Back to Drawing

This morning walking back from the corner. My day started with the gym, grocery store and coffee on the corner with some fresh bran muffins.

Last Friday I had a delightful six hours with an old friend from the basket making world. I rescued a bunch of broccoli to make a nice creamy/cheesy soup to serve with my latest spinach scones for lunch before picking her up and bringing her home. Judy comes into the area once a year to teach and this was the first time she has seen my new home. Lots of chatting, finishing with a couple of scotches before I took her back. This Wednesday another visitor from the before is coming to visit. A student in several classes over the years is back in town taking another workshop and wanted to visit. I am excited to catch up with her.

In the studio the past few days I have been working on the latest book with basket samples inside. I finished up the double page drawings of a way to start a base.

A bit more writing with the sample…

Turn the page and start again…with some favorite materials of shifu threads and a tiny hammer I bought at a market in St. Andrews, Victoria while staying at Baldessin Press Studio.

I took all the spoke pieces and made an overhand knot in the center, then hammered it down to flatten. Next selected earth pigment colored shifu threads to weave the base. These threads were found in the bottom of Anna’s basket that I drew on the first page of this book. Again using a favorite tool from Wafu Works in Hobart, Tasmania. I used it for packing rows of weaving.

More writing and a window..

I was recalling that this group of basket makers in Tasmania used to mark off sections where the Native Hen had made deposits so I could rub papers to spin into colored threads later in the day.

So naturally I had to draw a Tasmanian Native Hen and put a couple scraps of the paper dyed with their beautiful green.

I never spun this sheet into thread…probably because dampening it brought back the smell.  So now it is folded back up and stuffed with other threads made using Tasmanian soils for color back into Anna’s basket.

Speaking of earth pigments, Thursday evening a friend took me to the opening of another art exhibit at the nearby small liberal arts college. It made my heart soar to see such massive canvases encrusted with local pigments. It was appropriately titled, “Place”. The artist is a woman who seemed to share the same passion for marking place in this way. I was glad I took one of my Earth Pigments books to pass on to her. She was surprised and happy to have it. We will hopefully get together and talk more about the thrill of working with gathered color.

Friday we go back to visit classrooms and see what students are doing. I did meet a few of them at the opening and it made me feel good to see such energy and passion in another generation making art. Two of the men in my former art group have affiliations with this college and I hope to run into them again. Oh, to share a bottle with those two and hear what they have been up to these past few years….

A glass of Madeira I treated myself to remembering these favorites from art group.

Then yesterday I decided I needed to get back to Burke and Wills. Judy encouraged me to read some of my stories and show her what I was working on. After reading The Stoat Story, Down the Rabbit Hole, and others, it caused me to bring out the Burke and Wills drawings. This morning I did another that needs to be painted, and started another… hopefully the words will come to put it all together.

Here Wills is getting too big to fit in the house Boris and Belinda, the river rats, left them when they moved south. Not sure where they go next before ending up in the elderly care home.

I must say that it feels good to just lose myself in the lives of an owl and rabbit.

Til later….


Busy Few Days

The weather has been cold and the other morning I saw several mourning doves clustered around the stone pieces in the garden. Few birds come here because I do not have feeders.

This past week saw the passing of Judy Wilford, a master embroiderer in Australia. I was lucky to get this small piece of her work several years ago. It hangs near the front door with other artworks from down under.

She was a master of landscape and birds in small forms. Her third book was released last week. I don’t know fine hand embroiderers here in the states but Australia has several. Jane Nicholas also comes to mind as another Australian who has many books to her credit on fine embroidery techniques. I loved having both these women in my classes over the years. Just watching how they approached their projects was an education in itself. Their work reflects the consummate craftsperson and attention to the tiniest detail that seems lost in much of the needlework I see today. But at least we are still threading needles and feeling cloth between our fingers.

Tonight I am going to another art opening at the small college near me. I believe it has something with the use of earth pigments. It feels good to be back among the art makers. I will let you know how it was.

Two walks this week. The dam…..

And the river near my house.

My basket making friends down under finished with their gathering and are all back home. I told them I would keep my book going and when some of them gather again in April, I would maybe have a small lesson to share with them in my book.

Lots of work to do yet to make it more comprehensible, but I have time.

I missed writing and realized it had been some time since I added to my list of short stories. The past few days with pen in hand, I got something down on paper and will post it on my website  –  short stories from the menu.

Thinking about enrolling in another writing class this spring but need a little more encouragement before making that phone call.

