Doing a Full On Catch Up

These are finished. And below are some stages of the little racoon who is a bit worried about how to get down.

And now the start of a fox.

And the last two days of drawings…

Some very dreadful

knitted scarves are now tossed in

the cat bed basket.


Drawing these two scarves

I understand why the cats

gave up their basket.

And now back to the book made for thinking through houses because it also worked to get the ideas surrounding a series of three boats.

And then the opening line of thinking about a series of boats.

This boat goes nowhere without assistance. Most often by way of his wagon chauffer. The boat either does not know about water or just is unaware of his primary function – which is staying afloat in water.

I think the story is about independence – going our own way and the supportive relationships that are there for us when needed. The boat will not acknowledge his origins of intention – to be on water – in water. The boat stays on land and takes every opportunity to see if this could be his place – can he belong here. How does it feel to be “a boat out of water?”

The next boat – deeper – more volume – less weighty looking – scrim over bamboo frame – plaster – Japanese lace paper on outside, matte spray, gesso.

This boat is like

A nest

A bird

A cloud

A feather

An egg

This boat is afraid of nothing. It likes to be in the air. It takes things away – not toward – to be in the boat is to be on your way to an adventure. The boat’s companion will likely be a kite – an assistant for his airborne travels. It is the reverse of a rock.

Small pamphlet books fill the boat front to back – each signature cut in the shape of the boat belly. Papers of rusted vellum and laser ink jet office – also stitched with occasional gold metallic threads that extend beyond page and therefore stick out of the boat – slightly above the pages that are just above the boats sides/height.

I am surprised that when completed it was about returning and not leaving as planned. I feel very good about this piece, it has my mark all over it.

It sits well and can be hung to rock slowly in the air. The metallic gold paint over the plastered and gessoed and then Japanese papered surface is coated with earth pigments from here and then heavily shellacked, has a look of old bronze. A very good feel to the hands. I am titling it, Return Voyage of Recorded Memories. Gold threads represent the threads of recollections and their fragmented way of coming back to us.

And built in envelopes to hold samples of materials used…

Finished the original boat – wheels, sail and rudder attached.


Another boat that does not get wet! Roots on oars – rock as anchor. Branches of dead Japanese maple as sails. Boat filled with lichen moss. Boat body is canoe-shaped of bamboo frame then cloth/shellac- all covered with a scrim like fabric that has been dyed with tea. It was a curtain in a previously owned house.

The boat is anchored to the land – very much about the land and Nature. Unlike the boat with wheels this boat cannot move – it has a ghost like quality. I love the proportions – this one may be my favorite so far. The big one floats in the air, the next one rolls on wheels. This one has a sense of wanting to be in its place. Not one that has been abandoned to the elements.

There are still blank pages in that book but I am through using it. The only reason it did not get buried with the houses is because I liked to remind myself of how I can think an artwork through…get all the messy bits out of the way and keep control of my intentions.

And now for something I wanted to follow up on.

Putting words on a page…

I am not writing a short story or a longer piece of fiction. I am not writing a memoir…but I do wonder what starts the flow of words onto a page.

And after giving it some thought, this is how the following piece came to be.

I am alone with no interruptions.

A cloudy day helps…sparkling sun brings distractions I think.

A legal pad and pen are blank and right there waiting.

I wait until I see something or someone in my imagination that needs looking at, needs listening to…

And then it is all down on that pad…in separate lines…almost breathless.

It is not biographical…I am just paying attention.

I like the words. I like the image. It is like a short, very short, film.

Sometimes the character is so strong that they will be there later with more of their story.


If You Looked


If you looked

you would have

seen it in her face.

The way she looked

just now.


A glance in your direction

before she looked away,

back at her hands

holding onto each other

in her lap.



You would have noticed

how much was said

just then

in the way  she would not

return your gaze.


And saw how

her mouth was set,

her shoulders tensed,

how she pulled back

when you spoke.


If you looked

you would know

that you will stay on

the other side of the wall

and out of arms reach.


Leave her now

and let her go back

to the place

behind the door

that has no room for you


She will not look back at you

and does not want to hear

what you remember.

And you would have known that

if you looked.


Yes, I know. I could be visited by a little boy and his puppy. But his feelings and ours, for that matter, are plastered all over facebook.

But if that kid ever wanted to tell someone how much he really wanted a cat, he will let me know.

Til later



Thanksgiving Day

This morning we took a walk along the trail. It looks so different from the last time I showed pictures. The mist made it perfect for photographing. Let’s walk.

And we are back home…

I finished the latest and sixth Responsibility Hand…more small things to take on and remember it happens.

And my last four days of drawings….still on those scarves.

Very old worn saris

make up these Kantha stitched scarves

and they were on sale!


One side apple green

the other a soft beige hue.

lovely knitted wool.


Less than successful

attempt at eco dyeing

but such a soft silk.


