Jane Sassaman Workshop, July 13-17, 2015

@BERNINAUSA, #BERNINAUSA, @SuperiorThreads, #SuperiorThreads

New Silk and Cotton Quilts at Madeline Island School of the Arts

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Spring Tree

This lingering spring has been a delight. But after a week away from home for the #International Spring Quilt Market I was greeted by plants that where twice the size… including the weeds! I walked the park this morning to exercise and enjoy the cool spring morning. This tree was on my route.

I have enjoyed designing fabric for 15 years, but recently I have been aching  to get back to the fine craftsmanship of art quilting. So I try to steal a bit of time for some quality interaction with my BERNINA, @BERNINAUSA. I am very excited to have the next few weeks to devote to some new quilting ideas.

I have been wanting to incorporate silk in my work for a long time. So during the last year, I have been mixing my beautiful #Cherrywood hand-dyed fabrics with dupioni silks and have been very pleased with the combination. Of course, it is the contrast between the depth of the matte and the glow of the shiny that creates the drama.

Sassaman Feather Quilt

Simple shapes are also very appealing these days. This is a simple abstraction of feather shapes and the colors are reminiscent of peacocks plumes. This quilt really glows and the silk makes the quilting stand out nicely.

Sassaman Feather Quilt

The quilting is done with my favorite two-fisted topstitching thread, Sew Sassy, so the heavy lines of stitching are quite definite. The silk edges are embroidered with rayon thread to extend the shininess and matte cotton satin stitch on the cotton fabrics.

Sassaman Coral Bean Quilt

Here is my second silk and cotton quilt. This is my interpretation of the Coral Bean Pod from the Coral Trees that I was delighted to discovered in California. These silks are a little less shiny, but still very rich and a nice foil for the resonate hand-dyed cotton.

Sassaman Coral Bean Quilt

Here is a detail so you can see all the fun I had putting this piece together! I quilted a blanket stitch around each bean to create a little movement or animation and several passes of black thread to add the depth of a shadow.

My plan is to use this gift of time to make a handful of smaller quilts and try some other ideas that have been percolating in my brain. I will post them here as they evolve. And I will bring them to class at Madeline Island School of the Arts in July!! Hope to see you there!

Madeline Island School of the Arts

Empty Spools Workshop

Saturday, March 7th, 2015

Sassaman Asilomar

The teaching year is getting off to a productive start, after being at the Empty Spools Seminar, Session 2, last week. It is a favorite environment for quilt teachers and students for many years. Located in the quaint town of Pacific Grove, California and a skip away from Carmel, it is an ideal place to take a break from your everyday routine and infuse your spirit with beauty and inspiration. I was teaching Abstracting from Nature and got to be in a favorite classrooms in a building designed by Julia Morgan, a renowned California Arts & Crafts architect.

Sassaman Class Asilomar

Here is the classroom during the glorious mess of creation. Doesn’t it look like fun? The class went for five days. On the end of the fourth day, everyone cleans their space and prepares their work to be displayed for the “walk-around”. This is when the students from all the other classes can visit to see what other methods and ideas everyone else has been working on. It has become such a tradition, that many people come from outside the seminar come to see all the new work that has been created.

Sassaman Asilomar Class

Here the room is all cleaned up and ready for inspection. My students were hard-working and very diligent, as you can see. I am always amazed and pleased with the results, which is why I enjoy these longer classes so much. Most folks got to stitching on the last two days, so they really have experienced the whole technique.

Begonia Quilt

I will be teaching the same five-day class this summer at Madeline Island School of the Arts, another fabulous place for rejuvenation and inspiration.


I hope to see some of you there!

crisp summer style

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Stargazers 2

This week has been composed of perfect cool clear summer days and the flower garden is at its apex. In the studio I have completed my FreeSpirit fabric designs for next spring, which I am quite pleased with. Now I am attempting to translate those ideas into ribbon designs.

But soon my teaching schedule steps up for the rest on the year. I am looking forward to doing several 3-5 day workshops in some beautiful and charming locations… August 24 – 27 at All In Stitches in quaint Zumbrota, Mn, September 29- October 3 at the fabulous Madeline Island School of the Arts, November 2-7 at awesome Art Quilt Tahoe and the delightful and yummy Hudson River Valley Art Workshops, December 8-12. I will also be speaking at Quilt Expo in Madison, WI on September 5. I hope to see some of you there!

Sassaman Green Blouse 1

For this weeks blog we want to share another new garment made with fabrics from the Gregory’s Garden collection. This classy creation is McCall’s pattern M6564. I really like the asymmetry of this design and its elegant details.

Sassaman Green Blouse 2

 The zesty green Pussy Willow fabric fits right into the garden. The contrasting and adjustable belt make a flattering silhouette. Nicely fitted, this stylish blouse has a retro feel. Have you seen the wonderful noir movie, The Postman Always Rings Twice?

Sassaman Green Blouse 3

I think Lana Turner would look right at home in this outfit! Well… she would look fabulous in anything!

