Getting Ready to Go

Spring is popping out here in Western North Carolina. I am trying not to succumb to its fever as I tie up all loose ends to leave Tuesday for a month in Australia. My mind bounces from one thing to another and then back again. Tomorrow is the art group meeting. I need to pick up the studio. My small piece of checked luggage has everything I need for students and then some….but no clothes yet. Monday is time enough for that.

The artwork for an exhibition has been delivered to Asheville to be taken on from there with other artists works using paper.

All those who are helping to keep an eye on Lee have been documented and scheduled. Whatever they need is somewhere in the house and directions for how to find it, how to use it and how important it is to keep things running smoothly. Photographed instructions on how to use the DVD player, the washing machine and pictures inside of cupboards on where things go….even how to fold Lee’s underwear so it fits in the drawer and will be where he looks for it.

But I did get to watch the Olympic curling match this morning after taking photographs outside of a few things the deer are not chewing on….like these small bushes with blooms in white and pink.

They are not eating the forsythia and jonquils….not yet anyway. Saving their appetite for the first sprout of hostas I imagine.

The fish pond with budding Japanese maples along its edges.

And Jay, an elderly goldfish that we named after an elderly friend who passed away many years ago. Our Jay gets lighter and lighter each year as his color falls away. I am always happy to see him wake up from the winter sleep they all go into just below the surface of ice.

The river birch’s skin is very pink this morning as its bark falls away.

Just outside the front door the creeping jenny is thriving.

One of those “know it all” acquaintances that we all have said we would be very sorry that we ever planted it. We are not. I fills in with all the other ground covers and the color is always so fresh….and so welcome after a dreary winter.

One other thing I did this morning was get out my small cans of wall and trim paints. I take a small brush and starting with the walls and corners, I cover up all the dark marks from cat rubbings and chips on the outside corners of drywalled archways. Next the oil based trim paint catches all the dirty fingerprints and scrapes from moving things about.

Now when I get back from Australia and check on Lee, unpack and do laundry I won’t have to look at those marks and wonder when I will get the time to do what I just did this morning. Instead I have just a few days before teaching a five day class titled, Prints, Pigments, and Pages – A Collaboration with Nature. Earlier this week I wrote the syllabus and checked to make sure I have all the materials and equipment needed to keep eight students satisfied.

It will be a fun class. They always are. This time I get to add marbling papers with earth pigments. The walnuts students will be using have rotted to perfection. We will make small gelatin plates in class for printing bits of Nature. All equipment for contact printing leaves from around the site is ready to go. Feathers are coming soon to make our paint brushes. I think I am ready and just hoping a friend comes along to look in on Lee while I am busy in class.

The other thing all set to go are those infernal taxes. This was always something Lee did. I really hate numbers and kept myself to just balancing the checkbook each month. Now it is this plethora of papers that need to be collected and delivered so that our tax lady can get started long before our appointment mid April. Why people actually choose this as a profession is as beyond me as those who make a living by looking deep into our other private areas.

Last night was lovely wine, scotch and company on the porch. I am sure there will be more bits of nasty weather before Spring is officially here, but it is so nice right now.

In one week I will be finishing up my two day white line printmaking class in Hobart, Tasmania. I will do a blog then.

Now I am off to pick up the studio and do my physical therapy exercises before having a bit of Stone’s Ginger Wine and thinking about dinner.

Til next week.

A Valentine’s Day Meander

These tangled threads with reference to what “once” was is pretty apt at this stage.

We don’t do Valentine’s Day anymore. One of us can’t remember that it is, and the other does not want to remind him that he doesn’t remember. We will go out to dinner tomorrow with friends and enjoy ourselves.

We also pick who we want to spend time with and who not. Friends who make us laugh and remember good times are what we need more than those with whom we share limited  interests. Good friends are just there when needed and we, especially me, appreciate their being there.

But it is all good. The physical therapy is over. I need only keep up with the exercises and realize that some things are just not that important. And keep looking to take care of the things that matter.

Try not to muddy the waters so to speak.

And even if I do, find some clarity and move on.