Hand dyed and then stitched

long loose silk and cotton scarf

made by thoughtful friend.


My mother used to cut poems she liked out of magazines and newspapers. I would sometimes do the same. This one from The Detroit Free Press in 1972 or 73 seems appropriate today. I pasted it to a recipe card back then, which also seems appropriate. Never found the author.

“Lord, in thy Mercy’s tender care

hear one earnest urgent prayer

for all who wander to and fro

and have no special place to go.

Who see the windows warm with light

in other people’s homes at night.

And feel their loneliness the more

that others hurry to some door

where love expectant warms the air

and one is loved by those who care.

Bless those who rootless, restless roam

and have no place to be at home;

remember those we may not know

who have no special place to go.”


That’s it for today. I am going to watch “cop shows” with Lee, fix hotdogs for lunch, read some more of our book to him and then work on a simple Thanksgiving dinner of Cornish game hen, dressing, broccoli with hollandaise and pumpkin pie!

Til later

Some More Thoughts and Images

First off I will get the drawings a day over with….

I pieced together

scraps of colored silk fabrics

making a long scarf.


Cotton grey and white

patterned scarf is very soft

and loosely woven.


SuziBJ cut

the bottom part of a skirt

for this pleated scarf.


My drawer is so full

of these Mahdi Chandler scarves

made from bits of gauze.


Then a switch back to travel journals….. starting in France where my daughter took this picture of me wandering the streets of a small village.

And drawings from the journal I took along.

And some more random journal entries…


It is the journal that is indispensable when traveling. Not the camera or even the companions. The camera gives too much information and the companions will not see nor remember it the way I do. But the journal with quick marks of local color, wines, foods, and notes bring the entire trip back each time I refer to it. I see the place and smell the food. I taste the wine again and hear those sounds of being in the country, in the hotel, at an art opening, alone in an unfinished building with the soft sound of cane toad feet dragging across the floor toward my bed.  My journals are filled with a shorthand and economy of marks that preserve it all, and I can return anytime I want to.

Young Patrick is waiting in the pub somewhere in New South Wales to shout me another beer while I wait to be found. The Poets in Pubs group that meets monthly in Broken Hill are still seated around the table in the back room listening to me read their favorite American poet in an appropriate accent. I can smell the worn leather case belonging to an elderly former boxer as he removes an old black and white photo of himself “in the day” and the poem he wrote earlier that week.

There are travel journals from Japan, China, Bali, France and Italy but the outback towns of Australia is where I prefer to spend most of my return voyages. Our shoulders touch, our eyes meet and we raise our Toohey’s Old and Stone’s Ginger Wine in remembrance.

And one of the reasons I so love Australia….

Notes from 2007 on Teaching in Australia

“Fourteen of them are here and I interview them all to find their personal direction and get them to contain their passions to a small place that has lids, doors, pages, covers, bags and baskets – how much of all this do they want to conceal or reveal. Some of those working with the personal stay quiet and have the materials needed. Others might ask my input on materials and form. Then they, too, go quiet and leave me out of their next decision. Now I am only the direction sign.

I envy them at these moments of discovery, adjusting, learning and note-taking.  So I busy myself with making another sample, drawing and writing on the board, and try not to hover too close to them.

Later I will make the rounds again, one by one, to see if I am needed or not. If I am, it is usually a technical problem, easily solved while they let me handle their work and materials.  They will also share why their work is taking a particular form. How it all fits around some thing that matters to them.

This is the gift they give to me – letting me in to help make the spaces and places for things that matter.


The other day two friends came a long ways to lift my spirits. Kent, a student of mine who took private white line printmaking classes with me here until a year ago, and his wife, Catherine, a well known textile artist, showed up with these gifts.

Kent brought the single malt scotch for me and the assortment of dark beers for Lee. Catherine brought Madeleines and a fresh baked loaf of sour dough bread. She has taught in Australia and it was wonderful to share our thoughts on teaching in that country. They said they will return and bring me some sour dough starter. I am so happy they came and are thinking of coming back. Kent has kept in touch this past year by sending hand drawn images on postcards for Lee and I. Such a thoughtful couple. Thank you!

And speaking of Lee, I found this poem I wrote six years ago…..




She travels

He prefers to stay home


She is vegetarian

He needs red meat


She will talk to anyone

He is selective or silent


Her glass is half full

He is on the way to empty


How does this work?


After forty-seven years of one floating

And the other sinking


They simply trust the tether line

S. Webster.


Til later…




A Deeper Look Into My Art Practice Before

I was looking into more old journal drawings and came across this book that was made to record the thoughts and drawings of a series about my childhood home. The book was shaped like a house and the whatever was handy paper for the folios were marked into before any writing or drawing took place. I did not want to open it and have clean blank pages staring back.

