Making Choices

Here are all the notebooks from twenty some years of art group ready to go in the hole. The grave digger stopped by the other day and we picked the spot. Now I just wait for the window washers to come and go next week and bundle up the dioramas to pile up outside.

The studio is looking more organized.

Now all my wood blocks are in one place and closer to my press. The only Curiosity Box I kept is the tall one on a pedestal leaning against the wall.

Before the Expedition to Elsewhere work I spent a few years making these boxes. I did research on the origins of “collecting”.  All but this one box was either sold or donated to art auctions at Penland or Arrowmont. The following is my artist statement when they were exhibited.

Curiosity Cabinets

Artist Statement

I like to think of these boxes and the accompanying painting as “theaters of memory”.  They are staged presentations of the small things we collect.……things that require further inspection. So we bring them home, tuck them into drawers, place on shelves or discover in pockets. These pieces are my way of honoring the things I found irresistible at one time or another.

Each box has its theme set with the background of an inked collograph made on an etching press and cut to fit. Compartments are constructed within the box to fit not only the collected items but handmade books, hidden drawings and watercolors. Some things are removable, some are not. There is just enough space left for the owner to add a bit of their own collection.

You are seeing the last of mine.

Sandy Webster

I included my bibliography.

Suggested readings on the subject of collections:

To Have and to Hold by Philipp Blom

The Hummingbird Cabinet: a rare and curious history of romantic collectors by Judith Pascoe

On Longing: narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection by Susan Stewart

Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler

The one I kept is second from right middle row.

Philipp Blom said, “The objects in a collection connect us with something far away.” I really love his book and still have it.

Susan Stewart said, “The collections’ space must move between the public and the private, between display and hiding.” And I still have her dog-eared book.

So in the sorting and cleaning of the studio and trying to decide what my situation can handle in the way of “making” I have chosen more papers and fabric scraps and threads. And paints and prints.

All will be sewn in bits and pieces to small contact print papers that frankly are less than exciting but somehow at the time were “wonderful”.

I plan to work on small collages of scraps of things. Nothing too large. I want to use up the few frames that I have left for them or for new wood block/linoleum prints.

And make more tiny white line prints using hand made watercolors in the stitched pieces.

I liked adding the bits and pieces a few years ago so would like to return to it because it is something I can do upstairs sitting with Lee.

So I have gathered up the parts and made a place for them next to my seat in the den. There is something very soothing about holding them together and then moving them around to just the right arrangement. It is a very tiny way to keep order in my life.

Keeping things simple is where I am now. Here are some things that I came up with to help with that:

When removing the kitchen garbage bag, make sure to put several more in the bin before opening up the new one.

Lay out Lee’s underwear before going to the gym so when he takes his shower they are right there and I don’t return to find him still searching for them.

Fill the sink with soapy water right before serving dinner and put the cooking things in. Finish eating first so you can get the rest washed and dried so that you both leave the kitchen at the same time. (My kids used to get aggravated because I was always hovering over them to grab their plate, but all that practice has paid off.)

Make sure that you can find everything at all times. Be the one to take it out and be the one to put it back.

Keep bills paid in advance when possible and make sure that there is cash on hand in a hidden place.

And just yesterday I treated myself and the cleaning lady by ordering a brand new vacuum cleaner for downstairs. I simply can’t carry the upstairs one down and back and the cleaning lady would like not to.

Today is our day to meet a friend for lunch at the brewery and I am taking her granddaughter some fabrics for her and her friends to sew pincushions when she returns home. Bravo for them!


Til later.

A Very Good Day on the Burial Pieces

I found this beautiful remains of a Luna Moth yesterday. He seems old and worn out and fragile. I am sure he did his best. At a place where I was teaching a few years ago I would find just the wings of these moths and others at the base of a street light. The bats would go for the bodies and the wings just fell to the ground….loads of them. I think I will put those that I saved in the ground as well. I have already used them to make up bugs from my own imagination.

This series of watercolored insects on gessoed boards will not be buried. It never was exhibited but my daughter wants them, so they will have a good home.

Anyway, all the specimens from Expedition to Elsewhere have been wrapped and shellacked today.

Most everything from the exhibit is bundled.

The three dioramas will be placed in the cloths that were earth pigmented.

Hopefully there is a place for the burial site close to the studio like this place is.

Some of the things were hard to bundle, like the carefully arranged specimen jars/bottles. But the doubt passed as they should all be together.

The maps and tools will go with the dioramas. There is not much left.

Always loved looking into the dioramas.


