Category Archives: In the Studio

Collaging to the news

Soul Collage, when you listen to back podcasts of the news, can’t help but feature the vulnerable.

This next one came in response to a story that keeps coming back, not unlike a virulent STD. I’ve included a close up to make the reference clear, but since the script is still small, let me tell you. After one line, find penned two words, “altar boys.”

And because Halloween is about a week away, this next one.

I also spent a considerable amount of time clearing about six square feet of floor. Wish there was a “before” picture but you’ll just have to take my word for it. The recycling bin will be full this week.

Question: what are you guys doing to stay sane in these last days leading up to the midterms? I’ve got my weekly call with my Indivisible group and postcards. Tomorrow a friend and I will hit 200.

A fire is nice, too.

Critters only — studio tour

I went looking for the gift of wooden African beads from Sage Ann Hawk and could not find them. Arg! But here are congeries of critters just dying to say hello.


Well, not everyone. This guy wants you to skedaddle and fast. Perhaps he’s witnessed some worrisome antics — or maybe, he was just born with a suspicious nature. Increasingly, I’m inclined to the latter view.


Panda bears and tuxedo cats have an obvious affinity for one another! Dopey and sublime seem to like to keep company, too.Mr. Moose has taken on the thankless task of paperwork. I hope he’s up to it!

Can you find all four kinds of critters, above?
Speaking of butterflies, the top WIP was inspired by Hazel‘s word quilt and the indigo scrap was made during one of Jude’s classes – both from some years back.

Shifting layers around in the studio equals personal archeology.

There’s my beloved cat, Cindy, who lived to be 20 years old and died while I was in Dublin (having just turned 20 myself). She graciously came to me in a dream before the letter bearing the sad news arrived (although as I recall, she bore a trident and issued a warning with a very deep voice, not unlike the movie dragon Saphira from Eragon).

Aside: this pet and her years of affectionate company are why, for a spell, I resisted Hazel’s name change.

Another aside: Vineyard on the left, orthodontist’s office on the right.

Everything is a collage, really, not least of all, life itself. Bulletin boards evidence collage by their very nature, with variations afforded by cropping. “Live beautifully” might well have served as my mother’s motto (she stands in a dark sweater next to her sister). Had I snapped the picture a little to the right, I’d have captured my father, too, with each of the trio spouting a palm tree out of their heads.

I have a long and silly history with rhinos dating back to middle school, something my sister references often in a way that never feels quite neutral, but forget that. Just know — this rhino hasn’t got the time of day for you. He’s a taskmaster. Honking and snorting, “wind the goddamned bobbin, already!” (Confession:  I often stop a sewing session when the bobbin runs out. Just walk away. Often).

Oh, the things I’ve learned about alligators! Did you know that they kill their victims by pulling their limbs off and not by biting them the way sharks would?Well, even though I couldn’t find the African beads, here’s a woven belt that Sage Ann Hawk also gave me. Look how it keeps the pedestrian tape measures company, and dare I say, lends a little dignity?

* * *

P.S. Four days sugar-free and my feet were pain-free this morning. Four days!

P.P.S. Did anyone else read the New York Times magazine story about Gwyneth Paltrow? Even though I ascribe to many of the “kooky” things she peddles, I can’t stand her whole brand. The only thing that made me warm to her even a little was the mention of how awful it was to work with Harvey Weinstein — made me wonder if she might still be acting if it weren’t for him.

Balsam and lavender

The top sachets are filled with balsam from Maine while the two in the basket are filled with lavender.



Two crib quilts in progress: one fall and one spring. Seasons are so much better than gender for categorizing baby items!

It’s a grey day portending rain. I continue to receive birthday presents, like this adorable elephant (how nice is that?). We’re currently watching the Netflix series, “The Frankenstein Chronicles” which I recommend. Ned Stark, from Game of Thrones, plays the compelling lead. I’m guessing that this show is what “The Alienist” hoped it would be.

I hope you’re having a nice weekend!

PS I read the superseding 25 page indictment of Rick Gates this morning before even getting out of bed. I don’t think Manafort will flip — do you? I just learned that the Dem-Memo has been released, so I’ll be reading that before dinner, which leads me to ask, “What will we do when this drama is over?” It is absolutely and completely riveting.

Making under the radar

Sometimes a lot gets done even though it seems like nothing gets done. This weekend was like that. It felt wattless, but maybe wasn’t.

A new charm is underway. The finished sigil is for protection but given how disoriented I feel (blame it on the July temperatures in the middle of October!) — perhaps I ought to make one for clarity?

Finn and I just walked in air so hot and muggy that I might actually put the AC on (again! we broke down & got it going on Saturday). Meanwhile, D texted me while I was rounding the corner of Maplewood to say: it’s snowing hard in Boulder.

A weekend that saw me puttering, cleaning, sorting stuff (STUFF!) down in the studio and elsewhere, also saw a few things being completed, born, or dusted off. Since Tina Zaffiro asked about pouches, I pressed the two I came across in my cleaning to share. Also: partnered up cloth downstairs for some new ones. Think: Christmas. I like to get going before Thanksgiving on my Christmas list, that way shopping and making feel fun instead of oppressive.

The fish pouch is ideal for my Orisha Tarot deck because it easily houses the book as well as the cards. Also, the lining is silk which is reputed to have the power to filter out negativity.

That’s it! I should be wearing all silk, all the time!

And now I’m just avoiding writing, so bye. Have a great start to your week!

In the cool deep

“Let the breath take you deeper:” a reminder.

