Just Thinking

These are the tai chi figures that stay on one wall in the studio. They are supposed to remind me that with practice, repetition, meditation and focus, things will improve. And it is true. Just do it. But sometimes it is like force feeding yourself brussel sprouts.

Anyway the sewing spree is over. Nothing in the fabric stash left but some horrible blue that was bought only because it was on sale and fabrics that were rusted and have limited value on wearability. That’s twice so far. Spell check disputes the spelling of “brussel” and now “wearability”. I have added them both to their “dictionary”. They need to just start checking these words before jumping to conclusions.

This week my second catalog from the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Exhibit came. There were only fifty-four pieces chosen for the open entries and twenty-nine for the emerging artist category. I feel lucky indeed to have been chosen.

And here is my work among some very stellar pieces in the catalogue.

So now there are two more books, even though small, that I won’t be able to part with. Where does all this stuff go when you slowly realize that either you or it has left the other behind?

This is the opposite wall of the tai chi figures over a day bed. I need to get rid of these books. I don’t use them anymore. Most are art related. Some are beautiful blank journals that I made with the intention of filling with word and/or image. I don’t need them. What I need is a way to get rid of them. I need to throw other things away. My energy is lacking for that right now. Maybe when fall comes and I get busy just for the sake of getting busy again. But now it is summer here, hot humid summer. It is a boring hot humid summer as well.

What I would like is to pare it all down to just the presses, papers, watercolors and brushes. And nothing over five by seven inches. If I want bigger, then piece them all together. I have done it before.

Easy to do and easy to control….and easy to toss on a burn pile.

I wonder sometimes if it is just that I might have lost the passion for doing something. I don’t care so much about some things enough to do work about it. Well, Australia would be the exception. I wonder if it is since the election of such an obvious ass that not only mine but other’s energies have waned. We get sucked into the hope that maybe today is the day his incompetent party will grow some spine and say “Enough!” But it doesn’t happen. Even today when most of us are wondering if we need lessons in speaking Russian. I feel the need to get the sewing machine back out and make more of these pincushions.

So maybe the sewing spree is not over. I do want to thank two friends from Australia who read my blog and assured me that “we are who we are” and “you look just like Michelle Pfeiffer.”  Such kindness from so far away. I think I will take them each a present from the studio when I go back down under next March. At the very least it would be two less things in the studio.

And then there is this. A special glass for white wine made by our son while he visited a couple of weeks ago. made from a pinot grigio bottle. (Spell check did not like those two words either…geesh!)

Another hour or so and I can head to the porch for one of these….probably two.

That is it for now. I am going back to my little sketch books….only seven more to complete.

I did have a bit of a break this morning while the cleaning lady was here. I made a thank you card for my physical therapist who has been working with me on strengthening vaginal muscles. It was a pop up card with a scientific drawing of that particular area with the vaginal floor muscle rigged to move up and down. How many of us get an opportunity to do something like that? My therapy is over. I know what to do. And like the tai chi figures remind me…..just do it!

Til next week….or whenever I have the urge to talk about something.

Mending, Patching, Holding Things Together

It is sort of like this sometimes…just holding things together. Lee’s and my old clothing patches held together with spun coffee filters that contain hidden frustrations. Those small bits of gold for the times you just have to smile.

Anyway to be practical and because I am having a hard time giving things up right now, I am patching up shirts that feel so good that I need to keep them around me….literally. Sort of a hug in old cloth. Wouldn’t India Flint just love that. Actually I see that she is starting an online group that will do just that…patch things up one way or another.

Here is a linen shirt that I wore while doing some indigo dyeing at Beautiful Silks in Australia. You can’t be splashing all that blue around without getting some on your clothes. I almost tossed it out.

There were some scraps of a greyish linen left from making another shirt a few years ago. So I found some embroidery floss in “nice” colors to kantha stitch the patches that would cover all the splotches. See those buttons on the shirt. They cost $4 each so this is the third shirt they have been transferred to.

I took those buttons off….too much of a conflict with all these patches. I love how this feels and only have one more large patch on a side to finish before I can slip back into it. Also you can see that I am not so good with stitching which is a good thing as patching old clothes like the Japanese boro pieces seems to only require holding one thing to another.

And it is a soothing thing to do like stitching on the dementia shawl.

And a scarf I made of odd bits of old clothes and botanical print patches.

I have no idea why I can’t seem to keep those lines of stitching straight!

