New Work – Probably Just a Start

foundry center lethe boat

This is a new piece measuring 18″ long by 8″ high and 6″ deep. It is titled Voyage on the River Lethe.

As I age forgetfulness is something to prepare for and find fascinating … all about that memory thing. What was real, what was imagined, what was just put there to fill in the blanks. Anyway, much as I do not care for water, boats I find wonderful…especially those in dry dock. The River Lethe (both “es” pronounced as long “es”) is one of four rivers flowing to the River Styx and then on to Hades in Greek mythology. Those on the ferry traveling this river could drink the water and forget what they knew and therefore make the transition easier into their next stage of existence.

I think they boarded this boat and dropped their luggage in the first hold and then made their way down further into the underwater hold. Lethe also stands for concealment which is a subject I really like working with in my structures.

foundry center lethe boat detail

And here they are all settled and ready to go somewhere. They just can’t remember where. Nor can they hold on to what they thought they would always remember.

Lethe passengers

They have drunk the water. Much like the lovely person in this researched image of the Lethe River.


This is such rich territory for me to work with that as soon as I have more time, I will continue with the River Lethe and all it implies.

I made some forms to take to Arrowmont this week that I will learn how to apply different textures on their surfaces. Definitely the techniques that can evoke water and loss will be played with over and over on all the structures I am taking.

This particular piece was just entered into an exhibit for jurying. I will let you know how that works out and of course any new works on this theme.

A Surprisingly Lovely Outcome

Australia BookBox closed

The last two days have been very exciting in the studio. A wonderful book and restoration artist, Gian Frontini, from Canada joined Holly Fouts from Asheville and myself here to guide us through making boxes that look like books made of leather with inlays and hand fashioned closures.

Gian Frontini in studio

I had a small scrap of kangaroo hide that I bought in Brisbane many years ago and decided it would be just enough leather to cover a small chunky box. The size is 6″ x 4.5″ x 2.25″. I took apart a broken compass to harvest interesting brass parts for the inlay and the closure. It worked perfectly!

Australia BookBox side view

And since the box was made of kangaroo hide and the theme was also travels, I decided to put all the collected bits of Nature that ended up in suitcases and the subject of not only sketchbook drawings but silver point drawings and egg tempera paintings as seen in the previous blog and again here.


two gum leaves


pineapple pod

gum pod stick



Most of these small pieces fit into the box that has been lined with a contact print that a student gave me on my last trip. The view finder of the navigation compass was a perfect size for the closure catching over a small brass cobblers nail. The inner part of the lid is another gift from a student that is a copy of an old Australian painting made for a calendar that was then rusted. It is a traveler along a road under Eucalyptus trees. Perfect! So here is the box opened to show the contents and the cap from my most favorite dark beer, Toohey’s Old.

Australia BookBox open

Isn’t this the most wonderful treasure box!? Thank you Gian for not only the guidance but encouragement to do more. He ended by helping me turn one of my favorite scrapers into a leather paring knife. Both he and Holly made beautiful book/boxes as well. It was a great two days in the studio.


Thinking Australia

Australia Memories

This week is when I will make the final arrangements for my trip back to Australia in February 2016. It is on my mind and so are all the friends that I hope to see there. That country has been extremely rich for inspiration in my studio and at my writing desk since 1997. All through the house are artworks and mementos from down under. The above collection of works is near the foyer and within view of several Australian Aboriginal paintings.

The framed piece I made when a group of us went on a trip to Lake Mungo in 2008. I picked up the piece of cardboard from where we stopped to slide down a red hill on large hunks of the stuff. It became my canvas for recording an exceptional time with three friends I would later meet for repeat adventures. Funny how just one piece of scrap can hold the entire experience. The other pieces from top to bottom are a basket made by an Aboriginal student that I bought when taken to experience the Coorong area. Below a gift to remind me how much tea bags are used in the textile world of Australia and a fine embroidery work by an amazing stitcher from there.

This week I am preparing to take a two day class here in my studio on making a box/book with leather. There will be an inlay in the cover for something from Australia and the leather I am hoping to use will be the last of my kangaroo hide.

Below are some egg tempera paintings I made of small bits and pieces of Australia.  They hang side by side in my studio and like the things above have the ability to take me back there over and over. The backgrounds for each small painting is actually a view of the land below as a very good friend took me out into the outback on his small, very small airplane. That was probably the most wonderful experience ever of being in that country. Flying low and landing where the explorers Burke and Wills perished, then off to the opal mines of White Cliffs, the famous pub in Birdsville where the horse races are held and then into Broken Hill for an unexpected Poets in Pubs night. We never missed a pub stop along the way. Beautiful.


There is actually another group of four small egg temperas in this grouping. I just don’t seem to have an image with all of them together.

Every time I go there I make and take a sketchbook to work with. Below is one of my favorites from 2003.

