Something Old and Something New

I found it! Packed in with basket “stuff” was this hand towel that I wove many, many years ago when I was learning to weave on the loom and make baskets. It occurred to me that when we dry our hands we only use the front half of the hanging towel. So why not conserve yarn and only weave half a towel, hem it and hang it on a cleverly woven rug beater knot? I remember how ingenious I thought this was. Only three were made after it was roundly put down by both my basket makers guild and weaving guild. A very nice friend bought one, I gave one to my mother and here is the one I kept hoping more than two would think it a good idea. I was sincerely ready to go into production. Late 70s thinking with yarns bought at a Ben Franklin dime store. Funny stuff.

But more success in the studio with those leather bits and smooth rocks.

A cane toad spined book with earth pigments embedded into covers.

The upper smooth one on the right is covered with Icelandic cod skin. One side tan and the other grey. Upper left is kangaroo straps woven together on the top over a pretty patterned rock. Bottom left is cane toad woven into kangaroo on square 2″ stone. And another cane toad strapped rock with a piece of white rawhide woven through.

Here are the under sides.

Here is the small cane toad stone that I started with after the parchment looking rawhide ones from a couple of weeks ago.

Using the parrot fish skins did not work. The skin was too fluffy and easily separated but here is the failure in red on one side and black on the other. It has since been taken off.

And then I wanted the one stone with one strap weaving through the other to show up the weaving and added the perfect bit of bamboo root.

All of these rocks feel good in the hand and will be put to service on my work table in the studio.

Here are all of them in their new home.

Keeping them company in the center is a gift from one of my favorite students, now deceased, Lin Parker. It was a tumbling rock placed into the paint mixing at a plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is like holding a piece of shiny glass and is a good weight to do duty with the others.

There are a few stones left to cover but I tucked them out of sight in the bottom of this box. The only other ones that could be used are already weighting down the fish outside the studio to prevent them from banging into each other.

And now all I need to do is sew the text block for this book and make end papers with the marbled paper I made from the soils here at home.

Then I need to get onto designing and printing those Christmas cards. Small etchings would be nice in a simple design is what I am aiming for.

Til next time.

Building Men

Lee’s hands used to help me build so many things that were part of my art work. While having company here this week, I talked her into helping clean out the storage room so I could search for some things I wanted to donate to the folk school archives.

We found what I was looking for. These cloth, clay and pine bark small sculptures of the men of Brasstown. Here is Jake and Harold.

When we moved here in 1993 I would watch tall old Jake come into the corner store with his crooked neck and lean in toward whoever he was talking to….in this case Harold. They all had to look up to Jake.

I could not figure out at the time how to make separate legs so went with just this lower body from the bark a recently downed pine tree. Antique men’s underwear buttons were perfect. The shirts I made from some striped fabric from my stash of cloth.

Then I got better at manipulating the bark in 1994 and made The Home Boys. Happy dancers.

The shirts here were from fabric I wove on a dish towel exchange. I had to mount them on slabs to keep them from toppling over in their exuberance.  Lee would do all the cutting of logs for me.

Now they have all been delivered to the archives office as well as some black and white photos taken during a photography class in 1996 and later. They were pictures of things of interest to me and the men of Brasstown who were the subject of both undergraduate and graduate degrees.

In sorting through the pictures I found these of an installation I made in undergraduate art class. It is about men leaving, just going away. My interest was peaked by the study of hobos and why so many left and did not come back home.  I was always intrigued by those who leave and don’t look back.

So I made a threshold doorway, cut down some trees to invert and then clothed them with cloth and nails. Each has his bindle tied to his walking stick (just like the hobos used to). The walking stick kept them upright as they left.

And the reason all of those men left home was a lack of nourishment in some form or another so I made this and placed it just the other side of the doorway….on the inside.

I still have this empty bowl that was an accident piece from Lee’s wood turning days. The bowl could hold nothing and the basket materials I wove around the edges could not contain anything. Even the ladle had to be carved out so as to give these men nothing….no reason to stay. I loved this installation. I loved gaining the confidence of strangers who were happy to have someone care as to why they were gone from home. This bowl will be one of the last things I part with. Just holding it can make a person weep….weep and then smile at the memories I filled it with.

Anyway, Lee is no longer turning bowls but I have found several that our kids will take home. Our shelves are full of other ones and so are the cupboards.

I am about to go upstairs and have a bit of red and popcorn in one of his bowls….turned apple wood. It holds just the right amount.