Now there are no lots left across the street. Houses on every one that was available. Now the builder will turn the corner and start up the other end. I don’t see any from my house…only when I walk past to get to the river or drive out of my garage. It is a very quiet neighborhood.

Tomorrow I pick up an old basket making friend who is from the Seattle area and in town teaching. We will spend the afternoon having lunch and a bit of scotch before I take her back to start her weekend class. We only see each other once a year so it will be fun to show her how all the things from my old place found a place here.

Til later…..


Rainy Day Post

The rain is lashing outside my window. It is a serious rain that comes with thunder and lightening. I am glad to be inside with my cats and a fireplace that knows when to turn itself on to keep the house cozy.

This week I have been feeling and acting like a fifties housewife. Baking scones was a good idea. Some with a recipe calling for prosciutto and gruyere cheese.

I don’t think they were worth the extra cost of those two ingredients so made another batch substituting cut up party salami type slices left from my house warming, parmesan and tossed in loads of chopped spinach. These were very delicious!

When I took the scones in for the boys yesterday, some appreciated them while others took one look at the “green” and passed.

I did learn one thing to do when baking scones: Once they are on the baking sheet and ready to go into the oven, put them in the freezer for half an hour first. It gets the butter really cold again and assists in the flakiness of the bake. I also learned that there is usually plenty in the way of ingredients in the refrigerator to make savoury scones.

Then I got on with the sewing.

I will finish this shirt tomorrow. It takes a lot of concentration and a seam ripper to complete. It is not just a front and back but a left and right front and back.  And a careful look when having to put finished hems in before pieces are put together. But I have made all the mistakes I need to get this one done. At least I hope so. Maybe I should stop sewing and be satisfied with the jersey jogging suits so many old girls turn to. But clingy knits are not what I would wear anywhere but to bed. I shall stay in the fight to make my own clothes.

Once I was almost tossed out of a large department store by asking the sales woman if they really expected women of all ages and sizes to be satisfied with the same ugly knit blouses in orange and green stripes. “Are women really all walking around in these clothes because it is what you are offering?” “Where is the woven cotton and linen?” “In the men’s department>” I was told. So I headed to the men’s department and bought a big shirt in something that felt right.

Anyway this week I was a sewer.

Saw this on my walk and was reminded how difficult the English language can be to learn.

It was my first walk to the river in almost two weeks. It felt good to be out on such a sunny day and hear the rushing water from so much rain lately.

I like sitting in my studio and looking off to my left.

It is a cozy corner of things collected and mostly kept within touching distance.  So many things to write about.

Writing. Did you know that cursive writing will not be taught anymore? How will people take notes? How will they jot down the fragments of conversations heard in the morning diner? How will things stay in their minds if they are not writing it down as it happens and feeling the connection from ear to head to arm to hand to pen and then appearing like magic on a paper.

I have notebooks, cocktail napkins, receipts with words that mattered and were of interest and import at the time. Some fed into artworks, some into poetry or short stories and still more jog the memory of some special moment in time. What happens if we stop writing? Some would say, well you can still print. But it is not the same. Having to lift the pen after each letter loses track and can’t keep up. It is one more thing my generation in particular is seeing fade into history.

My lunch companion of the same age mentioned how she hated seeing the gas station attendants stop coming out to fill the tank, wash the windshield and ask how you were. Now we pump our own. Which is fine. I can do that. More customers can be taken care of at the same time. I understand. But sometime I might just push the button asking for help and when he comes out of his tiny glassed in cubicle, I might just say “Hi” with pen and paper in hand and ask how his day is going.

But on a high note, the other day the neck pieces I ordered from a friend in Tasmania arrived. And with them came a stash of gifts.

A painting she did of Eucalyptus leaves, some cards and bits and pieces she and the owner of Wafu Works bundled up for me. It is my favorite place to poke about in. A tiny Japanese store of odd bits of tools, cloth and threads. These are all old pieces of cloth that are so much fun to sew into. And that little bone fold pressing tool. How lovely! And a tiny red box for tiny things. And assorted sewing threads. Treasures to be sure! I will tuck them into a drawer here at the work table for something special later. Thank you Jude and Jan.

Rain is still bucketing down. Cats want my attention.

Til later…

Book Basket Box: Placement for Memory Part 2

I am back to show the rest of the travel boxes. Beginning with Japan. It was the first of the travel boxes made shortly after a trip there in 1998 with a focus on bamboo basket makers and and their places of learning and working.