And while rescuing favorite shirts, I saved this one. It has a large loose cowl neck that tries to catch whatever it can. The unfortunate thing is that what goes over the cowl lands firmly on the chest or more correctly, bodice, of the garment. It is a big boxy shirt and worn so much that the softness is wonderful. The slits at the sides were fraying at the top, one of the cats let me know to put her down by making a neat hole near the shoulder and frankly the whole lower bottom looked a bit like a clean up rag for grease.

But here is the good thing. A pair of linen pants that were very close in color had their seat worn out and ended up in the “maybe I can patch it” pile. I cut a healthy chunk of the thigh to cover the front and made three smaller patches to do the side slits and cat tear.

I love this shirt. Here are the patches.

The weight of the patching cloth is a bit heavier but the color is a good match. I am not going to bother with that little mark on the corner hem here. And I machine stitched the patches…no crookety hand work. If I learn to lean over my plate more this shirt has a lot more wear left in it.

And here is what came in the mail the other day from the online fabric store….new linens to play with. The color ones will be sleeveless pull over short vests….sort of bibs over long shirts.

Company is coming today and that is a good thing for both of us. A few days of something different.

I can hear Lee running the weed eater which is a good thing. Thanks to a friend who repaired it and took away all the fuel cans that Lee was finding confusing. So now he has not only his weed eater back but his leaf blower as well. It is difficult for him to not remember how to do the things he was so good at. But put a piece of yard equipment in his hands and he is happy.

We are both trying to keep things straight.

My workshop in Australia next March filled straight away so I am happy to be planning that trip with students already. All the physical therapies for various parts of the body are going well and I am in shoes….wide ones….but shoes.

For now I will be off and finish the stitching on the last patch. Then I will wear the shirt…but not with my Eileen Fisher dressed friend. She will be secretly grateful I’m sure.

Not much else new right now.

More later.

Six Days Later

Coming home from the gym at 6:30 this morning this little fellow greeted me on the way up to the house. Fifteen more were feeding on the corn Lee had just put out. They have turned to the pretty sienna color of summer that is so much more lively than the dull greyish-beige of winter. Both colors match the tones of the landscape at the time.

I have now finished half of the fourteen little sketch books of things that caught my eye in Australia.

Here are some of the newer ones.

I put Toni Rogers’ little pyrography driftwood sticks on the first page of one of the books. I have several of these little sticks and love how they feel in the hand. Some I gave as gifts, other smaller ones I put on a necklace. My shadow from a sketchbook of being way out in the outback and that small little fruit that is similar to the kangaroo apple in size and shape. The kangaroo apple was and likely still is a form of Australian Aboriginal birth control. It was also added to water to stun the fish and make catching them easier. I also learned that this fruit, the kangaroo apple,  was sent to Germany for the production of what we know today as birth control pills. Interesting, huh?

I would only see Toni at basket makers gatherings. And that made me look closer at the sketchbooks with baskets drawn in them. Here is one of those large open weave fish that has his mouth open to receive onions and other vegetables. The orange colored frond is added to look like a fin and gum nuts are tied on to be the fish’s eyes. I am not sure what the main body is woven of but something like our cattails, I suppose. They hang from fish line or cord attached to the mouth and the tail by enough length to suspend off a hook under cupboards. Here are also threads from Beautiful Silks and another plant.

And in another one is a billy can that I bought in Halls Gap general store next to an Australian hat drawn in the Birdsville Pub. As I understood it, when you came in you hung your hat on one wall. When you died, the hat was moved to the wall behind the bar and ceiling with your name on it.

And on the back or last page of one of the books, I painted a rainbow lorikeet. They are so beautifully colored and so prolific around Australia.

So I set the small books aside for a bit and started sewing. A shirt was made from some fabric I bought at the Grampians Textile conference where I taught this year. It is going to be fun to wear with or without a shirt underneath. Next will be a long loose cowl necked gauzy shirt and a nice handkerchief linen in grey so I can try out using an old shirt as a pattern.

Maybe after that I will go for the complex little zippered carry all bag.


This one is Andie Marten’s bag that is made of lovely antique Japanese fabrics. There are four separate zippered pouches connected with spaces in between and all inside a larger zippered bag. It took me quite a while to find interesting fabrics and order zippers the right size. And because a thoughtful student found the pattern online and sent it to me, I think I can figure it out. Very complex.

Here are a few of other hand sewn tools of Andie’s that I covet. These first two are bags she made for herself and Mem.