Back to Australia in less than two weeks. Friends and family I can count on will be here for Lee. Using Skype and phoning will keep us keep in touch over such a long distance for the month I will be in that magical place.

And when I return home I am going to tackle all those closets and storage boxes and shelves that are loaded with the things that no longer matter. I look forward to the clarity that will bring to where I want to spend my time. Making more artwork that needs to find places to go seems a bit silly at this point. I might seek the advice of others….especially the art group.

I plan on drinking more herbal tea.

And I am going to slow down. That is the one thing my physical therapist kept nagging me about. “You need to stop rushing through the things that take time and concentration. You need to not be so obviously thinking about what comes next and work on staying in the moment.” “Breathe.”

I will leave with one more image of how it is for us now….a bit of the prickly along lines of holding things in place.

Til next week sometime.


What Is Wrong With Just Looking Within For Inspiration

This is a corner of my booth when I was in Southern Highland Craft Guild. I think this was my last fair with them and it wasn’t too many years later that I turned in my membership. I was making layered papers jewelry, cards and collage. If you were to step back from my booth, it looked like I was all over the place. The jewelry and cards brought in consistent funds but the collage was where my interest truly lay. With these I could add whatever felt right to tell my story…..and I never lacked for a personal story.

And that sort of brings me to something I saw this week. Someone posted a picture of the worn and patched clothing of Bernuthsfeld Man…a discovery in 1907 of this fellow that lived somewhere between A.D. 660 and 870. Her goal is to match the fabrics as best she can and patch her own garment in the same way. I don’t know if her intention is to wear it….I am not sure what her intention is.

Of course when I saw her drawing of all the shaped pieces in place all I could think of was, “Here comes another pattern”. Remember those early folk wear patterns? Authentic clothing that we could all make if we cared to. I think reenactment costumes was where they were used the most. Much as I loved the Turkish Coat, I knew it was not only difficult to make but had limited use if one was the least bit self-conscious.

Anyway, before I get too far off the track here, let me say I succumbed to making a comment. Somehow it struck me as a bit of appropriation if her intent was to create patterns for sewing circles looking for something different. After all it might just have the appeal of the popular boro stitching craze happening now. And then there is the Kantha stitching from India that is commonly used among textile workers.

And I have used both. First the boro one. A friends sent me a boro coat that was completely patched with many worn through places. I could smell its history. If I wanted to I could hang it on the wall, which is where most of these pieces end up. But I wanted to feel it on my body like its intention was to begin with.  I reworked it in the way it was originally done. I added my own old clothes in places and made it fit my body. I love wearing it.

Here it is being modeled.

And I used the Kantha stitching in this piece yet to be finished.

On this piece I was taking scraps of cloth colored with the soils of where I live here in western North Carolina and torn up old clothes that felt lovely and worn. The running stitches reinforce the cloth as well as keep it attached to the worn shirt that is the base.

Both of these pieces are unique to me. They tell my story. The boro piece demanded that if I wanted to wear it, some serious restructuring had to be done. Keeping with its tradition, I used my own old clothes to expand it after taking the bottom of the coat, cutting it into two pieces to add front and back centers. The Kantha stitched shirt brings back so many memories through its frayed cloth patches.

So back to Bernusthfeld Man. She probably is not going to make a pattern. There probably is not going to be sewing circles all sharing cloth so they can create their own tunic-like garment. But then again maybe there will be.

Here was my immediate response:

I am not so sure of this idea. It seems like an appropriation of some sort. Old worn and patched clothing has its own history of necessity. Like boro and clothes of my childhood patched to continue its usefulness. This does seem contrived to imitate those necessary and needed stitched stories of history.

And the response to that comment made me continue…..

 I suppose that the familiarity of the garment pictured and its purpose of prolonging life and function is something a bit sacred in my life and memory. Thanks as ever for the expansion of my own awareness of how others see an intricate part of history, mine and those from long, long ago.

There was a lengthy response to my comments that ended with the thought that the author of the article on the Bernuthsfeld Man clothing might just be “looking for meaning”. And that we are all part of a big story.

