I Wanted the Artist to Be Older

This morning I went by myself to see an exhibition at the Young Harris College art gallery not far from here. It had been recommended by friends that I see it. I had the place to myself. No one else was there. As soon as I walked in the door, I was swept up in the work. I looked all over for an artist’s statement about what I was looking at…there was none. So, left with my own imagination, I thought this was an exhibition of recollections of familial connections throughout an older woman’s life. As soon as I soaked it all up, I looked the artist up online. No, she looked to be in her thirties at most, in love with collecting materials, and an extraordinary talent with selecting and placing those materials.

So here is a fraction of the work on exhibit:

And then at the end there was this.

And behind the curtain…

I sat down in the chair and typed my secret….then took a feather.

It now is hung in my studio to remind me not only of my secret but as a reminder that I need to get busy. I need to be the old woman I took this young artist for. There seems to be a sense of urgency when I see the materials that surround me….the materials that have yet to be put into place on something that says, “Here I am as I see myself today.” I have been writing autobiographical works on paper. But I have not “built” myself in awhile.

I thought, at first, this artist was me. I saw so much in the use of stitch, found object, parts of things that had other purpose before they were collected as elements of design. Several things in common through the look of her work and remembering mine. I will say she used several old photographs, all of which I assumed were from her family’s history. I am not so sure of that now. Why would almost everything there be for sale if it was her family?

Personally, I have strong views on using old photographs of people we don’t have personal connections with. They (the photographs) are quick private glances of a moment in their lives that we should not feel free to exploit as simply another bit of material to make our work more intriguing. They never posed for that purpose, never could have guessed that their picture would be used by total strangers years later as just another interesting material placed among other old things.

Aside from all that, the exhibit is beautifully done and I am so glad friends recommended I go see it. The design and craftsmanship is near perfection. The amount of work to peer into is most plentiful and rewarding. It will be on exhibit until late September.

My heart ached when I saw this exhibit and it ached a bit more when I realized the artist was not an old woman putting her life’s connection to her own history on display. I so wanted her to be an old lady gripping needle and thread, cloth, paper and what was left of a lifetime of saving bits and pieces for a final display of a life connected to those who came before her.

And a year ago today I had just moved in…

All those boxes unpacked and their contents put where they belong. The best parts are on the walls and in here, the studio, where the most amazing thoughts occur to me. I could finish writing about a man leaving. I could plug in the second story on a disk by Tana French, I could draw and paint another image of Burke and Wills growing old together, I could go for a walk to step away from myself….But I won’t. I am going to pour a glass of wine and think about how much it matters to me that the artist was not an old lady.

Thank you for listening to this post. There really is no one else who would not have preferred I was talking about the weather.

Wine is waiting…

til later….


Mostly About the Men

I have mopped the floors, done the laundry, tidied up. I was supposed to devote this weekend to writing the Burke and Wills story….maybe tomorrow.

Took this picture on my way to the gym the other day to start tai chi classes…Seemed to capture the mood of “which way now”.

Moving away from the table full of men each morning has made me more observant. I write as I listen and look. The writing is done on a small yellow lined pad. Easy to pull out of my purse and easy to slip out of sight when someone comes over to talk.

Here is one day’s notes.

“He is still talking – non-stop. He needs to be heard but not necessarily listened to. Just those around him to not talk while he does. Interesting how we all are secure knowing there will not be a test later. Not talking while he does is the only requirement. Two of my favorites are not here yet. Funny how they level the place by just taking a seat. I wonder if that dynamic could be captured in art? By line? Textile? Color? Maybe I need to do a sketchbook of these men gathering…no direct image capturing but done after being here. Marks that are the sensations of recall. “Sensations of Recall”. Nice. That is such a good title for an exhibition. Maybe a very long horizontal textile or paper with marks meant to be read left to right. Eye level. Small stones tied to the bottom for the “lows”.

This could be something worked on daily, weekly. Rolled up as completed. Why not? Fabric would take stitching and weight of stone. But paper captures the fragility of recalling. That is another good term. “Fragility of Recall”. Maybe it could all be done in writing that is unreadable. Pencil that fades in and out. Like memory/recall. To make it workable – maybe small scraps to be tied to the long background cloth/paper…this might be worth pursuing. But I need to spend time with Burke and Wills….

One of the men stopped by my table to ask about what I was writing. I told him about the idea of Sensations of Recall and wondering the best way to interpret it in a medium of fragility. He has sculpted metal pieces and said he was only concerned with form and that I seemed to put so much thinking into the work before even starting. Now I am thinking that the way I work has a built-in procrastination.

It got me to thinking about how groups of men have been such a comfortable place for my art and writing. Here is a piece I wrote more than a few years ago. It is the last three stanzas of a longer piece titled, The Repairman.

There is a casualness in the shared trust between him and the others around him.

And because of this it seems that each becomes a better man

when in his company.


I come here often to fill a longing in myself

and to remember others like him

who I have lost along the way.


Here in this shop, I watch and wait for him to select

the parts needed to fix the broken.

Here I am whole.


