Just A Good Ramble

It is that time of year again. Things are fading. Going away. Finding other directions. Personally I am going for the “other directions”. I am going to alter the way I do things. It is time to change a little.

New works in the studio are going to be based on the Driveway Messages from a couple of weeks ago. There is something appealing about how much story (narrative) can be built in a piece made up of separate sections. And how those separate pieces cling to each other with a seam forcing them to stay there. It is more about the relationships than design and color juxtapositions. It is about relationships and dependency to be complete or at the very least agreeable to the whole.

So I will show another of those Driveway Messages that have got me to thinking.

The next one will be a long horizontal landscape piece with not only etchings but drawings and/or paintings using watercolors made from soils. I think even woven patches of spun papers. More plates will need to be etched. More fabrics with some sort of history will have to be printed onto. Like whenever I start something new, I see it in my head and then just go there until it is done. But what I am attempting is collage and to do that I need lots of the parts strewn about to pick up and hold next to each other.

Which makes me think of so much of the collage/assemblage work I see today. If you look at them, what makes them appealing is not any sort of narrative but how lovely the parts are and how well they go together. Let’s say a Japanese themed piece. You can’t go wrong with this. Just some Japanese script, some beige, preferably some torn bit of corrugated cardboard, smear of gesso, a bit of jute string tying something rolled up. Slip in a bit of black cloth or paper somewhere and there you have it! Lovely!

All you need is the stuff to make a design with. No need to tell a story, just hint at some magical message in the Japanese writing, which could be saying almost anything. It could be from a grocery list to some private correspondence. But one thing is for sure, it will sell and be easy to offer workshops on how to glue it all together.

Sorry about that. There really is some good collage out there….just not enough that speak of the maker more than the materials.

And admittedly I am so much more interested in the makers point of view than a bunch of lovely bits and pieces artfully arranged.

On another subject, my husband Lee turns 80 years old this week. And by the end of the month we will have been married 50 years. Such large numbers that I never even considered when we started out together. And of course always the question, “Where did the time go?” Over that time I was at least ten different people while he stayed the same. He adjusted to my changes and I was glad he was still there. I suppose that is marriage in a nutshell….adjustments and joy.

Here we are at about 30 years in. A detail of the large quilt-like piece using our clothes.

And part of the pieces now as we adjust to his dementia.

It is strange how some work never goes beyond the makers need to create it. I think of Lin who I wrote my last blog about. Her stunning neck pieces of well placed found objects will probably be on many bodies, be quite visible and commented on. But the hard wrought work about the old testament stories told with tattered dolls will likely forever be in boxes. She might be remembered artistically as a very clever designer while her statements on war and religion remain still. But she made the work. It mattered enough to her to make the work.

And that is my inspiration to continue in the studio. Have something matter enough to make it.

In the meantime Lee and I are off to a brewery for a beer and lunch with friends. More friends taking classes at the folk school pop in this evening for a good catch up. Tomorrow I head back into the studio intent on making more pieces to assemble into a larger work.

Corrugated cardboard and scraps of a Japanese ledger will not be part of it. That I am sure of.

Til next week with new pictures.

Just This Morning – And Just This Week

This was the sunset a couple of days ago. It happens about the time I go to bed….7:30 pm. If I don’t go to bed  that early I won’t make it up to head to the gym by 5 am. And I won’t get the steps in that I require of myself every day. This week in a five day period I almost made it to 75,000. That’s a lot.

On Saturdays I can sleep in. So last night from 8 pm to 6 am. Ten hours of pure luxury!

Now it is 10 am and this is what I have finished this morning.

Filled the fish pond with water, moved the sprinkler three times, trimmed some dreaded forsythia bushes back so Lee can see out a shop window, finished three loads of wash, vacuumed the porch, cleaned up the kitchen, helped Lee wash the porch chair cushions, changed the sheets on the bed, fed the fish and the cats, checked my emails and just now took a look at facebook and was reminded again just how much I despise the present administration.

On the bright side I am hoping that our neighbor gets back to working on this.

Originally they thought they would turn this downed pine into a pencil….but everyone is doing that! I suggested since we see it as we drive up our driveway that it be a monster-type snake attacking something that just poked its head out of the ground. It is very long and now has good stable legs propped underneath….plus his other thin ones. The snakes eyes will be bigger and likely he will attach the diamond shaped thick boards I had handy to give him some fins. He will also have banded stripes along his body. The stump’s bark looked like flowing hair and with some judicial chainsaw cutting he now has an open mouth in full scream.

