Old Cloth Old Prints Old Blooms

This is my only bloom so far in the pond. The lotus flowers are so large and they are perched on long stems that wave around. The rain took this one over to the side so I brought it inside.

Within a few days the petals dropped off and left this.

Even though it is in a wine bottle full of water I don’t think the pod will grow bigger.  But I love the way it looks….those tiny little seed holes and the brown color emerging through the canary yellow, and those creepy little extensions gripping the base. It will stay in the water until it finishes whatever it is doing.

I will say one thing. As soon as the petals dropped the pod turned upward. It must have gone to that effort for some reason. In the meantime we keep checking the pond to see if another appears.

Yesterday Lee asked if he could help me do some yard work. I now do the weeder eating as he has trouble figuring out how to hold the tool. Anyway before I go off to cut down weeds in the wilder sections of the yard I show him a weed that is popping up every so often in the pine needles in the front yard. I said, “Pull these all up.”

He did in one section and while I was dragging down branches to cut off of the paper birch he was dutifully pulling up the ground covers. So I said I would take care of that and he could drag all the branches I had cut down away to drop off the bank. Because he was focused on putting his “weeds” into a bucket, he then started to strip the branches of leaves to put in the bucket with them.

So I said, “Let’s just do this job together.”

Today I wanted to make him his favorite German potato salad for dinner tonight. He wanted to help. So I asked him to chop the onion and the celery. I learned months ago that you have to cut a sample of what he is to do first and set it in plain sight. But I had to stop him from mincing them into oblivion. Some things stick and some things don’t. I do notice that the things that stick have a limited time and then something else takes over….older memories of how to do something kicks in and the bottom line is, just keep constant watch.

I got away down here to the office to write this because I turn on a cop/crime show that he will watch for a bit and then because it is after lunch, he will likely take a nap in his chair.

But he can’t nap too long because then he awakes at 2:30 in the morning ready to get the day started. It’s a delicate balance.

Today while walking the dam we followed an elderly gentleman with a cane. His partner had country gospel music playing on her Iphone to help them both keep up a pace of ambling.

I am hoping we are not headed that way. I can’t do the gospel bit….Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen would be better.

And speaking of gospel, every morning before I head off to the gym and have laid out his underwear for after his shower, I change the channel from what was crime stories the night before but in early morning turns into those preachers asking for $1000 “seed money”. Do people really give them money? I like one in particular. He is the one with the dyed brown hair, some facial hair and a lascivious grin that really appeals to the blondes in the audience. Is the “seed money” to keep those women grinning back at him?

Another topic.

After sewing on the patches of cloth to prints I decided to check out the drawers of prints that did not sell or were artist proofs. I selected five and brought them upstairs to work on. Within two afternoons I had them all stitched up.

Here are the first two.

When I go to the framers this week to pick up my long stitched Australian piece I will ask her to cut mats for all the ones I have finished so far….then decide whether to buy frames for them or not.

It feels good to be working on something. I just need to make more prints or stitch several together to make a “quilt”. Once that needle is threaded, I just keep going, and going, and going.

Enough for now.

Til later.

More On The Wood Block Experiments

I always loved these two pieces by famous wood block printer Fannie Mennen. I bought them years ago when they came up for sale out of the collection of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild and had them framed together. The quote by Christopher Morley is perfect for me and even more appropriate now when I get so little time in the studio. And isn’t her owl wonderful! There is a glare as these are behind glass and there was not much I could do about the reflections.

So this is the progression of what I started last week. First the plain block prints.

And pulling out an older small block of a similar scene.

Next I tried chine colle on some of them.

Then I stuck on some fabrics because I knew it would shift too much if I tried the cloth as a chine colle.

Notice the mottled paper used on some of them. It is the paper that I hand marbled using my earth pigments from right here at home. It is a simple process.

First get your pigments into a fine powder by sifting. Then put some in a jar with boiled linseed oil and add enough mineral spirits to make the solution very watery. After you have all your colors in separate jars and have put in a feather or group of tied grasses/sticks into each jar, then prepare a large open container like a deep cookie sheet or lasagna pan by filling half way with a thin solution of corn starch (or corn flour as it is called in Australia) and water. It should be a very thin paste so make it about one part corn starch to eight parts water.

When the corn paste is level in the pan splatter with the earth pigments by flicking your brush. Do not try to mix them around to make a pattern as it will only muddy them. Just be happy with the spots inside spots.

Then lay a piece of paper on the mixture starting with one corner and carefully dropping it as to not trap air. Pull up, rinse and let dry. It may take a while for the linseed oil and mineral spirits odors to evaporate, but the results are worth it.

And finally the stitching.

These were fun to do and I think I might just have them framed. The paper I printed the blocks onto is a thai kozo that I use to spin paper threads. The threads were one third of the six threads in embroidery floss. And oh yes, because I wanted to reinforce the paper after stitching I backed it with an iron on facing used in sewing.