The men I wrote about in this piece gave me old bits and pieces of their scraps no longer needed to make something whole again. I made several sculptures in old wooden boxes that I called “Patriarchs” from these.  Each one had an old saw blade or sanding disk placed behind it to give the impression of him being an angel. Then I photographed each of them to alter the image into just their essence. I only kept one of these sculptures. It lives on a top shelf in the living room.

It is going to be hot again today. So I have pulled all the shades down, turned fans and the A/C on.  Before I started this blog, I finished off the Stick and Stones Book.

Now it goes on the shelves with other finished books.

All of this reminds me of the years asking myself,  “Have I done enough and have I done it right?”  I asked so many others if they were always asking themselves this.  No, they didn’t.  One woman, artist/printmaker Freda Fairchild, made me look at her as she said, “Sandy, it doesn’t matter.” If it doesn’t matter then why am I still wondering. It is one of those overthinking days. I will go find Burke and Wills….

Til later….



A Bit Late With This One

So much going on in just a few days. Last Thursday I attended a board meeting at the local library. We all went to give support to the library for refusing to ban a book from their shelves. A very ignorant and self-inflicted fearful woman was coming to rail against a children’s book referencing the life of a transgender child.  The woman was claiming to bring a group of pastors along with her.

In all honesty here, and strictly speaking for myself, almost all pastors missed their chance to be righteous when they could not make a stand against the obscene behaviors of Donald Trump in 2015 and continue to defer to their less-than-Christian parishioners’ blind beliefs that he might just be the “second coming”. But I digress…

It was so reassuring that I live in a decent area when the library was packed with supporters for the library’s policy on banning books. They simply do not unless it goes through a rigorous process to have the book removed from the shelves. The complaining woman proudly claimed her source of information on such matters came from Fox News. The audience erupted in laughter before we could stop ourselves. The pastors tried to make the case of if genders were changed then it was going against god’s gender assignments.  But the teachers, social workers and finally a parent of a transgender child made the case for how terribly difficult they make it for those personally involved in keeping these young people feeling secure. Their bigotry and fear have no place in setting policies prohibiting rights.

It was a good day. My own thinking is, if sushi is on the menu and you don’t like it, don’t order it. But you have no right to have it taken off the menu. It has happened with abortion rights in this country and we will see it again and again as the ignorant gain positions of power.

All that with no pictures!

Heading toward the light at the gym in the morning. Very hot days this week, so I have stayed inside….listening to a long book on tape and sewing. The book was my first audio book from the library since before Lee’s diagnosis. An 18 CD mystery by Tana French, In The Woods. I will take it back today and get another of hers. I found a note I made of this that she wrote in another book about aging.

A gradual decline. An insidious, almost unnoticeable process that you only discover at sudden, shocking moments.”

Now that is good writing! I must have got that from an actual book because CDs do not let you take notes. I used to take lots of notes from Cormac McCarthy books as well.

And speaking of good stories, I am watching all the Hercule Poirot episodes.

I am quite taken by these period pieces done in England. The cars, houses, gardens, clothes, trains, and those old buses! And these two are so dapper. The actor Hugh Fraser was so well cast as Hastings. I looked him up and found he has several novels to his credit. And Miss Lemon, so fragile looking with skin like porcelain. Anyway I will be sad to see the end of them.

Speaking of writing, I had a meeting with a woman in the poetry group who is quite well published in children’s poems. She asked me to scan what I had written in rhyme so far of the Burke and Wills story. So I made her a copy as well as myself before I met up with her. No, scanning in poetry means something totally different! It is the symbols over each syllable that show where rhythm and emphasis make the spoken words sound “right” or “struggling”. Isn’t that interesting? She is going to educate me in the process of writing poetry for children and gave me copies of other’s poems to see how and why they work so well. She wants me to continue and says it is not all that common for the writer to also be the illustrator in children’s books. I am grateful for her interest.

I went into my closet and pulled out things I wasn’t wearing. A pair of grey linen pants I made a few years back were showing areas of extreme thinness. So I took more bits of linen (some from the sleeves of a shirt that were too snug at the wrist) and some scraps from cutting out other pants. While I listened to the novel, I hand stitched the patches on.

Here is the shirt I cut the sleeves off. I couldn’t bear to part with all those stitched patches I put on it a few years ago. Now it is a pullover vest of sorts.

And another purchased linen shirt that I put leaf dyed patches on all the places things dribbled down the front. Well. the leaf images all washed out eventually so I put more linen patches on top. I will have to be careful who I wear these clothes around. But they are just at the right stage of softness when they falter a bit and need attention.

And I did get to the last pages of the Sticks and Stones Book. Only have the hidden flaps to draw in now. Actually, I look at this book and wonder, “What was the point of all this??!!”  And the only answer is that it kept me busy making marks in among someone else’s marks. It made me feel connected to Australia with all those eucalyptus leaves. It made me feel in good company. And that is more than enough.