My response which seems to be where the conversation ends was as follows:

I remember a mentor I had about 30 years ago who questioned a fellow student as to why she was making “fragments”. She (the mentor) said, “Why? Aren’t there enough of them already in existence?” I suppose it is only a matter of time before people will gather to follow a pattern for the Shroud of Turin. And then maybe a book titled, “Finding Your Creativity Through Other People’s Stories”. Just some further thoughts here. Please keep posting the things that I am missing out there. It makes me think and that is the best part.

And I have been thinking about it. I never took a “creativity” class. It seems like there are more influences that are prescriptive and limited to the instructor’s path as well as the influences of pre-selected materials. Keep in mind I am not talking about a technique/process class where things are meant to be limited to learning a particular process with particular materials.

I am thinking about how many of us see something. Like it. Want to make it and lose sight of the fact that it is really not our story. We are making things to look like someone else’s story because we like how it looks.

Why don’t we spend time looking at what matters to us. Then go through our collected materials and build with our own learned technical processes, a visual representation of our own story.

I suppose this looking at something so personal as cloth that covers a body and carries the imprint of that body is the same as an old photograph. So many makers of things will easily collect these old images of a captured moment in someone’s personal existence and make it into something never meant to be. I always, without fail, feel a sadness when I see these photographs used out of time and context.

I am now going to search my blog library for some textile….one that is ugly and personal but shows promise to start to tell a story that is strictly my own.

And you know what? Looking at it just now, I think it could be the third and latest layer over large paintings coming back from a gallery that is closing. A half gallon of tinted gesso might just be the place to start. And these random stitches on the back side of a desperate attempt to hold things together could not be more autobiographical.

I will come back to this later.

Thinking About Clearing Space in the Studio

Sunset. Another day goes by and I have done little to get rid of things. A gallery is closing and I will get the works back that did not sell. More things piling up. I need to make some decisions here.  One of the problems is when you work in “mixed media” everything has potential.

This is the latest of the boats done for an exhibition in March.

It is bigger than the last one. And instead of having a bell that rings in a memory carried in the anchor, this one has several jingling bells in the hold. Just rock back and forth and you can hear them. The passenger is safely tucked inside wondering what to recall next.

His attic is full of stories….his and others. The rocks are the important thing here. Images of them on the boat as well as the house’s footings. And those that create a path along the deck of the boat. Here is where they came from.

It is an old cigar box with stones that I collected from a dear friend’s driveway in a town where we raised our children. Pacia lived to be almost 100 years old and I would stay in her house ( a converted train station) every time I went back “home”. One day I simply had a need to take a bit of the place with me. I have dipped into this box often.

Also in there are scraps of sandpaper the men taking wood working classes would give me when I was teaching at Arrowmont. I like those bits of used sandpaper. I like the sound of them. I like how they are supposed to smooth things over while irritating the heck out of it


Here are some of the stones as well as the sand papers in my tai chi figures. There are fourteen of them that take their poses as their burdens get less and less in each one. Here is the first one of the series in an earlier work. Now they just march along a wall in the studio reminding me to take the “focus breath”. I should pay attention.

The shot into the shoulder has helped and I will be able to get back to doing my tai chi and yoga stretches. I do them here in the studio and not in a class setting. That was only to learn the moves and the breathing.

All the works for the other exhibition are packed with their artist statement. Someone will get them to Chattanooga for me.

I am enjoying looking at just the sixteen nails on the wall. How long I can not hang something there is a good question. Someone I admire in the art group showed very large mulberry paper works. I loved the paper and assumed I needed some….just five pages that are 55″ x 27″. Those and a detail brush that “can paint cat whiskers” made from rat hairs. It was only five dollars and seemed like a good idea to have one. Besides it was a supplier I had never ordered from before that carries mostly Asian arts materials.

I am not being very successful at ridding myself of things. But I will get there. I just need to figure out how. I do know one thing. Once it is out of the studio, I don’t miss it.

Someone told me that she got rid of 100 things per week. I think it was each week. But she counted scraps of paper in that one hundred things. It might be a place to start.

Til next week.