These last few are of her thread collector. It is a tube about the diameter of a Pringle can, covered with cloth and then the clever lens type opening to collect the threads inside. On the bottom is this fish. Lovely!

Anyway, I will get to my zippered bag sometime soon. All in beiges and blacks.

Til later.


More Tiny Sketchbooks in the Works

I am using my previous sketchbooks done in Australia as the source for these tiny books. It is easy to get lost in the memory of each page. Some of these are from spending time with Barbara Rowe at her condominium in Melbourne. See that teal tea pot there? I sketched this pot every time I stayed with her. The color, the shape and that carved open spout.  She has had it for years and always fixed me tea in it. Another memory of her is that first one on the left. Barbara is an extraordinary master of placing things together. It could be her ikebana training or she is just a natural. Anyway that was the largest green glass pot that held just a couple of stems of grasses. The way the light caught in the glass and colored the things around it and the way the breeze rustled the grasses as it swept gently through from the balcony ten floors up was so beautiful and quiet. I loved staying with her because of the quiet and gentleness of her and her things. One time she took a tangerine and used a bit of hand twisted daylily leaf to tie it up like a gift. Then she placed it on a bit of dried hard green grass she rescued from someone’s mower on the street and placed this arrangement in the center of the table. It was beautiful and that tangerine is sketched onto one of these pages.

And some of these pages are from the garden between Janet DeBoer’s house and Gallery 159 out the back. Janet would be busy writing and organizing the Textile Fibre Forum magazine and I would have the quiet time in this space to pick up leaves and pods to record. I think that is called a shrimp plant that I also found in her yard. The pepper tree branch in the center of the picture is from the ride across Australia in 2001. I treated myself to a first class ticket on the Indian Pacific Railway and because I was a lone traveler, mealtimes found me filling in at tables made up to seat four. Luckily I was placed quite often with three sisters traveling together. When they saw my sketchbook they would pick bits of the bush whenever we stopped to look around. I do not think the peppers are edible but they were so delicate to draw with those lovely flowing little leaves along the thin branches. I had made a special book to take on this train ride for all the things I wanted to write about only, no sketching. I left it on the train and it was lost forever. But the sketchbook from that time brings some of it back. And you can not be down under without seeing and hearing a kookaburra.

The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Cairns and then Melbourne and the work of John Davis seen in the most amazing exhibition of his life in art. All those fish made with muslin, sticks and asphalt. The catalog from that show is right up there with the one from Lee Bontecou’s retrospective in Chicago. Both heavy on earth tones. Both keeping you transfixed in place while you just look in wonder and appreciation that an artist can and did do this.

I wish there was more work like this. So much today is “showy”, colorful, and about being beautiful. It seems the materials used is what the work is about. And we can all look at it and say, “lovely”. And that is all there is to say.

We were having a talk the other day in the studio about this. If someone who makes lovely arrangements of Japanese bits and pieces into collages and then teaches a workshop in doing collage, I would guess that the students would bring to class all their bits and pieces similar to what the instructor uses.  And with a couple reminders from the instructor on good design basics, they would end up with pieces all looking alike. There would be bits of exposed Japanese writing, some beige paper, corrugated card board is often used, a bit of that rich dark red, but not too much, maybe an old piece of wood or an old paint brush, a smear of gesso, something tied down with raffia, you get the idea. And yes, some stitching somewhere.

But if just one person was different. What if the only thing she had that she loved and wanted to use was old plastic bread bag closures in various colors. They are not particularly pretty, so making something beautiful or “lovely” might be out of the question. But to me they seem so much more powerful because she has them for a reason. Some of them have expiration dates on them. Her work becomes about time, expiration, “daily bread” and says something about her as an artist. These little bits of plastic seem so much more powerful and important than the placing of pretty objects. And the work becomes quite likely unforgettable.

And once you see them in an artwork, you do not forget. I still remember a student in my class a good fifteen years ago whose husband told her earlier that month that he did not love her and was leaving after over forty years. He told her this after she had fixed his breakfast. She went to the kitchen and took off the bread bag closure that had that date on it. She used it in a book about her family life.

Anyway the conclusion of the discussion is that some of us look for meaning that simply is not there. Some do work that is just fun to make with pretty materials. And some of us can’t even pick up a bit of anything without the meaning being there first.

Okay enough. My foot is out of the boot. I am in crocs and art group is tomorrow.

Til later.