That Time of Year

Starting now the bucks are staying close to the house and corn. They nudge the little ones out of the way and follow the girls into the bushes. We have one old matriarch who has raised several fawns over the years. She does not hesitate to push back and run these big boys off if they get bothersome. Males can be a bother to some of us older females.

We are finishing up the Thanksgiving weekend with projects around the house. Our son comes down this time of year and helps out. He is making wine glasses out of the tops of the wine bottles that his dad cut to make drinks glasses from the bottoms. He spent several hours making the turned bases from scraps of wood for the bases. Lee and I now have a set he made for us. We will test them out in a couple of hours.

This one was made with a bit of charred wormy chestnut left over from Lee’s large dining room table he made several years ago. Most of our guests enjoyed drinking from these as well as learning how Patrick made them.

Besides the wine selection there is always the Thanksgiving feast of turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry relish, green beans (haricot verts). Followed up with a wonderful pumpkin ginger cheese cake and pumpkin pie with additional wines.

All these Thanksgiving meals look the same. Someone missed the gravy on this one. Lots of filling our plates and stomachs and then groaning about it afterwards. More of the tradition. There is always such good conversations going on. Mostly politics and art. Politics because we have no guests that can possibly ignore the abominable situation our country finds itself in this past year, and art because we all love it. Below is what sits on the chest by the new Christmas tree this year. My sculptures based on Robert Hughes’ book titled, Fatal Shore, about the convict settlement of Australia.

Last year Patrick and I decided that we would do a 19 Crimes themed tree. All I needed to do was save nineteen empty bottles of the wine with the convicts pictured on the labels and presenting corks depicting one of those crimes that got them deported down under. The wine is good and fairly inexpensive. Lately the nineteenth crime was released and I found mine just in time to make the deadline for an opportunity to go to a party in Alcatraz. Not my idea of a night out but I have collected an embarrassingly amount of corks, visited their distributor in Melbourne and feel I need to carry through with whatever is offered by the makers of such good stuff.

Recently they came out with an app for the Iphone that makes the character on the label come to life to give you three short statements about their plight. Their heads turn, eyes blink, mouth moves….all terribly clever. All making sure that you have a complete selection to show your guests how amazing it all is. The company deserves having a themed Christmas tree for all their efforts and added amusements in my life. So here it is. Using the same large beams that we assemble each year and configure to fit our theme.  Remember the Cow Story from two years ago?

Very un-Christmas-like and then last years Oil Can Collection tree?

Well here we are now!

There are all nineteen crimes represented on nineteen bottles that include the warden. Wine red ribbons flow from upturned bottles into wine glasses down below. The grape clusters are made from stained corks grouped together. My friend, Moe, gave me iron rats a few years ago and they scurry in and out of the stashed bottles. The Amazon-ordered grape leaves arrived just in time. We arranged the beams to give us the maximum of “serving” areas. When it gets darker and we open another bottle, I will photograph it with all the remote controlled lights glowing. We love it.

Here are some details.

The two cab savs sit side by side here. The one on the left was the convict whose descendants objected to his being put on the label and his replacement on the right. The quality stayed the same.


And the Hard Chard lady convict who carried the nineteenth crime to me. I particularly like her sad tale.


At the top of the tree perched on a barrel are the first and latest reds.  The newest one (laying down) is called “the uprising” and has been aged for thirty days in rum barrels. His label has scorched edges and seems the only one with a sense of humor.

And more details of spilling wine and cork grape clusters. I will get back to this later….the sun is about to set and I need to find the cork screw.

Okay, it is darker and here are some more with the lighted candles.

Finishing with the warden. This was great fun. Boggles the mind what Patrick and I will do next year to top this one!

Til later….

Alone in the Studio

Sadie is looking for the students we had in the studio last week. All she could find was the local turkey family. It is just a week before the Thanksgiving holiday and the leaves are leaving rather quickly.

I am busy in the studio working on pieces for the exhibit next April when I return from Australia. Here is one of the work tables with all the pieces (actually just about half) needed to make decisions on placement, arrangement and commitment. I am combining papers, prints, cloth and bits of Nature onto boards.

I like lining up lines that relate to the overall “landscape” of the piece.

And I am just showing the detail shots of some of the four finished pieces.

Some like the one above include a wood engraving I did a few years back on a paper purchased in China.

Some are a bit narrative using several cropped wood block relief prints about my yard and fish pond.

Here is one that I thought was finished but decided to add just a bit of an etching done in Australia.

