Quiet Time in the Studio

Today I finished five loads of wash and put it all away, wrapped some Christmas gifts, made chili for lunch, saw a bit of news and had my 10,000 steps in by 9:30 this morning.  When I finish here and turn off Lyle Lovett, I will head back upstairs, check on Lee, finish a beer I started for lunch and make tomato basil soup for dinner. It is a very cold day here in North Carolina. A day for things cooked in pots over flames. But earlier this week……..

I finished the right hand of new responsibilities….the things Lee can no longer do or remember to do. Now I have another outline of the left hand again to start to fill that one in…next week maybe I will do some drawing into it.

I also finished the cane toad spine small journal.

It took a lot of fussing to get the hide to adhere to the already waxed covers, but I like how it feels in the hand. It is about 3.5″ x 5″ x 1″. It is a good fit in the hand. The inside end papers are a paper I “marbled” using the soils from home.

I made a thick pool of corn starch paste to float the pigments that had been mixed with linseed oil and then thinned with mineral spirits to be flicked onto the paste surface with turkey feathers. I did not mix the colors very much before draping the paper over the top and pulling it off to dry. The smell stayed for a while but eventually disappeared. I like how the paper looks and it seems more relevant to my work than fancier marbled papers. Those papers always look like the end papers to something by Shakespeare or a blank journal that will likely never be used.

Then I got back to the shawl that is a very tactile representation of dementia. It is so soft to work on.

I am almost through covering the piece with these embroidery thread kantha stitches. Just six more inches on one end. Then I am going to use a finer thread and go into the patches of silks and contact printed light weight wools.

The green earth pigment I used on the linen shawl ate right through to give me some lovely holes to work with. After placing the silk and wool scraps to fill the holes, I backed it with another linen shawl the same size.

Here it is from many months ago.

It was at the point where most people would have just thrown it out. But something about it holding parts of the land Lee and I invested in and the unexpected turns that happen in art making and life was simply too appealing. So now when I have some time, I take it out, put on my glasses to see the thread and eye of the needle come together in not too many attempts, pull it through and tie a knot at one end that looks more like a snarl of loops, pick a direction and try to keep the stitching somewhat straight.

All sounds rather pitiful when I read that paragraph over but I do like doing it.

Til next time.

Small Tools in the Studio

I was sorting out this tools case I made a couple of months ago. Some new things needed to be added. Then I remembered how this store bought awl always rolls off my work table. A quick trip to the belt sander in the studio fixed it right up.

And after sanding and waxing the awl I decided to polish up this needle case. I found it in a bunch of boxes related to loom weaving. The top unscrews….a very handy little thing.

And bamboo awl and bone folder made by Matthew English, a wonderful paper maker from Tennessee.

Here are some of my other needle cases with a hammer and brass and wood tool for making starter holes. I keep a couple of darning needles inside the handle just in case I don’t have enough awls. The one with the branch handle I made myself. It is good for pushing with the palm of my hand. Several of these were confiscated in Australia customs when I sent them over to sell at a vendors table. They saw more bark on them than I did.

Little cedar toothpick holders from the town I was a little girl in. I like that this was a popular souvenir of that north woods town stuck in the middle of state and federal land.  And I have no idea what the flat brass needle was for but I used it for weaving shifu threads for a long time before I found these beauties.

I bought them from a Tasmanian bone needle maker and could only part with one of them. They are very kind to the rough paper shifu threads that I make and weave. The big black bone folder is just in the collection because it was different and looked like it could take a good pressing. The small indispensable stainless rulers came from the online store, MicroMark. The six inch one is filled with holes at all the measurements so as to fit your mechanical pencil through and get an accurate mark.

More bone folders. The top one is the first one I ever bought. It fits the hand just right. The next two were made by Jim Croft. Jane Nicholas from Australia gave me her fabric folder which works wonderfully on papers. That little finger indent gives extra pressure right where it is needed. And finally my latest bone folder made by Kent Stewart of a material called delrin. It is very thin at the wide end so tucks things in quite nicely. It is considered better than the teflon ones and I was happy to find one in the craft shop after Kent let me use his in my final class at the folk school

And finally my little needle case made from contact printed wool bought in Tasmania with pages made from chemically rusted cloth. The little scissors I bought from a vendor while teaching in Australia. They are just the right size for snipping threads and pop into their little case that just covers the blades.