He just needs to get some googly eyes and a nose. I am sure that the neighbor wishes this pine fell on our property and not just over the line on his. But he is taking my suggestions well, being a good sport about it. But he goes to bed a lot later than me and gets up a lot later.

If he kept to my schedule he would have at least two of these monsters chainsawed by now.

In the studio this week I have returned to the specimen journal and completed the framing on the Driveway Messages. I think I am going to now work on a larger piece using the etchings on cloth and more of my contact prints of leaves. Since I went to using the sewing machine it has increased the possibilities of what I want to say about correspondence.

Earlier in the week I made a trip over to my under graduate school, Western Carolina University. I talked to the book arts students about my work, showed some of my books and left a couple of cartons of books from my studio library to add to theirs, and donated almost all of my personal artist books that were either collected, purchased or made and exhibited by me. It will be a good home for them. After Christmas they will receive my collection of over ninety pop up books.

Also this week the trip to Australia has been finalized with a travel agent. I now know what I am doing and where I am going to do it, not to mention when! Now just keep the dialogue of ideas going with the students….my favorite part is the planning with them way before we meet over tables and tools.

More next week after an overnight in Asheville and having a bit of scotch at the Grove Park Inn. And Trader Joe’s on the way home with a bucket of sunflowers and a box of wine.

Til then.

Trying to Decide the Marks to Make

I am back in the studio thinking about this limited edition book about the messages from the driveway. The images have been selected, adjusted and sized. Etching plates have been cut to the same size. I was thinking etchings in black line over selected parts of these shadowy images. But what kind of marks to make the etchings? What do the marks mean? Are they extrapolations of marks already there in shadow form?

Several prints on paper have been made while I draw in ink over them to see what looks right. So far…nothing. I don’t want to give up on the idea. There would be only an edition of ten books to make, but anything over one requires more planning.

I played on the computer more with the images…adjusting the contrast and darkness. The shadowy grey seems to be the best so far. But marking the etching plates is a hang up. How dense should they be? Should they be half on the image, half off? Should they be placed so as to read as text? And why does any of this matter?

It just plain matters to me. I want all the marks and image to be cohesive and address the content of messages from the driveway as I traverse it back and forth to retrieve messages from my mailbox. Just drawing something or writing about it is not right. I can draw and I can write but I want the images to speak for me.

So I looked through work to see how I make marks, what ones come naturally that seem autobiographical in some way. I found lots of marks and lots of ways to make them. So here are some.

Stitching into embossed and torn marks, then adding other objects.

Plaiting into an image.

Maybe just draw something found along the way to and from the mailbox. Just an etching that looks like an ink drawing of something just laying there. It could be sticks like the drawing above has or rocks, or…..whatever.

I would need to keep the marks simple like these done on fine paper, painted and sandwiched between two pieces of silk organza with varnishes and shellac. I wouldn’t do the messy part. I am just looking for marks.

Maybe stitching needs to be added to the print.

I seem to do it in lots of two dimensional work. There is something about this layering that seems a possibility for the messages from the driveway.


There is more of that here on another layered painting where I reuse a canvas by simply selecting the parts of the old I want to show through and then painting again…a different theme altogether. Here is the original of that piece.

And those time marking – tally marks – that I am still using. Maybe those should be in the messages from the driveway.

Or maybe a crow. They are always the messenger. We have loads of them here.

Like I said if this was not a small edition, but edition none the less, I could be more free with the layering, stitching, adding in bits.

Now I am thinking that chine colle might be just what I need. It would give the extra to the shadow image, the etching and the texture that for some reason, I think I am after. It certainly would add to the layered idea of hidden messages.

Anyway I need to stop. I need to think and maybe I need to quit looking at other works. Maybe I just need to experiment and not worry about wasting time and materials trying to make something look right.

If I get any further with this I will post it.