These details are feeding into plans for extra small and more intimate pieces.

While in Japan we would walk very early in the mornings, often in the mist. I carved a wood engraving of the small stacked rice stems in the fields along the road just the other side of small bamboo fences. The “outtakes” of these prints are coming in handy now for the new work.

This afternoon I will take all the built spacers that have to fit in between the glass and the collage and cover them with black paper before the tedious job of fitting them into the frame.  I should just buy black foam core material for this, but hate to waste the scraps of museum board so cut and layer up the thicknesses I need. If I paid for professional framing, the cost would be so much more and I rather like the challenge of doing it.

Last night we went over to a neighbors for a bit of refreshment. This is what greeted us in the front yard.

Isn’t that lit tree sweet? It just sits there in the woods as a reminder that more than Thanksgiving is coming. I am not all that ready for any of it. The year went too fast. And I was reminded last night by another neighbor that I used to be more social with taking turns hosting gatherings of neighbors and their friends. Then, he reminded me, I declared that I no longer wanted to do it, so take me off the list. It did not take very long before it was more strangers than friends that gathered around the table….but even some of the “friends” I realized I did not care to spend an evening with, much less feed them.

Once you become part of a community there are expectations of performance.  And I am simply too much beyond having the willingness to participate. It was a lovely evening with good food and very good company. Lots of catching up with some of the neighbors I do enjoy and we could come home not feeling we had to host the next one. I think there can be rewards for being just a touch ornery. Age with a sense of limited time can do that to a person.

Now I should be thinking about the menu for Thanksgiving….something to feed nine people I very much look forward to feeding and spending time with. I can already hear the conversations of art and politics…..opinions on both are easy to share over good food and wine.

Hopefully some of them will compose a letter for the Trump bowl made by one of the students last week to be mailed to the White House soon.

*And if any of you want to contribute to the bowl, I will send you the address to have your letter added.

And just for fun here is some of the art that showed up at Art Group last Sunday. I am proud to contribute dryer lint to my fellow artist so he can add to the mystique of these pieces. The one in the foreground is a “Fake News Detector.”

We could not get it to work in my house….too much National Public Radio.

Til the holiday next week is over.

Sharing Studio Space with Students

Perfect view from the studio doors this past week. Wonderful work being done just this side of the view.

I met two fellow students in a paper making class this summer and offered them an opportunity to come to the studio and work for a week on the things that mattered to them. They stayed in the apartment and arrived daily at 8:30 am, went back for an hour lunch break and then back to the work in the studio. All three of us learned so much about not only what matters to each of us but how can we express it through processes and materials.

One of them brought the most astoundingly beautifully marked papers. For me it was overwhelming on how it would be possible to know where to start with such a selection. She is recognized for teaching mark making which is not exactly calligraphy but shares a suredness in the way of handling a tool in such a way as to literally “flow” over a surface to make the most appealing marks.

Here are some of the materials and compositions in progress.

She ended up giving me the grey piece in the upper left of this image as I saw so much in it, so much of what seemed to matter to her in observations of Nature simply came alive in this bit of a sketch for her. I am pleased to have it hanging in the studio for inspiration. And here are more of her materials.

I taught her how to spin clothing patterns and thai kozo into threads to add to her work which is all about “excavation”  and seeing what is in front of her steps and what lies below the surface. Her sense of design and careful manipulation of pieces until it is “just right” has been a good influence on my hurried pace in the studio. I will look to her gift of the small piece hanging in the studio to keep me focused on slowing down a bit.

The other student came prepared to make a container to send our present and pathetic president a message, in fact several messages. We chose my pilates bowl to use as a container form after thinking her already blown up balloons were simply not adequate for the message she wanted to send to the white house.

She wrote her own messages on the papers used to make the form. And it was no easy task removing the bowl from the ball.

Lots of shellac on the inside helped keep the form sturdy. I added the first message to the bowl.

This student is looking to get the bowl filled with letters to the president and mailed by the end of the year or at the very latest January 21st marking his first year in office. If you would like to contribute simply contact me and I will send her name and address so you can send it on to her. For me personally, it felt plenty good to put my two cents in.

While waiting for layers of papers to dry on the bowl, she also learned how to do collographs that will go into long concertina books about her and two companions’ travels along the Camino Trail in Spain. I am quite sure she will be getting a small press and continue printing images. Here are the ones for the books she plans. I really liked her use of simple symbolic forms to represent the Camino.