I can’t believe how much I enjoy being down in the cool sanctuary of the basement right now — whether machine piecing a village quilt, pawing through bins, or vacuuming up cobwebs. It’s a great complement to writing upstairs.

The process of piecing up house patterns keeps me going, but something is missing. A theme? A selected recipient? An internal challenge? Something. And, do I care?

Here are some pictures from today: paper collage, unearthed fabric WIPS, and in-progress shots of current work.

Here I went w/theme. Too heavy handed

Still damp from spritzing

An unearthed sampler from one of Jude’s classes

This old cut out from Newsweek will go upstairs

SoulCollage card composed a while ago but this week seems about the draft envt’l report

Insect wings : a meditation on scale and mothers

Image result for art insect wings

I dream about making furniture out of insect wings. Tiny, sheer, delicate and for whom?

Upon rising, I think about size in creative endeavor. How scale matters. I wonder: am I working too small — somehow limiting the scope of my work — or perhaps, the opposite — making life difficult by bucking a natural inclination to work small?

A large wall quilt. A goddamned novel.

And then out of nowhere, I remember something my mother said to me when I was seventeen or eighteen: “You may very well be a miniaturist.” Her tone was curious detachment as if still considering the idea, not at all one of her emphatic pronouncements.

Hmmm.

For reasons both complicated and pragmatic, I spent my senior year at the school where my mother’d been teaching for almost a decade. For a span of nine months, then, she was both mother and art teacher to me and for nine months, I was her daughter and her student (and the ‘art teacher’s daughter’).

That year, I was perpetually embarrassed by my mother — what 17 year old isn’t? Her clothes. Her laugh. Her opinions. I still remember how cringe-worthy her repeated mispronunciation of the late Baroque period was — making it sound less like a hot beverage and more like a porn star’s screen name — Ro-COCK-oh. Again, Mom? Really?

But, overall it was good. For one thing, seeing her in her element enlarged my view of her. In particular, it lent credence to an assertion she’d been making for years about having this respected competence elsewhere (as opposed to the beleaguered and disputed competence at home). But more importantly, I was the beneficiary of her considerable skill as a teacher. Of course, she dispensed observations and enthusiasms throughout my childhood, but as her student, the feedback was sustained and structured and something a little different could unfold.

Even now, it’s hard to square my mother’s capacity to run rough shod over people with her perceptive skill in the art room. Imagine a woman walking into the teachers’ lounge of a small school where she’s disliked by a majority of her peers — a place where her chain smoking and a tendency toward dismissive, smug bombast put people off.

Now picture that same person entering her classroom and coming alive with the give and take with her students. Watch that same forceful delivery of opinion turn a shy student into an aspiring artist. Yes! That quiet student who formerly floated from class to class in ghost-like invisibility has become a person determined to make something beautiful and certain she can do it — because of my mother.

You know how teachers talk about ‘that one student’ that made their entire teaching career worthwhile? My mother sometimes had two a year.

My mother taught her students that they had something to say and that how they said it was both unique and discover-able.

Teenagers who’d convinced themselves by the ripe old age of 15 that they were ordinary or ‘just jocks’ found out otherwise in her classroom. For the wild kids (called ‘juvenile delinquents’ back then), she’d harness their misspent leadership energies without judgment, instilling no end of appreciation. “Give ’em a job,” she’d cackle.

Of course, she celebrated talent — what teacher doesn’t? For those students, her unique skill seemed to be in knowing when to gush effusively (but sincerely!) and when to step back and let them struggle. She ushered one outstanding student after another into their talent.

“You just might be a miniaturist.”

Is the observation as straight forward as it sounds — as in, ‘work small’? Given that my mother was right about an obnoxious number of things, I’m willing to consider this anew, but not exactly sure how to.When I removed a small section of a semi-large quilt to work on separately, I considered letting the fragment stand alone. I do this all the time.



(The fragment has been returned to the whole). Sometimes, when the prospect of finishing a first draft overwhelms, I get energized at the idea of trying to get excerpts published (and then, ironically, I can get back at it).Is scale of work as innate as our preference for certain palettes? And if it is, is it useful to step outside of that preference now and again and see what happens? What results if we don’t discover or honor our basic preference regarding scale — does it add pitch to the learning curve in a distressing manner, building in frustration that could be avoided? Or is this something else?

Before I go, I have to tell you we’ve had a string of truly beautiful summer days here. The weather was especially nice for a small birthday gathering for K yesterday — very Napa-valley with the tables in the yard and flowers cut from the garden. Of course, our new fire table was a big hit!

 

Insect drawing from RoyalSocietyPublishing.org.

Cold and cloth 

When the rhodies do this, you know it’s cold. Had to pull my scarf up over my nose in our morning walk! Tuckered Finn out, I think.


In spite of the wintry temps, I padded up and down the cellar stairs yesterday and the day before to work on this medium-sized quilt. Used the machine down there some, then returned to heat and TV upstairs to iron and sew. Also stitched some seams by hand.

When the construction starts to foreclose possibilities, I am often disappointed.  Over the years, I have wondered if there wasn’t some other way to connect up the pieces that would more reliably capture earlier design ideas (like collage the scraps to canvas with gesso?)


I take a lot of pictures these days. But maybe I didn’t refer to them enough this time. What’s missing is an energetic flow.

While sewing this morning, I catch up on Maddow. The work satisfies me with pattern, simplicity of task, color, and measurable progress.


But it is not satisfying or productive enough by half to counteract the unfolding American shitstorm. There seems to be a theme: destruction.

I don’t get it.

Later, I’ll make beef with barley soup. Good for a cold evening, almost medicinal in its meaty and grainy deliciousness.  And I’ll turn off the news.