The Things We Live With – Part II

Some other things that just stay in place. On the long thick pine bench my husband made and runs along a wall that faces the front door has at one end a stoneware vase. I put the reddish sticks from some out of control willow bush with white and green leaves in it. The bush was supposed to look like the neighbors down at the end of the road, but no, it throws floppy branches out into the driveway to rub across my car. It sort of flails it arms in a sense, and a couple times a year I have to cut it back. I think this only encourages it. But the branches are a deep wine red and I bring them in to poke into this vase. Then I add Eucalyptus stems that refuse to fall apart. The fake red berries are so totally not me, but once in the vase over the holiday season, they stayed. Only two rocks were supposed to be here. They were handy to take to classes when I taught earth pigment gathering and processing. For some mysterious reason, my husband has decided to bring rocks in to join them. I said I thought there were enough there now….but he may not remember me saying that.

Above the bench hangs a collection of Aboriginal Australian art. They are pieces that could not be left behind once found in galleries or meeting the artist. And above them is a coil of barbed wire from along our road. It was my Christmas wreath for two holiday seasons. In the barbaric calf muzzle that I attached to the wire wreath I hung holly, bright green and red from a tree not far from where the wire was harvested. I wanted something different for a wreath on the front door. It was too different for a neighbor who came by. He was reading too much into it….way too much.

These are faces of apartheid from a photojournalist’s book.  He was documenting South Africa while Mandela was still imprisoned. Again, I could not put the book down once I saw it in the store. I drew the faces with paint on tapa cloth and used sticks and fabrics to capture what it was that I read about them. The eyes staring out from the page just was not enough….I wanted to see them more often. The iron animals below are part of a large collection that started with just a couple. Originally they were made from oil drums in the Caribbean, then likely, when popular, mass produced in India. I love the way the cow’s head is flat and at right angles to his neck. Each one has such character.

At right angles to them is the bowl of rocks watched over by a black bird. Hanging on the wall above are Aboriginal baskets from Indonesia and Australia. There is very little in our house that is not in this same palette of browns and golds and beiges and greys.

On a chest from Bali sits some clever sculpture pieces with rocks, basket, nest…all back dropped with an old Indian textile tied carefully onto a black framed fabric so as to show the edges and disperse the weight evenly. And when I go out onto the porch through the door just to the right of the chest, I see this.

Baskets, a face jug and a tall sculpture that I made of spare parts from local farmers and a large rusted piece of metal that looks a bit like a horse’s head…well sort of. It was bulldozed up by the man who excavated for our house. He could not believe I wanted to keep it and mount it onto blocks of wood with old springs and other bits of rust. It stands as tall as me and I think of Garland and how he knew just how to clear the land to give us the best view even when it was just him on his machine in the middle of the woods. Those baskets were made in classes taught by Grace Kabel in the late 70s. I think she single-handedly is responsible for the contemporary interest in making functional baskets. She taught us. We taught others and it went from there. Because we worked with her, we were given  “at cost prices” for materials from the only supplier in the country of packaged cane. Back then it was the by product of the rattan furniture business.

Here are others made in her classes that sit at the end of the porch.

On a bench out there are more of those Eucalyptus stems dried up in a vase behind another old basket that came from a peach farm where my father and I picked peaches not long before he died.

And to the left of this bench hangs this. A carved face from the root of a bamboo plant.

It is hard for me to pass up things with faces and yet I can’t stand dolls. Odd isn’t it. There is a collection of dolls in the guest room with that pesky cow and his story full of characters and I wonder what to do with them. Obviously I do not like living with them that much because they are in a room I hardly go into. Back to the porch and bamboo.

Bamboo and willow sticks with a clay bird hung in. It is the messy end with the only surviving zebra fern. I loved these ferns when they appeared about ten years ago. All yellowish green and mottled.

And this too at the messy end. It is the remains of an old pottery fountain that I put dirt into and hoped a plant would want to live there. I didn’t. Old bamboo bits of things that have dried and cracked covering whatever died in there. Some rocks and a blue glazed clay round thing that a friend in Australia gave me years ago because I admired it. I never should have brought it home. I tried to float it like she did in clear fresh water with just the right stones in just the right pot and look what I did….neglected it to the point of it chipping and being stuck here with other sad things that for some reason I can’t toss out. I should have said, “No, you keep it here where it will last forever.” But I didn’t and now it has become one of things I live with.

I will do more of the happy fun things later but I do like this last image. Something sadly poetic about it.

Til later.