Hard Truths In and Out of the Studio

I tried a collograph this week. Here is the start using a mat board backing and some textures of papers and cloth. Dried weeds from the dam walk and thick card stock for the rocks.

Added a bit and then covered with PVA glue.

Then gessoed to seal it all in while adding a bit more texture to the rocks.

A good coat of shellac.

Inked up and ready to go.

Pitiful print is the result.

The thing I learned here is that collographs take time, lots of time. Especially if you are using different colors. There is a finesse to the process that needs to be learned before you squash the plate completely flat.

And with Lee slipping a bit more this week I have no time to practice this. I have cleaned up the glass plate of mixed colors and am taking a really hard look at whether I really want to bother with this. What you see here is the third print…the first two just awful….one too wet….one too dry. And I think that to do it more precisely I need to use extra cushion between the roller and felts….more felts would be smart. Also a very lightly dampened paper might be another good idea.

The three I did get printed could get stitched into with cloth….if they don’t end up in the bin.

Things just are not looking like you think they should. For example my latest attempt at a new picture of myself.

It is a rather dull light when I look in the mirror each morning to “fix things up”. Then I step into the light. So today I decided to update my picture….my “selfie” so to speak. All I can say is no wonder my niece thought I looked like her grandmother, my own mother. I really thought I was younger….but seventy-five is beginning to show.


Or one without the bags under the eye.

And one more thing. We found this brand new 19 Crimes wine in the store while looking for the Hard Chard which by the way hits you a bit like battery acid if you drink it as cold as you think you should drink a chardonnay. …better when closer to room temperature.

But this new sauvignon blanc cleverly called “block” is very good. And the story of Mr. Michael Moore convict is nice as well….”I used to make chains in Ireland, in Australia I wore them…..”

Til later when I have something more exciting than a new wine.

The Gifts of Kind Letters and a New Artwork

This is such an interesting image. One of the girls I gave some of my own artwork to at the craft shop rather than take it back home gave me small framed work of her own as a gift the other day. It is graphite and charcoal.  Off to the side a little girl sits in a tub of water. I think she is me. I was bathed in a galvanized tub like this when I was about her age. She stares out at the viewer and waits for someone to come back and take care of her.

Actually I just love this image. The fact that it is tones of grey and a bit blurry make it all the more mysterious. I like how she looks capable of handling her needs all by herself if someone would just give her the soap, cloth and towel. She just sits there waiting with almost the enigmatic smile of Mona Lisa.

When I photographed it to write about I noticed that my own image is superimposed over the little girl. So now I love the photo even as much as the artwork. She hangs in the hall filling a space that always bothered me between two composite drawings I did of Lee and I….our life in all the parts of importance at the time…..maybe ten years ago.

I chose to draw pictures of all the things we felt were important to our identity at the time. Here I am with all the steps of making earth pigment paints, my favorite scotch and glass that Lee made me from a wine bottle, my tai chi and yoga practice, trees, the influences of Australia, weaving, actually twining with an emphasis on shaped first letters of my family’s names, dinner parties, writing, drawing.

And Lee.

His favorite cat, Spooky, his garden, stone work around his black bamboo, bee hives, cooking eggs Benedict, building shelves where needed, making his own beer, feeding the deer, wood turning, collecting honey.

These were fun to do. A way of saying, “Here we are!” Now they say to me, “There we were.” And aren’t we lucky to have done so much, so many things that have brought us so much joy. We still have many jars of his honey stashed in the storage room that I kept forgetting to give away. The art group was the main recipient of that honey and now even they have gone….but leaving some very good memories behind.

And as to the kind letters. My Australian friends have been so wonderful taking the time to keep in touch and lift me up with kindness. I will remember their words when I next have to heft a battery charger, clean out a scuzzy pond filter, retrace Lee’s steps to find a tool or his sunglasses. Their words come at an especially needed time as so many of us have had to say goodbye to a long time friend down under.

And the emails from friends here in the States who say they think I am doing a good job dealing with the changes that Lee and I are going through. Thank you.

And Adele is right, it is hard being “it” when there is no one else to talk to.

So I just talk here. Kind people are listening.

Now back to Lee who is short of weeder eater cord by now….and a cleaned studio waiting for that collograph plate to be put together.

Til later when I have something to show for those efforts.






Thoughts with Pictures

This morning on our walk at the dam. I love the subtle shades of blue as the hills recede. Here are just a few more pictures from our walk there the past couple of weeks.

I love the color of the boulders supporting the dam.

And the grasses along the paved walkway.

And these that we collected some of last year that were dried out so I could use them to make “trees” in collographs.

Lee is having a nap now so I can have time to write this blog. This morning we spread twenty bags of mulch…and I still need more. He did some weeder eating. I learned how to start his truck that the battery had run down on. I knew I should have been starting it every so often once it was removed from the garage, parked by the shed with a brand new battery, but I didn’t. Frankly I just did not want to add one more thing to the list. But I learned how to open the hood, find the battery, connect the right clips, find an extension cord, plug it all in, wait, start the truck, run it forward and then backward, park it again, put all the equipment away. The battery charger is heavy and I really hate having to learn how to do all these things….all these things that before his dementia I just had to ask Lee to take care of. Yesterday I had to locate the window washer fluid holder under my own hood and fill it up. So many things I never had to do before. It has been a tough realization that there is no one else but me. The magic fix it, how can I help man, is simply not coming by.

