So Much to Work On

The walks to the gym continue. Love the dew on the grasses in the meadow on my way back before seven-thirty in the morning.

Two days ago the mail lady rang my door bell to show me a much-damaged package. When I saw it was from Australia, I automatically signed for it rather than to refuse delivery. I carefully brought it in the house to the kitchen sink. Once opened and cleaned up, there were four cans of Saunders malt extract – all with lids popped off due to the crushing, one can of Keens curry powder, crushed and spice sticking to a bit of leaked Vegemite jar (one of two), some Dukkah that had a ruined carton but packet inside was safe. A mess to be sure!

I rescued all but one can of Saunders (because its inner foil seal was broken), and the disappearing curry powder. It turns out the package was a birthday gift from my daughter from a store in Victoria Aus. that caters to those who miss their foods of home when they have moved out of the country. They did a lousy job of packing but the house smelled wonderful and I now have enough malt extract to make my malt cookies until the day I die! One of the jars of Vegemite went to the Australian bike shop owner because he told me how much he missed it and was unable to find it here. When I took it to him I had a chance to visit with his father fresh from down under and very grateful for the Anzac cookies I took in.

I hope to visit with him again before they head back to Perth.

I watched Sadie make a book selection the other evening. She is in the middle of the top shelf of Australian selections.

And today, right after returning from lunch with neighbors, the stone man made his delivery of flagstone and sand for the front and back yards.

I have been laying out both books, the poetry one and the essays one, in the proper format. It took a couple of days to figure out how to number pages, but I got there. I am keeping each of them the same size and hope to have them ready soon to send in and ask for preview copies to go over one more time.  Designing the covers was an interesting part of this adventure.  I want them similar in size, feel and look.

Not much else going on. Next week the stone laying crew come in and we are hoping that it finishes up in the five days they will be here. All depends on weather and how much help he can bring in.

And one more thing. Many years ago our tax man told me to keep track of my car mileage because I used my car for business purposes. I kept up the practice. So when I bought my yellow Ford Escape in 2002, I started a new little binder to keep track.

When I bought a new car, another Ford Escape, the green one I now drive,  I continued to keep track in the same book.

Well yesterday I was filling up and noticed there was only the smallest space left to record the date, mileage, and amount of gas put in. I stood there having a moment all by myself as this little spiral book of every gas fill up, oil change, new tires, car repairs, etc. just came to an end.  Since 2002 I knew all about my relationship with my car. Now I have about three weeks to find another binder of 3 x 5″ with the spiral on the long side. Friends and family think I am a bit obsessive to keep this up when it is not necessary anymore. And hasn’t been for some time. But I need to hang onto what I can at seventy-nine. I love this tattered book that has gone every place with me when I am driving. I just need to find another little companion to go with the pens waiting in the console til needed.

Better go…it is time for a walk around the neighborhood and some wine.

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

Back in the Studio

A lovely gift from the painter, Amanda, in exchange for all my cartons of pigment making tools, supplies, rock and soil collections. I got the better part as it has opened up my storage room for packed cartons of those art supplies going with me. I also gave my entire collection of bird and wasp nests to her little boys and threw in an ABC’s in the Woods poster. Their car was packed tight with an additional add of a floor lamp and a ream of paper for sifting soils onto. Thank you Amanda and family for helping to clear space.

The one last minute grab back was a small clay type stone of gorgeous blue/grey collected out on the Pacific coast and a large soft rock of a bright yellow that Gwen Diehn and I called, “Rivercane RD Morning Sun” when we discovered it many years ago. I will take them to my new home.

I have more space to work in the studio with recent cleanouts.

And with cleaning out the last of Lee’s drawers, I found this animal claw he brought home from a trip to Asia. It was a perfect addition to the right brain side of the Traveler.

And a final touch of maps of Italy and France with magnifying glass to the head.

I only have the Homemaker to work on next. Then all four of these autobiographical sculptures will be finished. Marla and Patrick took the final measurements so they can make museum cases of wood and glass to house each one. The four will just fit onto a tall oak postman’s table that I bought from the Brasstown post office many years ago. I will be eye to eye with each as I contemplate and converse with myself. Their bases are all designed and only need to be securely glued in place. I will keep the heads separate until after the move.

We all walked to the dam last week and saw loons.

Then again this morning I actually got a picture of a pair plus some other interesting shots of the moodiness there.

So the loon needed to go into the Bird Stories book.

There are also a bunch of pictures from the walk we all did earlier along the river. I will post them later. Dilly has volunteered to share wine time with me since all company is gone.

Til later….I am headed back to the studio to actually do some work. The Homemaker needs her head carved out on the two sides and the things sorted that fill that head. I also want to start a large wood cut.

Happy New Year to all of you. It just has to be better than the one we are wrapping up!



Christmas Time Come and Gone!

Christmas morning was small and quiet and quick. Interesting gifts that were mostly comestibles except for subscription to the Washington Post and some snazzy food containers. Lots of basic pantry foods. But then…

A bourbon from Detroit Michigan and some bottles of Stones ginger wine…a favorite!

Patrick turned each of us a pastry dolly for shaping small pies. Mine is a beauty from a crab apple tree. Then he roasted oak sticks to flavor alcohol. Here is the chart that explains the flavors of light, medium and dark roast.

We played board games starting with one sad round of one called Pandemic. We could not save the world and like Covid outbreaks, it happened far too often. We all thought there should have been more virus in the United States as here is where we have more people who are spreading it with their vast grasping of misinformation over facts.

So we put the board game away and went to our favorite…Settlers of Catan. Here we can travel, discover and trade our way to success.

And when we finish playing the game all the fun little parts go into this old field paint box I gave Amy for it years. We made little muslin bags for colored tokens and larger ones for the parts. I think Lee may have made the wooden tray to hold commodity cards.

Lee also made a slew of spare tokens out of wood because some get lost under the table. Patrick and I tied with three games each, Amy won one and Marla came close, but mostly discovered where more water could be found at sea.

And we had some good drinks.

Starting with Madeira to go with my first ever home made Christmas cake and a recommended Irish cheddar cheese.


Newton’s Law that has apple butter, bourbon, sugar, lemon juice, garnished with an orange twist and sprinkle of cinnamon.

Marla’s amazing Hot Buttered Rum made with her special “batter” and stirred with a cinnamon stick when mixed with a good rum.

Patrick’s Black Manhattans with whisky, Amaro, bitters and dark sweet cherry/orange twist garnish.

And our favorite when we all get together to celebrate our dear departed friend, Pacia. These drinks are dreadful in a somewhat pleasant way and always served in a Jefferson cup with fresh popped corn. We had no idea there was a name for these….Friskey if using a cheap whisky in equal parts to Fresca and a Frumpy if substituting rum instead. When we looked them up, the advice was to drink quickly but we take our time and remember Pacia fondly and share stories.

Oh, and I need to follow up on the little bottle of Screwball Peanut Butter whisky. It was not bad but didn’t taste much like peanuts.

We took several morning walks. The most recent one was at the folk school walk along the creeks. I will show more of the other walks in the next blog.

Then this morning they all left. Patrick pulling another trailer of things they want from here and Amy and Marla finding just enough room to fit themselves in her Jeep.

And away they went.

Now they are just about home in Michigan and driving in snow and slush on the highway.

So glad I live here and not there. All the laundry is finished and the beds made up again. My studio has less furniture and tomorrow a painter comes and gets all my pigment making equipment and soils. Then lots of cleaning to be done!

Til later….