So what follows is how a total of three house shaped structures came about and evolved along the way. I needed to capture all my thoughts in the process. I will start off with this one of many artist statements I wrote quite a while ago that captures how I work.

The Order of Things:

As an artist who is creating something, it must start with an idea, an idea that I feel strongly about fixing into a visual form. It must be something that matters to me and worth the expenditure of time and materials to resolve. The choices made along the way to completion are continually in service to that idea. There is no deviation through the seduction of materials and I will keep the processes of making within my own range of learned and practiced techniques.

I am not interested in making someone else’s art. I don’t have time for that. Nor am I interested in simply “playing” in the studio. The work that happens in my studio is exactly that, work.

It is an unwavering commitment to an idea that requires continual choices in a particular order of selection, combination, completion and assessment….S. Webster

Now the first house…

“Indeed, every great image has an unfathomable oneiric depth to which the personal past adds special color. Consequently it is not until late in life that we really revere an image, when we discover that its roots plunge well beyond the history that is fixed in our memories.”  Gaston Bachelard

Journal for a work addressing families, homes and secrets:

I am not comfortable exposing or even thinking about others’ secrets. Not even my own. Actually the corners will have to stay dark and the layers covered. I will need to find metaphors for our secrets.

There could be layers of houses with the walls made of letters from home – the positive letters of my mother’s – all layering over a more secret center pulse of the house’s existence – small windows here and there – one sees through to the next but never the whole picture.

“The corner is a sort of half-box, part walls, part door.” Gaston Bachelard

I like the safeness of the corners as well as the mystery.

“And this utterly familiar common thing would suddenly be revealed to me with all the wonder with which we discover a thing we have seen all our lives and yet have never known before.” Thomas Wolfe

And then I continue thinking about the houses I will make……


Return to the house structure for Revealing and Concealing Space…piano hinged box with separate roof and floor pieces. It can open completely out and turn inside out….adapt to the secrecy of my place in the house.


The back wall of fence opens to release me to the world of Nature….

“Doors that open to the countryside seem to confer freedom behind the world’s back.” Ramon Gomez

These are the things I would bring back into my space at home – all took on a preciousness and were carefully tucked away – hidden in boxes – or placed on shelves or pressed in books.

This house has moved to a place that encourages escape from its confines and all that implies – closed in, unfinished or disrepair – too small – no air for a young tomboy. Yet there is something comforting about its form. Solid and protective. There are remnants of the attempts my mother made to give the house a “homeness”. The curtain is enough as she was not a true lover of housekeeping – hated cooking and was terrible at it. Did not like housework and chose to ignore it. We were loved and allowed to be free. She was a very tolerant woman.

“It was a patriarchal system where men managed the means of acquisition and made the decisions which determined our lives. The woman’s obligation (and usually desire) was to ease those determinations into existence. As children we knew our place, our value, and our limitations. We also knew that we were not necessarily needed and therefore easily excused to wander and explore our natural world in complete safety and with wild abandon.”…from artist statement to Where I Once Belonged

The entire experience about constructing this house fluctuated with my feelings brought on by memories. Somewhere in the building and collecting and writing I let go of the secrecy of the house’s corners and wanted to find myself in this place. I wanted to show the freedom I had to go away and be out of the confines of a small place with too many people and too much unpredictable noise. Always out the door and gone – safely away rather than safely home. The wallpaper and finding the text – my own writing rather than Bachelard’s determined my final response to the house.

I still need to explore the secrets, the corners and the darker interiors of this house, but at least now I have a point of reference – a point I do not mind returning to for more and more information about myself and my memories of home (house).


The second in the series was a small house that has a book coming out of the side. In the attic space is a strip of paper all bundled up with the text from “where I once belonged”. Pages were coffee filters. I never wrote on them….

The third in the series was back to building a house.

I have made the third house – returning to the early idea of a house that opens to reveal its corners that remain inaccessible. It is slightly taller than the main part of house #1. The front two corners are hinged to the back half of the house halfway down the outside wall. The interior is more of the wallpaper of #1 and the addition of a photocopy of a picture I took at Dolph Smith’s homestead in Ripley, TN. The distorted view through the window and the exterior’s clapboard siding has such a look of familiarity. The outdoors beckons (through the window) to come outside, “come away” it calls. The floor is treated as in #1 house. Outside the house a shingle look of papers overlapping – much better looking so I recovered the exteriors of house #1 and the book house of #2. Roots only appear here and there (one floor with attics above. I like this one.

I had someone make a tiny wooden chair to put in the center of the floor of this third house…it’s emptiness was my “presence of absence”.

All the writing above appears in the journal along with other notations of materials used and why.

This series was exhibited a few times. I loved making it and taking notes on my memories of what mattered to include in the houses.

The last I saw of them was here….about a year and half ago.

I found this process of making interesting and wanted to share it. Tomorrow I will return to the usual…more drawings a day, more images and writings from old journals.

Til then