A Wonderful Week at Asilomar

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Asilomar Beach 2014

I have just spent a terrific week teaching at the Empty Spools Seminar at Asilomar State Park and Conference Center. It is in Pacific Grove, California just down the road from Carmel. It is a favorite event for every quilt teacher and student. You can walk on the beach morning, noon and night. The original buildings on the grounds were designed by Julia Morgan in the Arts and Crafts style.


This is the Chapel, one of my favorite buildings. If I was ever able to design a house from scratch, this would be my inspiration.


This is the cozy building where you check in and can hang out.

Sassaman Class 19

And this is our productive classroom! There were 24 students for 5 days of class. There were 10 other teachers doing workshops at the same time. The place was crawling with QUILTERS! This was the Abstracting from Nature class, my favorite to teach. The girls really did some wonderful work! Here are a few examples in various states of evolution.

Sassaman Class 4Sassaman Class 16

Sassaman Class 7

Sassaman Class 8

There was a little time to go exploring around the charming town if Pacific Grove which is in walking distance from Asilomar.

Pacific Grove 2

These over sized plants made quite a statement in this window box… looks like a house in the Land of Oz.

Pacific Grove 1

I love datura. Their trumpet blossoms are so elegant.

Pacific Grove 3

This Midwestern gal was in paradise! I could have spent a whole week photographing the wonders of this area! Luckily I get to go back next year, too!

Bloomington Heritage Quilt Show

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Mickey Lawler

I have just returned from a wonderful visit to the Bloomington, Indiana Heritage Quilt show. Three great days filled with workshops, quilt envy, conversation and dinners that were amazing. My journey began at the airport, of course. At the Indianapolis airport I met up with my fellow teacher, Mickey Lawler. I thought how clever to make a seat from her luggage! But then I looked again to see that her chair was actually made from old suitcases! Look behind her head, there are more interesting details to discover!

Indiana Airport Seat

How fun! This bench was across the way. Look underneath the seats to find a miniature traveling scene. Infact, the whole airport had interesting and colorful art to keep us travelers happy.

Indiana Airport seat 2

The Indiana Heritage Quilt Show had some good vendors and a ton of exciting quilts to enjoy. There was lots of extraordinary machine quilting among this years entries. Many clean modern quilts were making bold graphic statements and, of course, lots of lovely traditional pieces, too.

Marie Webster by Carolyn Rider

Here is a beautiful interpretation of Marie Webster’s Poppy pattern. How refreshing! It is both modern and traditional at the same time. Looks like spring. It was made by Carolyn Rider of Portsmouth, Ohio.

L. Welklin Quilt

Here is a delightful miniature quilt that really tickled me! I had to visit it everyday. It was machine made with silk threads by Laura Welklin of Noblesville, Ohio.

This weekend I will be visiting The West Alabama Quilter’s Guild in Tuscaloosa. Rumor is that it will be at least 60degrees! I feel myself melting already!

Seattle Sunshine

Saturday, September 14th, 2013


I’ve just returned from an inspiring teaching trip to Seattle for two vivacious and talented guilds, Block Party Quilters Club and Quilters Anonymous. I love the Seattle area, so it was a double treat!

One day we got to visit the new Chihuly Glass and Garden at the foot of the Space Needle. So I thought you might enjoy seeing some photos from that day while I unpack and regroup. Enjoy!

Chihuly Inner Garden




Chihuly:Black Grass

Chihuly:Green Screws

Picking Up Speed

Monday, April 22nd, 2013


Activities are gaining momentum as the season progresses. I had a lovely visit with the Jewel Box Quilters in Grinnell, Iowa last week. The guild gets its name for a stunning little bank designed by Louis Sullivan, noted architect and mentor of Frank Lloyd Wright.


The Merchants National Bank is indeed a “jewel box”situated in the modest business district . It is a small square building ornamented with Sullivan’s distinctive designs.

Jewel Box-Grinnell-Iowa

You can see that I would love Sullivan ornamentation. We both are inspired by prairie plants and have an affinity for similar shapes and symmetrical design.

Jewel Box-Grinnell-Iowa-Sullivan

The building combines strength in its structure and ethereal elegance in its ornament.

Jewel Box-Grinnell-Sullivan

Sullivan’s language of pattern is eccentric, mysterious and totally unique. Visiting this little “Gem” was the icing on the cake for this quilting journey. Thanks to the Jewel Box guild for a friendly and productive visit!

This week will be occupied preparing for Spring Market in May. I have completed six medium sized quilt tops so far and can’t wait for the day I can post them for you… just a few more weeks.

Quilters’ Connection Creations

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Boston-Sassaman-Suns and MoonsWorkshop

All heads were in the stratosphere this weekend for the Suns and Moons workshops hosted by the Quilters’ Connection guild in the Boston area. Here you get a glance of the “glorious mess” of creativity!

Boston-Sassaman-Suns and Moons-WorkshopQuilts 2

Even though everyone was using the same motifs each project was quite unique.

Boston-Sassaman-Suns and Moons-Workshop

The choices of color, pattern, fabric and proportions each created a different atmosphere. This is just a sampling of nearly 60 quilt tops that came to life over threes days. Some folks got to stitching and other opted to keep perfecting their compositions. As always, I look forward to seeing these projects completed and posted in my inbox someday SOON!