Making More Loose Ends to Pick Up – Later


It is not a very colorful fall here. Not like last year, too dry for strong colors. But I have managed to work on more textiles beyond the chemical rusting of the week before. Here are some of those efforts using lots of ferrous sulfate and black tea and a pinch of caustic soda.

aussie-pants grey-shirt canvas-on-rosemaryscrim

I recolored some Australian repurposed pants that had been dyed with some mollusk shells and were now faded. Next a shirt I bought that was a bit too yellowy and an old hunk of canvas. Then some scrim and a loosely woven silk scarf I bought in Australia to do some coloring on. See below.


I liked it but it was a bit too creamy. I knew I would not make it a first choice from the scarf stack. So it went back into the iron and tea pot for some greying down. It was much better losing the whitish parts. My cat, Spooky loved the results.


This week I was back at the dyeing pots with the gathering of leaves and attempting a bit of contact printing. There was an old pashmena shawl that was a stained pale yellow/green. I wrapped in what leaves I had in the yard and tried to get something to happen.


Pretty good on one end so this morning I dipped the other end in again. Once rinsed and hung on the line it became more soft and grey toned. Here it is with the loosely woven silk greyish scarf that now has one line of kantha stitching in place. I am going to add weight and some added interest by stitching this running stitch all the way across the scarf. Finding this old spool of ecru silk from my earlier weaving days was just perfect for the grey scarf and easy to follow the open holes to keep the stitching somewhat straight.

Here they are next to each other on the board shear in the studio.


And another detail of the now much better pashmena.


I also tried some watercolor papers with not much success and lokta paper with no success.


I am getting friends who have part time homes here to record their residence with contact prints using plants from their yards. Today one of them went home with her bundle still wrapped up because when we first unwrapped it, not much was too exciting. So we are leaving it til later in the week to undo. Another friend will be over tomorrow to make her fabric piece up.

But I am thinking it is a bit late in the year for the leaves to be giving us much. Tomorrow I might just take the leaves from the Japanese maples. They always seem successful. Maybe a bit of black walnut leaves as well…can’t go wrong there. But these colorful oaks and maples are not transferring so well right now.

I will post a picture of the kantha stitched scarf when it is finished….and when I get a decent print on some lokta papers.

So Many Directions – Remembering Arlene


Sometimes I feel like the person depicted on this wonderful assemblage. It was given to me as a thank you gift from an older woman named Arlene who was in a mixed media class of mine at Arrowmont about fifteen years ago. She had a knack for just picking things up and sticking or tying them down. I keep this piece in plain sight in my studio as inspiration about what I should be doing as a maker…..just make. But more often than not I will have to think of the reason I am making something. I wish I could be more like Arlene…..just do it. Here she is in another one of my classes there at Arrowmont working on a box making class titled, “……Placement for Memory”. We were making containers like books and baskets to put our mementos into them as well as boxes. She did not want to make a box when she had “a perfectly good cookie tin” with her.


Arlene did some very serious work about her family gatherings as a child. She had an old table cloth that became the background for a large wall hanging with the china plates attached and something akin to place cards as I remember. There never was a question about how to do something with Arlene. Just do it. Just care enough to get on with it. Get it done and move on. No wonder this many years later, and now into the decade approaching her eighty years at the time we met, I feel inspired all over again by Arlene. Below is the seventh decade panel in the Textile Scrapbook I am slowly working on.


This one is like the sixth decade one only more travel to France and Italy and of course,  more Australia. Arlene would have loved this project and heaven knows she would have had the ephemera of memories to tie and stitch into place. There is lots more stitching to do on this one but it is nice to open the box I keep them all in and remember.

Aside from this work there is a batch of gelatin prints hanging on the wall in the studio this week. My friend came down to work in the studio and we made gelatin plates and then went about making the prints. I decided to keep mine to walnut ink and some black printmaking inks.



This larger image is one where I plaited pages that have been sanded to a velvet surface into another image with the inks dripping through overworked gelatin prints. Turned one way it the trees and upside down it is a path going into the woods. There is something about them that intrigues me for drawing into, turning into images for books or poetry. In the above images there is a set of three that cry out for wood block prints of crows worked into them. Many possibilities here.

Tomorrow three students come to the studio for a day of chemical rusting. I will be able to resupply my pages to add images with graphite. Next week I will draw and talk about another project going on.  There is nothing that I am doing that requires too much thinking nor too much time. I feel a bit like a BB in a box car as we used to say. Bouncing and ricocheting from one thing to another.


Wrapping It Up – For Now

I have set up the last of the 8 x 10 gessoed board’s subject matter. Sticking with the Nature theme, I just picked a selection of things from the large rock and stick bowl in the foyer.  More of the things that are just picked up and once in the hand, can not be put back.