Til next week or a few days….whenever something comes up that is worth sharing. It might just be my cod skinned stone and cane toad book spine. Tomorrow they will be dry enough to see if the experiments worked.

Til later.


Making Adjustments

Three years ago the crepe myrtles outside the studio looked like this….manageable and quite pretty.

But this year they really grew tall and floppy, so the woodsman was called in.

Now they look like this. Next spring they can start over.

We walked at the dam again this morning. It is getting chillier out there. For some reason this Canadian goose decided to leave his group and turned back to stay behind….complaining all the time.

Here is a picture of the river birch or paper birch in the yard two days ago when the late sun was doing its best to cheer things up.

There is more maintenance to do around the house and yard, more than Lee can do anymore. It is strange to come to grips with the idea that some of the most simple tasks that I took for granted he was doing or could do are just a bit out of reach. Since there is just the two of us living here, those tasks fall to me.

I can do them but it is the remembering to do them before heading off to bed early with my kindle so as to get up at four a.m. to prepare for the gym. While I am gone he takes his shower and starts his toast. He used to make the coffee every morning but forgot the sequence. Now I prepare it the day before so all he has to do is push the “on” button.

Anyway with the art group here last Sunday and everyone showing their work, I got to thinking, “What to work on now that the samples for the class, Books All About the Stitch is over?”

I need something that I can leave at a moments notice. Something I can control size-wise, and of course, something that has meaning.

So after taking apart this old sketchbook and removing the signature that had drawings from my now deceased brother’s home, (the fact that they were still there in the book prevented me from continuing to use it) I am working on a new idea.

The cover paper that covers the board is an egg tempera painting I did of a collected nest. The binding for the pigments was glaire and not egg yolk. Glaire is what is made from the egg white and used on more flexible surfaces. The size is about 9 inches by 11 inches.

Anyway back to what it is being used for now. I drew the outline of one of my hands and am filling in the space with all the things that are now falling into my hands to do. Here is the start of the first hand.

This will be easily filled in to the wrist which is just to the left of the deer. He still feeds the deer but sometimes needs reminding. It will all fill in like the index finger is.

I will continue to make pairs of hands in the sketchbook. One hand on each page. I might try different ways of holding my hands but not sure how good an outline that would be as far as seeing that it is a hand.

These should be not only therapeutic but a good reminder of what has been added to my list of things to do. And what else I like about this idea is that the images are all random which is so much like it is as he needs help or just stops doing something.

I think that if someone else was going through this and they could not draw or did not want to, they could fill the outlined hand with words of what needs attention. A hand full of written tasks going in all directions. It would be also very interesting visually.

Okay, enough. Til later.

Finishing Up The Stitched Australia Book

Here is the finished book with its wrap tie. I got to use the last two small pieces of wood patterned by Toni Rogers in Queensland.  All threads used in the book came from Australia.

And besides using Australian tea to color the pages and shellac that I bought in Australia, I used my little geometry set bought in Brisbane many years ago to make circles, etc. Even my needles came from Richmond, Tasmania.

The images were harvested from this book.

There is something magic and charming and educational about all the pictures used in this book to tell a bit about the settling of Australia.

I used a coptic binding for the folios and spacers in the book.

And after I got all the folios shellacked, tea dyed and stitched I put them into some sort of order of settling the land.

I realized that I wanted it a bit thicker and had this picture of four surveyors/telegraph workers sitting there. The reason it sat there was because it is my romantic idea of what a true Australian male looks like. In fact several years ago while teaching in the Northern Territory the assistant to the Craft Alliance there introduced me to her husband. She knew I would like him because he had this look of pure Australian bloke. When she finished work that week he was going to take her on trip around the perimeter of the continent on his motorcycle. He had that truly capable look about him and had me grinning in his company. Any one of the men below could have been related.

Anyway aside from all that, these men in the picture and two more random images became the in between two-folio signatures to make the book larger and eliminate seeing the empty space between those folios.


I liked how they inserted themselves into the other images and the country. It might matter that I listened to Lyle Lovett music while I put these boys into the book.

There are other images, lots of other ones of people settling into the country, displacing the aboriginal culture.  And kangaroos.

And the convicts….all accused of one of the nineteen crimes that got them deported to the other side of the world.

I will stop here and maybe figure that I have enough samples and books that involve the stitch. There are only four in the class so far and I have no idea until I start teaching where each of their interests lie.

It will be my last class taught for John C Campbell Folk School here in Brasstown, NC. Thirty years and six months is quite enough. I look forward to really enjoying this last one and hope the students do as well.

Til next week when I can show pretty outside pictures again.