I will just add it to the rest of new things to look after. I will add it to changing the filter on the fish pond, refilling the fish pond, recharging the yard tool batteries, locating wherever he put the tools when he got tired. It is not an endless list but it constantly grows and I marvel that I can fit it all in and still get a good nights sleep and some of my own work done.

For those who did not see the posting on facebook here is the finished shirt. I wore it to the brewery yesterday for our weekly lunch out.

A detail.

I am not doing a lot in the studio but would like to try some more collographs next week. For now I need to clear the space of all the sewing things. Then I can start something new. And I have convinced myself that I can drop what I am doing, even covered with ink, and go start up the weeder eater or pull out more cord or go get the other charged battery without getting upset. It is a waste of time and energy to get bothered about helping Lee. It is also pretty darn selfish. I am the only one there is to help him right now and he is so pleased to get the small chore he has set for himself finished or at least part way finished. Every day he looks forward to “getting back at it”. He just needs a bit of help.

And I might even be having a student in the studio learning white line printmaking soon. He has been with me before and understands the limited time I might have but seems so pleased to be able to learn the technique. And I am really happy to have someone to pass on one of my favorite ways of making prints. I miss teaching.

Not much else going on. I bought two bottles of single malt scotch yesterday in case a fellow scotch person just happens by. But I doubt that will happen. So I will have plenty for later when the holidays come round. And there is always the every few weeks “scotch talk”  over the phone with my son. Sometimes just saying things out loud makes them disappear.

So til later when I might have a few new prints to show.

Finishing the Sewing for Now

The past several days I have been altering the clothes I bought from Havana Blue in Melbourne, Australia. Mostly I don’t try things on…..just see if they are on sale and if the size looks right. And because I follow Havana Blue on Facebook just to see the cut of the clothes, I wanted to get to the shop while there. Then of course buy whatever would haunt me later if I didn’t buy it.

This white shirt was actually some kind of soft linen coat. I looked like a walking duvet cover when I put it on at home. At least one third of it is now in the “spare cloth” bin. Next I went to the pants that this was bought to go with. A navy blue or cobalt, not sure which because I only wear pale blues. They were quite roomy due to not only the cut but the rectangular opening in the side front. I closed that over and took further tucks on the inseam hem.

They actually look wearable now.

Next was another over-sized top from the same shop. I have to say here that the younger, very pretty woman who was showing me things in the shop, looked also like she was packing on some more than necessary pounds but managed to look very stunning in a blue pants, top and duster. I tried to talk her into just going into the changing room, putting something else on and letting me buy what she was wearing. She wouldn’t. But after a quick and yet discreet look at my body, she started pulling things off the rack.

The kind friend, Barbara, who took me to the shop was, as most Australian women are, kind. There were no comments like, “Sandy, you do not want to wear that.” Those comments are more like what I would hear here in the states, either verbally or with a look, or a decided shake of the head. So thank you, Barbara for your kindness and the opportunity to remake what looked like a good idea at the time.

Here is the soft grey open weave top.

And again, about one third is in the bin with the white linen. The necklace with this was inspired by my looking down at the floor and seeing all the small scraps from sewing the past several days. Unfortunately I spent two days thinking it was a good idea to stitch on all the squares…kantha stitches, and when I finished it was way too much….totally “goobered” as one might say. So I made another one  because there are so many scraps. I used a stiffening iron-on something papery and than hand stitched them closed around the linen like cord with matching sewing threads.

I like the softness of it and the practicality as it might just cover whatever I have spilt down my front. Here it is with the dark grey top.

And finally here is the label inside the Havana Blue clothing.

Of course I am supposed to wash it in cold water, dry flat, not wring it out….maybe I can just hose them off in the yard with a bit of dish detergent. Then a day later when they are dry go ahead and fish them out from under a tree, peel off the bird mess and then press with a warm iron.

And don’t you just love how it says bananablue. Now was this really made there in Australia, where the lovely women told me, “Right here in Melbourne” or somewhere where they had a hard time doing the translation of Havana Blue.

Regardless, I would not trade that experience of being there and buying these clothes for anything. She even managed to sell me a great linen scarf to “tie it all together.” It is a very usable white with lots of splotches of different blues on it. Lovely.

What is left to sew on is hemming a black pair of pants from a shop in Asheville….then I quit for now. What I have to get rid of are some blouses that never will fit and I never liked that I got on sale, therefore had to buy them. Those and two pairs of rayon slacks that for five years I have meant to hem but the pesky buttons up the sides seemed more trouble than it was worth. I have a taller friend who will get the lot later this week.

So that is it for now. End of sewing stories unless something spectacular happens.

Til later.

PS In the meantime I am staying out of shops.