Bits of my old pajamas were used in that top one.  Pajamas I made from fabrics I bought from a local warehouse that only handled scraps from textile industries that have long left the state of North Carolina. The man who managed the old barn of a store had the kind of a southern accent that could readily read southern novels and make you glad he did.

Anyway he said that there was no telling what the fiber content was and we were to just take our chances. These felt like a smooth Egyptian cotton so I could not put the cloth down once I held it. Besides it was super cheap.

You could also use a large scoop to dip into an old washing machine full of assorted buttons at a dollar a scoop. I still have so many of those that I would carefully dip my scoop around to fill up with more of what I liked.

The framer called me today to say that the frame for the long travels in Australia piece came in with a crack in the wood. They are sending a new one and I won’t get the finished work til next week. No worries, I will get it eventually.

Not much else new. Except this from the makers of Saunders Malt Extract.

Good Morning Sandy, Thank you for your email,

Unfortunately we do not export Saunders Malt, so it sounds like you have been very lucky purchasing from Amazon.

I am sorry I cannot be of more help so you can continue to make your delicious Cookies.

Regards, Angela.

Personally I think Angela could have just sent me a case but no, not happening. I have put my name on a list at Amazon in case some of this wonderful elixir comes in.

Til next time.


Another Few Days Later

This is the new appetizer from my birthday dinner out. It is a sort of a taco thing with some fish….believe me it was more fun for the chef to make than for me to eat. But at least I can say I had dinner out and got a card from the chef….plus a nice cabernet sauvignon, with salmon on ceasar, followed by a nice crunchy chocolate gelato. Next year I will go for something different.

Also I did carve a white line block and made a print….a print I don’t much like.

It was hard to get white lines around all the Japanese maple leaves and have the image not have too much white. I did not like the print. So now I have turned the block over and am re-carving to make a relief print using black ink. It is a similar scene but not so much detail and some texturing to get a more interesting background than the the white line one. I just drew directly on the board.

When I finish carving I will do a test print and see how it goes from there.

Also this past week I took Lee around to another end of the dam area so he could see where we walk from across the water. He loved the view.

I used to take my students in pigments classes out to this spot to gather colors when the water was down and lots of coast was accessible.

And just this morning I tried to order more of my Saunders Malt Extract from Amazon. They don’t have it! So I found their facebook page and wrote them a message that I could not find a place in the US to get their product and I was getting dangerously close to the end of the can. I also told them that I thought the reason I could not find it on Amazon was because I posted the picture of the can with my recipe trials on my blog. And because so many people must have wanted to try “The Almost Best Malted Cookie I Ever Ate” that Amazon has run out.

Hopefully they will exchange a few cans for the recipe. One can only hope. In the meantime if you see this available anywhere but Australia, I would be grateful to know where.

Til later.

Being Home

I planned on having loads of sunflowers this year. Filled two beds with seeds but as soon as they showed their leaves the deer helped themselves. Now I have two beds full of cropped sunflower stems with weak looking leaves sprouting and a whole lot of weeds. Sunflowers are my favorite flower. They take over a professional bouquet just by being in the bunch. I can sometimes find them three to a bunch and three bunches for $10 at the grocery store. If they are not too sagging I will buy them all. Then I like to fill in the jug with whatever greenery from around the yard that the deer have not eaten.

The other day I decided to make cookies and went back to the “second best malted cookies I ever ate” recipe. This time I put a bit too much golden syrup in because you know how it is when the bottle has just a bit more and not worth saving til later, so you keep upending it and adding it to the mixture. Anyway a bit more flour and I could handle the dough enough to get it into the balls to roll into sugar before baking.

But this time I remembered what the baker of the best malted cookie I ever ate told me. “Keep it in the oven on low to make them crispy.” So after they were baked the amounted time and including the slamming to make cracks. After cooling I turned them all over and put them back on the parchment and into an oven that had been turned off. They stayed there for about another half hour, then came out and cooled completely to become “very close to the best malted cookie I ever ate”. They are so, so crispy!

And in the last two days I had time to revisit  white line wood block printing. Australia has been on my mind as everyone there is waiting for the programs to come out….and I won’t be on offer for next year.  So I finished my chest that holds all the thank yous from students over the years and then made this print again of Halls Gap.

And the block and print.

Not sure what to work on next. I think I will make a drawing for another white line print, but have it be something from around here in my own yard. Perhaps the Japanese stone lantern out front with a drooping branch of a Japanese maple and some hostas  that the deer haven’t eaten.

I can do the drawings upstairs while sitting with Lee and then come down to the studio to do the carving and printing. The tools and paints and papers are calling me. And they are just getting louder now that I have cleaned the studio out and got myself a bit organized down there.

I am still waiting for the grave digger. It has been rainy all week and to be honest he is not the most dependable digger I know. So we will see what next week brings. A hole or the yellow pages to find another man with a machine.

Next week I should have the long panel back from the framers.

Til later.