When I need someone to talk to, you know the kind I mean, the ones who are actually listening, I open a book of blank pages and write or draw…or I go to my poetry meetings where they listen to every word. In a couple of weeks I am meeting up with a two or three artists over lunch. Maybe I can talk art to them. Maybe I can hear about art and their struggles to get an idea across. Maybe. I will let you know.

Anyway here is the last of Sticks and Stones. It has been good company.

And speaking of good company…my moving off by myself at another table when meeting up with the coffee group, has been a good idea. Instead of sitting in the crosshairs of testosterone, they will approach my two stool table with their cup of coffee and sit down for a one-on-one chat. The man who advised me to visualize a stop sign before I said something too abruptly has appeared again. We had a lovely talk about age, possessions, and the need to hold onto the ones that touch you deeply in some way. He used to write. I think he should again. He has a kind way of seeing things.

I guess this as good a place as any to stop.

Til later….


Another Bunch of Days Flown By

The other day I pulled out my scraps of fabric to stitch together. I wanted to add a piece to the Gathering Book that I like to work in when I know my old basket friends in Australia have gathered to make baskets and do some stitching. So I pinned two pieces together.

The little brown house went into the Gathering Book to be seen through a window I cut under the drawn needle of the previous page.

Knowing the basket makers were all gathering at a beautiful historic place where I was lucky enough to teach many workshops over the years, I decided to do a drawing of it to put opposite the small stitched house.

I drew in some palm inflorescence because it is a favorite material of so many of the basket makers there. I love working in this book when they are all gathered together and believe I can hear them catching up and sharing…Australians have always been such good sharers.

The other patched piece is using almost all of my contemporary Japanese scraps of cloth. It is for another project I will get to later.

I made a slight shift in my seating with the men in the morning. I moved off to a separate table to still hear them but also get some writing done in the listening. It gives them one more chair around the table for when other friends come in, and keeps me out of some of the many conversations.

I am still handy for one on one visits but not stuck in the middle of conversations from two or three sides.

And the other day I took myself to lunch and found the best quiet spot right near the doorway into the bar part of the restaurant. A small table for two that I can easily put my notepad on for writing while waiting for lunch. I might do this once a week as a treat. My builder with a couple of his workers came in and offered to buy my lunch if I joined them. I declined. And another person came up to introduce herself and say she remembered me from my many years teaching at the folk school. She was employed in the craft shop where some of my work was sold. Nice to be remembered. And I really liked my corner.

The walk to the gym yesterday was very nice. But also very wet.

And the volleyball court.

And I finished the editing on Kind Gestures, a novella. It is now available with the other three books on Amazon. I can see why people pay for professional editors. No matter how hard you look and are familiar with the story as an author, you still miss things. After Short Stories was published and I received a copy, I noticed that a whole paragraph was in italics. I might be dragging a finger over the bar that has text options and not noticing that I bumped italics or that dreadful shadow line option. Anyway it is what it is at this point. And I am through until I get a bunch more new poems written for Inner Navigations, Vol. 2.

Regarding the Kind Gestures story, someone asked years ago why I preferred the company of men. The question made me wonder why that was. Off the top of my head there seemed like a slew of reasons, but the fact was, I did not know many women in groups like I did men. So I decided if I wrote a story that involved several different women, at least I was making an attempt in listening to what they had to say.

I only needed to spend one twelve hour day to get to know them, so structured the story over those hours and the women who were showing who they were in that time frame. When I finished telling the story, I realized that I never put more than two together at a time. No groups.

And the character, Margaret, was so me when I wrote about her. Her short experience in a book club is a version of my only time in an all women’s group. I have used Margaret in other works as well. Loose Threads in the Short Stories book and other places. I seem to count on her continued companionship and think she will be around as long as I am.

Because I have the time this morning, I will show you what I did with the Japanese scraps patch. It is an artwork that I will get framed for friends who house was lost to fire. They are building a new house now. I asked for some of the burned wood at the time to use in an artwork for them.

I took out a large piece of printmaking paper and tore it in half. Now with a 22″ by 30″ I could begin placing pieces. After laying the fabric patch where I thought it should be, I drew a section for a rock foundation. I knew there would also be a drawn tree to the left. I was thinking how we just redo what we need with what we have…starting over and making do in new places.

At one time in my putting in and taking out process, I found a perfectly colored wood block print I did of an owl. I liked him for a bit coming out from the top of the patch. And then I didn’t. I went for a circular cloth stitched moon instead. The burned pieces of the old house are fitted here and there with the cloth and drawing. I will admit that when trying to explain what I was doing to an artist friend, it occurred to me that I might need to get ahold of myself. Was I getting too much on the page. And then I remembered that many years ago this young woman’s grandmother bought a piece of mine that had a large woodblock print, scraps from a building we owned (thin red barn wood pieces) and a worn and torn bit of Japanese fish kite making up a large work that still hangs in the dining room of what is now her daughter’s house.

So no, this is fine. It is me conveying thoughts through cloth, artwork and found object. It will be going to the framers soon. And if they do not like the work, there is always the guest room. So much of what simply doesn’t make the cut ends up in guest rooms.

But my god, it sure felt good to stitch and draw. Now what!

Til later….