I am so glad that I made the offer to these two. The five days were filled with passions about work, emotions that were hard to keep in check and a generosity that enhanced the week for all of us. Their enthusiasm for talking about art in general and theirs in particular was nothing short of enriching for myself and my husband as well when it came to wine time and trips out for pizza.

Tomorrow is the monthly Art Group meeting and I will talk about how good this week was and how they wanted my sheets on how to form an art group and questions to ask yourself about being an artist. And I do have to say that another good thing, very good thing, about the week is that a short stop by the grocery store on our way to the pizza brewery I found the latest 19 Crimes wine stopped up with my second 19th crime cork. I love that it was aged for just 30 days in rum barrels…no more, no less.

We served it to friends who know their reds and were leaving to return home to Canada. It passed inspection.  Just a small gathering of very good friends to say good bye to them over good food, wine and spirits.

I also wanted my Canadian friend to see the results of his lesson on using my earth pigments to make an oil paint to surface design papers. This would be a very early marbling technique and was quite addictive for me using up the last of his bath of a more traditional solution and solvent.

And then my adaptation here in my own studio using corn starch, mineral spirits and feathers to flip the colors around on the surface.

So now I have more materials, more inspiration, more new friends who hopefully will return to make us all think and laugh. I know where to keep the friends and the inspiration but stuffing more papers in drawers to use later is not such a good idea when I am looking to downsize here in the studio. But it is a technique I can teach in Collaboration with Nature classes.

It is down to just Lee and I now. One has returned to Asheville, two back to Charlotte and the friends from Canada will return tomorrow, right about the time I am showing the Art Group what good company I kept this week.

Til next week when hopefully I make something with all this inspiration.

New Works from Old Ideas

This assemblage is in a 16″ x 20″ frame and has hung in the guest rooms of our homes since shortly after we moved here. I probably put it together in 1994 or 1995 after walking the property and finding this irresistible piece of bark with tracking marks on the inner side. I wondered if it could be a language and perhaps a message for something.

It is a pitiful photo as I just took it through the glass from several feet away. But I remember thinking that the message could have been for moths. Maybe they were to get in formation and go somewhere together. I stitched fancy stitches as paths with my sewing machine using gold thread and twined together grasses and sticks with fine brass wire. All of it was mounted on a heavy tapa cloth paper sheet and attached to a larger lokta paper on board.

I loved this piece and I think I still do. The moths came from a printed tissue paper used for wrapping gifts. I bought a couple sheets of it because I really liked the colors and soft details of the moths. I carefully cut out one of each, and then some, to position around the bark message. Then I added the other bits because it seemed like a good idea.

It is more than twenty years later and I am still drawn to things in the natural world. While working yesterday on new pieces for an exhibition next spring I remembered this piece and thought of the similarities. Here is a photo of one of the new pieces…..and it actually is in the same size frame.

Even the palette is similar. In this “new” work I am using actual bits and pieces from Nature that have been altered in some way, contact prints from gathered plants and etchings or wood engravings of other gathered plants done on my press in the studio. I like fitting the things together, arranging them on a fixed size surface. The ones I have completed so far remind me of pieced quilts. The sewing machine has been used in the attaching of one piece to another.

The first two of these are heavily influenced by the Australian Travel piece from a few weeks ago. It takes so much cutting and piecing that even the bits cut off might be just the right thing for the next one, or the one after that.

I don’t think I ever stopped doing this…fitting bits together. Here is one of the HomeWorks done for John C Cambpell Craft Shop a few years ago.

And these were influenced by the Curiosity Cabinet series.

And all of these had old collographs I did in undergraduate school as background “wall papers”. There is only one left that I keep with the Expedition of Elsewhere: the Evidence as part of my artist statement. And that whole exhibition was based on discoveries in the natural world.

And more recently these that sold through the Craft Shop as well after being framed in shadow boxes and “landscaped”.

Back in the eighties at Arrowmont a friend and I thought we should try exchanging materials. She used colored plastic covered telephone wires and I used lots of gathered plant materials. We did not last an hour before trading back. Each of us totally incapable of working with such foreign materials. Once in our hands the other’s material was seen as limiting our access to whatever we wanted to say. It didn’t work. I ended up twining a small basket in bright colors with buttons of all things on the ends of the spokes. I made her work with her materials. She just soaked my sticks and grasses, got offended by the smell and feel of them and gave them back.

I am not sure we can escape from what our hands want to touch.

Anywhere that is where I am now. I am going off to lunch, then back to these little fellows that should benefit Planned Parenthood in a time of angry, ignorant men making choices for women’s rights.