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.

Drawing and Stitching

Here is part of the herd that Lee feeds each morning. We had to wait for them to cross over the road before heading off to drop our absentee ballots off at the voting center. We pretend we are not here so as to avoid the crowds….at least we are hoping there are crowds this year.

In the studio I attempted to draw the ovenbird. This time in graphite and colored pencil. I am not good with colored pencils. They seem too soft, too mushy on the paper….and the colors are really terrible. You need to do so much blending to get anything near the right color and then they are even mushier. See what I mean?

There is no way I can get the blackness of this bird’s eye.

I think that colored pencils should be used for soft rose petals or chenille bedspreads and nothing else. And since I have no roses or a bedspread like that, I put them back in their boxes and will stay with the mechanical pencil, eraser (another thing you can’t do with colored pencils is ERASE!) and a bit of watercolor if I am doing birds…..or anything for that matter.

But on to other things. I am still doing some ideas for books that are all about the stitch. I found an old picture book of Australia. One I just collected and glanced through. All the illustrations with very little text are black and white old drawings, etc.

So I trimmed the sheets after carefully clipping the sewing threads to remove folios. Now here I am beginning to stitch with threads I can only get in Australia. It is a unwaxed linen by Guttermann.

It was fun to pull out just a few folios and then arrange the sized sheets into a bit of story. With so few words, the book was much more about the illustrations. But the whole book was so “Aussie” and the roughness of those who settled there.

I loved this page about the loneliness of shepherds, etc who needed a mate to spend time with. The ratio at the time was eleven men to one woman so the land owners would send them off with a mate. And according to this interpretation, that is where the common expression of “mates” in Australia originated.

The tool I am pressing down the stitching with after the design is made is a sewing tool that Jane Nicolas gave me. It is very handy for pressing folds in cloth as was its original intention but also good for pressing threads into paper and closing up the holes.

The images are very mid 1800s. Lots of tough, “sinewy” manly explorers. Even my favorites, Burke and Wills get some notice.

This morning I cooked up some Australia black tea that comes in a canvas bag from down under. After shellacking dots on the pages, I stained them with some tea.

So far there are only three signatures of two folios done to this point and I am not sure if I am through surface designing or sewing yet. But at least it is something to show students on sewing into the paper, illustration and text.

These pages after folded in the center and cut down are about 4.5 x 8 inches. The original book is about 9 x 10 inches in size. There are loads more to choose from.

Not sure what next to do with them but for now will catch up the other four signatures to this same point and take a good look and where it wants to go next.

Til next week.

Still Feel Frozen/Stuck/Impotent

This is the best I could do this morning. Went to the grocery store, bought three bunches of flowers for $10. They flopped about in this pitcher so I went and cut back a bush in the yard….some of them (the bushes)  just won’t stay still and keep reaching to places they shouldn’t be….anyway, I stuck them in to hold the flowers up. Some of the flowers broke in my rough handling. All I wanted was something that looked nice for the table when art group comes tomorrow. Even sticking flowers in water seems to be hard to do. I dumped them out in the sink and started over….broke a few more but at least they look better than this, at least I think so now.

A really bright spot for the week was having a private student staying in the apartment and being here in the studio for two days. It was good for me to see how easy someone else works, how they make marks, how they don’t seem to mind doing lots and lots of drawings that may or may not end up being used as the starting point for a new tapestry. To see someone just take joy in the making, in the doing…..and not think about what comes next.

When was it when I began to not be able to pick up a pencil, pen, paper, paint, brush just for the shear joy of it? When was it that I thought whatever it was I was going to do, it had to have some deeper meaning? It had to be ABOUT something…..anything, but ABOUT something.

But having Tommye here to work beside this week and prepare earth pigments and making her a travel journal helped. I am going to do something without thinking so much. I am going to do lots of somethings without thinking too much. BUT to break myself into a new way of doing just for the sake of doing, I am going to start small. I am going to cut my papers up into small sheets. No bigger than 5 by 7 inches. That way if I don’t like whatever the thoughtless work I am doing looks like, all of them will easily fit in the waste bin. It is a simple way to work. Pick up a piece of paper. Pick up a tool. Make some marks. Do it again. And again. Then throw them out.

Anyone can do this. I can do this. I might even try it later today. Unless I find some way to avoid it.

Besides feeling like a BB in a boxcar lately I have been wandering around the yard to avoid the studio. And I am struck by the beauty of the fungi this fall. Take a look.

And then this growing next to the eucalyptus that I put in a pot on the porch.

So that was the week. Scattered. Watching political theater. Writing letters of protest. Visiting with friends who were in town. Picking up paper and putting it down again. Sharpening pencils only to put them back in the drawer. And on. And on.

For a woman/artist who was obsessed with the thoughts of “am I doing enough?” and “am I doing it right?” I have drifted.

Drifting, that is where I am, drifting between where I was and where I am going.

For now I will drift upstairs, avoid going into the studio, and see what I can do for Lee. I will fix lunch and then drift back down stairs and cut up some paper so it is ready when I am.

Til next week.