Australia sketchbook ' class=

I think when I return from this next trip to Australia I am going to write down all the experiences I have had there. And then when I am very, very old my children can read it to me. I will turn the pages very slowly as I handle all those sketchbooks and listen to stories that I might not remember quite so well by then. I will also be sipping an Australian red if not a Tooheys Old.

The trip this time will start in Hobart, a little Melbourne, a lot of St. Andrews, a little Melbourne, Halls Gap in the Grampians and back home in time to catch the dogwood in bloom and start writing.

This Week in the Studio

River Lethe

It is 9:20 am on Saturday morning. The rain is continuing to come down. The fall festival here in town has been canceled. So I took pictures of what has kept me occupied this week in the studio. Years from now I suppose I can add these to “The Things I Used to Do”. But for now here it is….my week in review.

The upper image is a piece I am doing in hopes of entering it in a juried exhibit. It is going to be titled something like “Along the River Lethe”. The river named Lethe is one of the four rivers that flowed into the Styx river in Greek mythology….all of them heading to Hades. And each of them having names that translate into Hate, Fire, Woe, Wailing and Lethe for forgetfulness and concealment. Those are the brief translations.

Because I am getting older and have always worked with the idea of concealed and revealed, the River Lethe seemed like a good place to spend some time. So I built a boat with its passengers concealed under water with only fragments of memory surrounding them, fragments floating by on the currents of threads….tenuous threads of memory. And I am thinking that the boat will get to its destination (River Styx) and forget that was the place to be and start back….back and forth on the River Lethe losing recollections.

I have made tiny bamboo ladders for the souls to enter the boat and store their bits of clothing bundles on the way down to the passenger level. The text words have been picked out of an old romance novel. Actually the best text when fragments are needed is a romance novel. There are so many prepositions and past tense verbs that when isolated carry endless meanings. I have used this book titled Moss Rose and written by Taylor Day or Day Taylor (isn’t that a great romance novel writers name?) for so many years when I just wanted text for my artist books. The Proust Pulley, Lost Volumes I,II, III, jewelry and collage work have all benefited from how Ms Taylor (Day) put her words together.

There is much more to go on the it and I am thinking the river itself will be part of the piece. Why not?

Also this week I have begun to pack for a three day masters workshop weekend at Arrowmont. This one is taught by Stoney Lamar and Dan Essig. One is a wood turner, the other a book sculptor. It is all about surface texturing. I am taking all the things I would like to try to add texture to. Likely they will be expecting wood turners with their bowls and book artists with their wooden covers. I am more interested in how their techniques might be applied to my own materials of choice so it should be a good class and a wonderful opportunity to be back on the campus of Arrowmont. It has to have been at least six years since I taught there. Here are my bits and pieces to take so far.

materials for textures class

Milk paint will be a good part of the class and I learned much about this medium from Dolph Smith when doing the book below in his class when we were both teaching in Australia back in ’03. Back then we used very thin veneer and cut out our designs. I was trying to create an image of old Mercer Scroggs window in his workshop shed. The front of the book has the window and then on the back is the negative space of the hammer with some nails. This was fun to do and ended up being coptic bound with blank pages.

mercer book

mercer book back

During the week I spent two days helping my friend and student, Patti, finish and frame her two white line print textile pieces. She is the one student so far that I know who took the idea of making multiples of her prints and then stitching them together to create a “quilt”. All of her carvings are 2″ square and printed by hand with enough border to allow for the breathing space as well as the overlap needed for stitching. I only have this image of her Springtime birds. The companion piece is Autumn and is all acorns and oak leaves.  We framed them in natural pine deep frames measuring 18″ x 24″.

Pattis white line birds

Finally this week included reworking a painting that makes little sense out of context. In a novel I am writing….very slowly….there is an artist who paints in a particular sequence using particular imagery and very specific techniques. And since Lydia was so thorough in her commentary about her work, I decided to see if I could paint the “picture” she is working on in the novel.

She paints in large 4′ x 4′ canvases and I only had a 3′ x 3′ one. First she creates a mood with a background around a hazy figure that just appears there on the canvas. Then she has a dialogue with that figure to reason out what is mattering to that person or her. That then is described in a detailed painting placed somewhere on the body. I liked her idea enough to give it a go. The first one is glopping on almost every color of acrylic I have with a palette knife and dragging it down top to bottom. I kept covering it with more until I got it in an earth tone I could live with or more to the point Lydia could live with. It hung that way for better than a month in the studio and this week I changed the background to something softer, using the electric sander to dig down deeper and then add lighter paints and sand some more. I was likely influenced by the posting of those large sanded kimono paintings in an earlier blog.

Lydias painting started

Lydias painting revised

One last, very last I promise, thing. I cleaned and waxed the last of the small foundry molds for the In Search of Lost Time series.

foundry parts

It’s the rain and procrastination that has made this blog entry so long. but it only took one hour to complete.

I will do better next time.