After mapping out what is to go into the box, I select an appropriate fabric to turn into book cloth for the covering and papers to line the interior and sides. Since we participated in a demonstration of indigo dying I thought this fabric had the right look. It pays to just get a yard or so of fabrics that call out to follow you home.

I used a piece of bamboo for the traditional closing.

A piece of Japanese fabric lines the inside lid. Walls are placed in to mark the places where things are to be placed.  I wrote about my trip on a piece of paper from Japan. Then cut it so it was one continuous length to spin into a thread to be woven into the small basket holding a special stone. It rests on a stone from our sauna at the hostel. To the right is a lid to small mementos inside that compartment. The two larger spaces hold my sketchbook works and papers from the journey in a pop out format.

Among the mementos are stones, a fish shaped soy sauce bottle and all the tie off resist threads from the indigo class. Closures use small bits of bamboo.

Those same threads are used to tie sketches into a book made in a traditional Japanese book binding technique. I really love how this project of Japanese memories came together. I went on to teaching many workshops and making more of these containers that sold at exhibitions or ended up in the archives of craft institutions and museums.

Now it is on to New Zealand.

This is covered with an Egyptian cotton from a remnants shop. I made myself some pajamas and had enough left for a box needing a New Zealand feel to it. We could see it as thousands of lined up sheep in very green fields. It is a single layer box which says it all.

Aren’t those sleeve-lidded baskets wonderful. The bark package contains a stone given to me by a student in my class there.

The tiny lid raises to reveal another shell. So many wonderful things to touch…so many memories.

And now Australia!

I’m fairly sure it was made shortly after my second trip in 1999. Again a fabric that said “Australia” to me was chosen and the overall size had to house my sketches done on large paper.

The Eucalyptus blooms were made by a lady I met at a conference. The small bloom and leaf came from a basket making friend. There is a book in the upper left and each of the other spaces have pull up lids to reveal the things below.

The book is the pages that students do and assemble in hiding and then present at the end of the class.  The eggshell page was from a student dealing with the fragility of being influenced by her home country and adopted Australia. On the left are basket materials and a small twined basket made by a young Korean working in Australia. A student from the previous year showed her how to make a “secrets” basket and she made this one to pass on to me.

Teaching Secrets baskets was a fun way to get students to learn the technique of twining to hold their secrets written on a piece of paper tightly enclosed within. I loved the idea that many years later, they will wear open and secrets will find their way out into the world. My first sample to teach this class had a piece of paper that I used fragmented words to indicate a lost love affair. I told my students that many years from now there might be just enough information in those words to inspire someone to write a story.

Our secrets can have a future. One of my favorites was a student who was ninety years old and marrying for the first time the following week. All we could do was smile at each other as she closed over the opening. I thanked her for the opportunity to let my imagination run loose with ideas of what her secret might have been.

Sorry, got side tracked…these boxes do that.

The other cubby hole holds shells and small gifts from students at a basket conference. Then the larger lid on the right opens….

First thing visible is a portfolio that unfolds to reveal separated packets of sketches done on my trip.

I had these cards that had a cutout of a kangaroo. So I put more of the Aboriginal-designed gift paper that I bought at the Opera house behind. I was sketching everything Australian that I could find.

Even the construction of the quintessential Australian chair where the man, bushed from being in the bush, can prop his feet with his behind dropped into a canvas sling. The arms of the chair accommodate his beverage of choice. I actually thought it would be fun to have Lee make one of these, but soon realized that they are not that easy to get out of. Good thing I didn’t do that because I would not have been able to part with it and it would be taking up a whole lot of space here in my new house.

Under that portfolio of sketches a tab is pulled up to release the section of larger drawings.

They slide out from under the floor of the collections to the left.

After this all my sketchbooks from Australia were made in advance of the trip, filled while traveling, and are piled up in a basket where I can easily get to them and relive each trip. I have a couple of other boxes devoted to Australia, one large one with all the student end of class gifts over many years and another where I tried to capture my experiences there in a special place. I am sure I talked about them when they were completed so we will leave it there.

I did start cutting out patterns using my hide covered stones that are so lovely to handle.

But then a week of a chest cold put me in a tired stay-at-home-do nothing happened. I did slip out to see a full moon.

In the last two days I finished sewing two pairs of pants…two shirts to go and I can put the sewing machine away again. I need to do some baking too. It is time for savoury scones and banana pancakes to put in the freezer.

I might get a walk to the river in today…maybe not. I will check to see how warm it is and how wet with all the rain recently. I might just join the cats in a comfy chair by the fire.

Til later