I am keeping the guest book for my kids to enjoy. They both came down for the fun opening I gave myself when I rented a space for one week of exhibit. It was fun! I even served Expedition White and Expedition Red wine…..some very cheap wine that I made my own labels for. The food was crusty breads, cheeses and fruits.

The other thing from the exhibit that will be saved is the game played on board the ship of explorers. Native and Conquerors I think is what I named it.

Just feeling the carved pieces in my hand and the realization that this is what happens, the wealthy feel entitled to what little the poor can hang onto. The natives attempt to preserve a way of life but there is something on their land or in their huts that the conquerors covet. I love how neither of them have much room for negotiations.

I am keeping this one as a companion to the one I made with parts from Australia, called Cultural Exchange.

Here the two tribes face off in a rush to get to the other side and walk in the shoes of the others. I really love this game and the rules I made up and the arbitrator, Jimmy, named for Jimmy Carter. Sometimes he would rule that there are bad starts with good intentions and send some tribesman back home.

Anyway I am keeping both these games….one each for our kids. They are both a good lessen to play fair….or not.

That is the latest. All the bundles have been moved out of the way of the window washers coming later this month so I have plenty of time to wrap up dioramas, maps, tools and call for a grave digger.

Til later.

A Good Week

Lee picked these for me this morning….Mountain Laurel that surround the house. They are fading a bit now. The deer have eaten the tops off of the sunflowers. Irresistible green leaves sprouting up. But there are plenty left in the beds. It is just the cost of feeding deer in the yard. Everything we have out there is considered part of their food source.

And here is the Australian Scroll at the framers. If I was two inches taller I could have gotten both ends in the picture. The matte will be sort of like this counter top….Mississippi mud color. Then it will have a dark frame with hints of rust on the edges. In three weeks I should have it in place over the small couch where I sit and hand sew while watching TV with Lee.

I might just do more of these with the scraps of fabrics and threads I have left. Maybe even incorporate prints from my two small presses.

But first I need to get the art works wrapped and shellacked. Now I am onto the Expedition to Elsewhere: the Evidence.

I am filling up the long boat with bugs and other specimens. Behind are some of the cabinets of curiosities, etc. Here is one of my favorites all bundled up.

But some big bugs will be wrapped today.

Some of the stands these specimens are on will just be tossed in the hole with them….too hard to wrap with the thin wires being the only attachments.

I do not think I will wrap the large dioramas with stripped cloth as I have several large drop cloths from India that I colored with earth pigments to use as backdrops to the exhibition.  Might as well use them up as well. Empty cartons are everywhere to be broken down to take to the dump for recycling.

Once all of the pieces are wrapped from this exhibit and a few more personal bits I found, then I can call for the hole digger. Not sure I want this immense and growing pile outside my studio when the window washers come later this month. Too hard to explain.

I am finding it easier to breathe in my studio as I take out a bag a week to the trash.

Til later.

Clearing Out

About two weeks ago I took this picture of the pollen on the lake during our morning walk. The next day it was gone.

My mind has been like that….a bit clogged.

Bundling and tying and shellacking whole bodies of art work and giving them a place to wait out of sight for the ending has helped.

Sorting through books has helped. Many boxes went out this morning. More are boxed in the studio and ready for pick up.

With the books I am coming face to face with the earlier thinking that, “I will need that one day”. And really how untrue that is. Others who could have used what I kept were ignored because I was so sure that these things would be just what I needed….some day.

And what I needed all along was the space that they cluttered up with false promises. I think after all of them are removed from the studio, the best thing to do would be to remove the shelves as well.

I need clear blank spaces.

I need to find a way to get back to my yoga and tai chi practice in that cleared space.

The studio had become a place of reminders of all the things I can either no longer do or am no longer interested in doing.

Today when a friend from the art group came by to collect the books, we parted thinking that we will get together in the studio and just make prints together when I am ready. I look forward to that, sharing what little I will have left in a large open space…..just playing, no thinking, no worrying about what will become of the results, no thinking beyond making marks and printing….and learning.

When I take my blood pressure at the gym three times a week, I mentally go to a place I used to do tai chi. It was very early morning in Geelong, Victoria Australia. And I would sneak off to just inside the tree line of a Eucalyptus forest, carefully take my bow and begin to move my feet over the shed bark of the trees and listen to the whispering of that. It was so peaceful and so invigorating…all that slow breathing with the whisper of Eucalyptus.

My blood pressure is well within the  “good” range under those glaring florescent lights with the distant sound of feet pounding on treadmills and groans of physical exertion. Because I am not even there. I am in that forest.

My studio is going to be that forest for me when I get everything that is not necessary to that feeling taken away.

Much more to go, but getting there.

Til later.