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.


Home and Getting Along with Ideas

We are back to walking the dam five days a week. This morning it was lovely. The water like glass.

I also returned to the gym at 5:30 this morning…rode the bike, did upper body workout and then boxed the heck out of the bag. All felt good.

Then just now I mailed this piece to a friend in Australia.

I am trying to find homes for some of the artworks that I have. Australia inspired works should find a home over there. The book below also went to a friend down under.

And I have decided that other works done for exhibition will all stay together and have a proper burial. Each piece mummy wrapped, shellacked and laid to rest. I shall keep myself occupied this summer preparing the wrapping strips and bundling.

I like the whole idea that they might just be discovered years from now and prompt a digging of the site…..a discovery all over again. Some pieces are anti war works that after going on exhibit returned home….no one wants reminders of war.

Another exhibit going to ground will be the entire Expedition to Elsewhere: the Evidence. How appropriate is that! All of it is biodegradable as most of my works are made from natural materials.

And since I have so much of the Native American sweet grass, I will use it to smudge each exhibit as it is laid to rest. And the soils collected for years to make earth pigments will naturally find a place to settle.

The joy was in the making, the exhibiting…not the storing or dispersing in parts and pieces. While I can I will give it all a final resting place. Burning was good for some of my work…but not the ones to be buried. I do know that the grave will have to be at least ten feet long, five feet deep and four feet wide.  But I don’t have to call in the digger for some time. Wrapping is going to take a while.

I will document as I go with this plan. For now I need to get started on making strips.

Til later.

The Latest Trip to Australia

Come and Gone in Twenty-Nine Hours

I continue to come back

eight times in thirteen years.

I am more tired

and this tiredness is beginning

to feel familiar.

It is harder to be here alone

and I sense this may be the last time.


I have opened myself to this country

in a deep private and personal way.

But this time I feel the loneliness

of solitude

quietly seeping in.

I am more a foreigner

than I had hoped for.


Australia has not lost its magic.

I am older

and the vision for that magic

is somewhat diminished

due to a combination of age

and awareness of time

that have more or less

besieged me on this trip.


And I am here

on this precious soil

just twenty-eight hours.

I think I am feeling the loss

of this country before I have left it.


Australia feels like an old dear friend

that I am seeing slowly turn away.

Or am I shifting my gaze

toward the comforts and familiarity of home.


Is it becoming time

to give up the adventure

and content myself with memories

of what we used to be to each other?


I am feeling the loss

with each Eucalypt I see

as if for the last time.

I miss it already.       

S. Webster


I wrote that in the year 2011. I was alone staying in an unfamiliar Bed & Breakfast near Fitzroy Gardens. There were blisters on my feet from walking to Gertrude Street. I was having a cold beer in the gardens and thinking I was old. Eight years later and six more trips down under I am even more aware of my age…within a few months of seventy-five.

I am not saying good-bye to this country. This is not the last time to be stopped in my tracks by the sheer beauty of a Eucalyptus tree. I will be back, if not next year then the year after.

It is not just the beckoning call of the landscape, the outrageous birds who can’t be quiet and inconspicuous, nor the endless distances that lure you into their horizons.  It is more likely the generosity of the Australian people and the way they make you feel like you could belong here.

About that landscape, outrageous birds, and endless landscape.

These are the some, very few, of those who make the trip worthwhile. They are students who were with me again this year in a master class titled, Seeking the Visual. Each of them received the gift of a glass hour glass with brass compass on each end. My words to them, “Pick a direction and be aware that you might be running out of time.”

Their work was outstanding as usual…..

This was each of them finding the visual of something that mattered to them. So wonderful to be part of. So thank you very much to Judith, Jane, Jenny, Andie, Mem, Anne, Kaye, Margaret, Lorraine, Patsy,  Madeleine and Alex.

I mostly worked on my sketchbook with the abundance of flora laying around.


I started a piece of work using scraps of old Japanese fabrics and sashiko threads on paper. I was challenged to make curves with my stitching and to use a proper needle. The gift of a beautiful silk hand sewn Eucalypt leaf with the perfect needles attached and a finger pin cushion was a perfect way to start.

Thank you Jan.

Later, after traveling from the Grampians to Baldessin Press to work on lino and contact prints, this became my favorite image of the entire trip to Australia.

I can finish the panel of stitching while sitting with Lee…then I think I will have it framed…all four plus feet of it.

Here are additional images of my trip starting with Tasmania.


Early flight to Melbourne.

Then off to the Grampians and Halls Gap.

And the dispersing of the Waterhouse Exhibit leaves from Fatal Shore.

And then off to leave some at Baldessin Press.

Quality time with other internationals.

Influenced by the work and book of Dianne Fogwell. We went back to the city for the opening of her show.

From the magic of Baldessin to Ocean Grove and a two day workshop on white line print making.

A final trip back to Melbourne before heading home to see a Bea Maddock piece at NGV and have a final flat white on Degraves St.

Thank you all for the inspiration, the gifts and most of all your hospitality.

Til later.


Tedious Weather – Escaping Into Cloth

This is the view out the dining room window….day after day after day after….

So I went outside to find the beautiful details of what so much rain can do. Lichen!

I really love this last image. Only some of the Japanese maples have lichen like this on them….many others do not. Must have something to do with the bark. You see that light blueish green color  there? It is the exact color of an Italian green earth pigment that a friend found for me at the Rembrandt Museum. Such a nice thoughtful gift to get yesterday.  Lee received a jar of Sir Basil’s Marmalade. The same friend does our Costco shopping on his way from the airport to Brasstown whenever he comes this way. Two to three times a year we get household necessities in bulk thanks to him.

The stitching goes on at a frantic pace this past week. Forget that “slow stitching” idea. Once threaded and pinned why wait?

So far I have three folios completed on both sides.

And the front side of another folio is finished.

On some of these pages I am using a cloth that Philomena Hali dyed with the soils of Alice Springs. She gave me a strip of the cloth and I used an image of it in my Earthen Pigments book…then of course stored it away til later. It is now later and makes a nice background for my scraps of cloth.

I like how they all feel when folded and stacked one on top of the other. So a book of them is most likely.

The suitcase for Australia is getting fuller by the minute. It is a carry on size but I always check it because of the tools, etc that travel with me. I may have to add some poplar boards for the white line printmaking class. The only wood that works well over there is a very expensive Japanese magnolia sold in print making supply stores. Most of the printmakers I follow down under are using linoleum for block prints. And that just will not work for the white line technique.

The quandary is that I do not want Lee using the table saw at this point and I am scared to death of that finger-eating machine. My son will be here the night before I leave so maybe he will cut up the boards for me and they can be sanded when I get there.

I also might just enlarge my carry on bag to put clothes in. I really hate looking like a helpless old lady who can’t get her bag stuffed in the overhead. It is time to get serious about that packing and stop putting it off. Two weeks from today I will be in Hobart, Tasmania with all my bits and pieces still with me until a friend puts me and them in her car to head to Halls Gap. And when I am there I take advantage of the Post Office to ship things home that will not fit into my bags.

The stupid crow is still banging on the guest room window. I will find something to hang there so that those coming to stay with Lee are not disturbed too much. Scraps of cloth should do it in lieu of a scarecrow.

Not much else new here…..just getting fidgety…..well more fidgety.

Til later.