I like the feel of these pieces. They came from New Zealand and Tasmania mostly. Very seldom are there things from “here” in that bowl. It must weigh at least thirty pounds. Each thing in it told a story that is now mostly forgotten. Sad in a way. I wish I knew that the only thing left in a few short years of slipping these things into my pockets would be the feel and not where I was exactly and who I was with and why it caught my eye in the first place. Maybe, just maybe I would have left it lie there in the sand by a pounding surf of some place so far from where it was going to end up. Maybe. Do children want their mother’s bowl of rocks? I think they have their own and would feel badly having to say, “No thank you.”  Someone should start a home for the collected things like these that meant so much to someone so eager to own them.

I wrote a poem about them, those rocks and will add it here.

Owning Stones


I take the stones to own.

There is no thought

given that they are

removed from their

home, their place.

Once in my hand they

are mine. And other

things I own

will be left behind

to accommodate

the stones’ passage

back to my home,

my place.

Here they are arranged

to my liking…sorted

stacked and circled.

Each stone offering to

be held again and

again as I make them

into my story.

Each bearing the

marks of memory

from their own.

 Here is the finished board behind a mat and a detail of just how badly these boards were gessoed.



See all those holes and rough spots. They look and feel more like plastered panels and are the most thirsty surface I have ever painted on.

I am tidying up some other unfinished work in the studio. These books whose covers are altered images of details of large paintings are printed on both sides and folded in such a way that the front cover is three layers of imagery. For some reason I stopped making these in the middle of the assembling and decided this past week to finish the bindings. It is just a simple two signature three hole binding with the addition of complementary beads. What I do with them now is anyone’s guess. But at least they are finished and packed into clear envelopes.


They are just plain blank journals and if it weren’t for the complexity of fitting the images together in the layout and printing and folding, I don’t think I would have bothered with them. But I like the look and feel of them. Probably the feel is nice because I waxed the covers.

A friend is coming down this week to work in the studio. We will do gelatin plates. Just playing really. And that is hard for me. To just do something because it might be fun. I need it to be more complicated than that. I need to be saying something or at the very least learning something. Maybe I can learn to just have fun, just expect nothing more from myself. But it is hard for me. I think I am still dogged by the two questions, “Am I doing enough?” and “Am I doing it right.?”

I remember spending so much time asking women artist my age and older if they asked themselves these questions. Every one of them said, “No.” And then once a friend and I asked a ouija board on the internet. It took a good long time to spell out the word, “maybe.” How silly is that? Not long after I asked a printmaker/artist in Kentucky and she looked at me closely and said that the answer to my questions was, “It doesn’t matter.” I was quite relieved at the time and thought it was all behind me. Now I am not so sure.

But I will have some fun this week with my friend and next week I will show pictures of what my fun in the studio looked like.




Finding a Focus for Now in the Studio


I have finished a second of the 8 x 10 watercolors on gessoed board. More collected dried things from the yard and studio. Someone in Australia asked me why I was always drawing or painting dead things. It is simple. They stay put for the length of time it takes to draw them. I get to really look at them. I get to hone what skill I have. I can touch them over and over while they stay the same. Their withering has already happened.

It feels good to be back at drawing. I miss it when I am doing more of the collage/assemblage/textile/stitch work….mixed media. That collection of words reminds me of something a character in my novella says when faced with having to frame mixed media work.

……..”And the results were pretty much the same. Layers of smudged papers that include pages from old books (with all but a few meaningful words exposed to reveal the artists intention), photos (old black and white ones collected at random from antique shops and flea markets), used tea bags and crumpled tissues, all of it dry brushed with gesso or in lieu of gesso, house paint would do. This recent interest in mixed media was followed quickly by workshops in encaustic so the entire piece could be covered in wax to look even more mysterious and meaningful.  …… Sue had to be careful not to frame them upside down or sideways.”

It makes me smile when I read what Sue thinks about the artworks brought into her framing shop. And it also reminds me to just get to doing something simple….draw.

Few pieces have given me the satisfaction of making something like drawings have. Here are some that were especially gratifying.



And always those little bits and pieces from travels.


I will get out another gessoed board today and find some things to draw. It is centering me now and I really need that. Then I will build it into a frame with a mat and hang it with the others. I don’t know what to do with them after that.

My art group meeting was yesterday and it bothered me that I was so content for now to just do this. No meaning, no desire to fix a burning issue into form or a need to say something beyond putting careful marks on board…..getting down what I am looking at. The feedback from the rest of them was good. I was inspired by one members new narrative work in dry point etching. He not only does the drawing well, but has a way of creating an atmosphere around the subject that pushes our imaginations further.

When I get all my old boards meant to be used for egg tempera completely covered in watercolors, I will return to the press with renewed enthusiasm. But for now this is where I am….here in the studio working quietly on drawing and finishing up my Scrapbook of Decades.