I have lots more tools….the Japanese hole punch for example. But the ones here are the ones I love holding and every once in a while will take the time to clean them up, give a bit of wax where needed and put them back where I can find them again.

We went to a friend’s house in Weaverville, NC for Thanksgiving dinner. Now our son is on the road home, back to Michigan. Lee is working on something in his shop that our son set up for him to do. And I am thinking it is time for lunch.

Til later.

Changing It Up A Bit

Earlier this summer we changed the bedroom around to accommodate this new king size bed. We both sleep much better now with a bit of distance. And the last of a series on how man affects the environment paintings fit just right over the bed with an Australian aboriginal basket hanging between them.

To make the living room more “conversational” I found the perfect ottomans that actually have storage inside them. They are just what I wanted for sitting in front of the coffee table and facing the couch.

A bit of mud cloth over the back of the couch fits with other mud cloths in the room.

It takes the input of friends who have known me for years to help with making subtle changes that make everything look better.  Just what we needed, friends helping out at the right time. Thanks Moe and Marla. We feel spruced up for the holidays.

Speaking of which I printed my Christmas cards and have them ready to go in the mail. Very small hand pulled etchings.

A little tree that is on its last needles.

All mounted and paired with their envelopes.

And a perfect message printed inside the card.

Our gift to Marla for watching over Lee while I taught my last class for John C Campbell Folk School was a printmaking class. Her tiny work got me inspired to make the little tree etching which was very easy to print on my XCut XPress machine.

I will pick up more of the small mylar-like etching plates when I go to Melbourne again this coming March. And this time will get a good supply of them. They are quite inexpensive and very easy to work on. Being transparent it is easy to place them over my sketch, tape them down and etch away.

And speaking of changing things up a bit. I gave this four foot square painting to the new Louisiana food themed restaurant in Hayesville, NC. It is now the first thing you see when you walk in the door to Carlotta’s. It felt good to see it in new surroundings and out of the studio. I still have two more this size to think about.

From now on I will keep my work small and easier to dispose of.

That is about it for now…..til later. Enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday.

Something Old and Something New

I found it! Packed in with basket “stuff” was this hand towel that I wove many, many years ago when I was learning to weave on the loom and make baskets. It occurred to me that when we dry our hands we only use the front half of the hanging towel. So why not conserve yarn and only weave half a towel, hem it and hang it on a cleverly woven rug beater knot? I remember how ingenious I thought this was. Only three were made after it was roundly put down by both my basket makers guild and weaving guild. A very nice friend bought one, I gave one to my mother and here is the one I kept hoping more than two would think it a good idea. I was sincerely ready to go into production. Late 70s thinking with yarns bought at a Ben Franklin dime store. Funny stuff.

But more success in the studio with those leather bits and smooth rocks.

A cane toad spined book with earth pigments embedded into covers.

The upper smooth one on the right is covered with Icelandic cod skin. One side tan and the other grey. Upper left is kangaroo straps woven together on the top over a pretty patterned rock. Bottom left is cane toad woven into kangaroo on square 2″ stone. And another cane toad strapped rock with a piece of white rawhide woven through.

Here are the under sides.

Here is the small cane toad stone that I started with after the parchment looking rawhide ones from a couple of weeks ago.

Using the parrot fish skins did not work. The skin was too fluffy and easily separated but here is the failure in red on one side and black on the other. It has since been taken off.

And then I wanted the one stone with one strap weaving through the other to show up the weaving and added the perfect bit of bamboo root.

All of these rocks feel good in the hand and will be put to service on my work table in the studio.

Here are all of them in their new home.

Keeping them company in the center is a gift from one of my favorite students, now deceased, Lin Parker. It was a tumbling rock placed into the paint mixing at a plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is like holding a piece of shiny glass and is a good weight to do duty with the others.

There are a few stones left to cover but I tucked them out of sight in the bottom of this box. The only other ones that could be used are already weighting down the fish outside the studio to prevent them from banging into each other.

And now all I need to do is sew the text block for this book and make end papers with the marbled paper I made from the soils here at home.

Then I need to get onto designing and printing those Christmas cards. Small etchings would be nice in a simple design is what I am aiming for.

Til next time.