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Some More Thoughts and Images

First off I will get the drawings a day over with….

I pieced together

scraps of colored silk fabrics

making a long scarf.

 

Cotton grey and white

patterned scarf is very soft

and loosely woven.

 

SuziBJ cut

the bottom part of a skirt

for this pleated scarf.

 

My drawer is so full

of these Mahdi Chandler scarves

made from bits of gauze.

 

Then a switch back to travel journals….. starting in France where my daughter took this picture of me wandering the streets of a small village.

And drawings from the journal I took along.

And some more random journal entries…

Travel:

It is the journal that is indispensable when traveling. Not the camera or even the companions. The camera gives too much information and the companions will not see nor remember it the way I do. But the journal with quick marks of local color, wines, foods, and notes bring the entire trip back each time I refer to it. I see the place and smell the food. I taste the wine again and hear those sounds of being in the country, in the hotel, at an art opening, alone in an unfinished building with the soft sound of cane toad feet dragging across the floor toward my bed.  My journals are filled with a shorthand and economy of marks that preserve it all, and I can return anytime I want to.

Young Patrick is waiting in the pub somewhere in New South Wales to shout me another beer while I wait to be found. The Poets in Pubs group that meets monthly in Broken Hill are still seated around the table in the back room listening to me read their favorite American poet in an appropriate accent. I can smell the worn leather case belonging to an elderly former boxer as he removes an old black and white photo of himself “in the day” and the poem he wrote earlier that week.

There are travel journals from Japan, China, Bali, France and Italy but the outback towns of Australia is where I prefer to spend most of my return voyages. Our shoulders touch, our eyes meet and we raise our Toohey’s Old and Stone’s Ginger Wine in remembrance.

And one of the reasons I so love Australia….

Notes from 2007 on Teaching in Australia

“Fourteen of them are here and I interview them all to find their personal direction and get them to contain their passions to a small place that has lids, doors, pages, covers, bags and baskets – how much of all this do they want to conceal or reveal. Some of those working with the personal stay quiet and have the materials needed. Others might ask my input on materials and form. Then they, too, go quiet and leave me out of their next decision. Now I am only the direction sign.

I envy them at these moments of discovery, adjusting, learning and note-taking.  So I busy myself with making another sample, drawing and writing on the board, and try not to hover too close to them.

Later I will make the rounds again, one by one, to see if I am needed or not. If I am, it is usually a technical problem, easily solved while they let me handle their work and materials.  They will also share why their work is taking a particular form. How it all fits around some thing that matters to them.

This is the gift they give to me – letting me in to help make the spaces and places for things that matter.

 

The other day two friends came a long ways to lift my spirits. Kent, a student of mine who took private white line printmaking classes with me here until a year ago, and his wife, Catherine, a well known textile artist, showed up with these gifts.

Kent brought the single malt scotch for me and the assortment of dark beers for Lee. Catherine brought Madeleines and a fresh baked loaf of sour dough bread. She has taught in Australia and it was wonderful to share our thoughts on teaching in that country. They said they will return and bring me some sour dough starter. I am so happy they came and are thinking of coming back. Kent has kept in touch this past year by sending hand drawn images on postcards for Lee and I. Such a thoughtful couple. Thank you!

And speaking of Lee, I found this poem I wrote six years ago…..

 

Untitled

 

She travels

He prefers to stay home

 

She is vegetarian

He needs red meat

 

She will talk to anyone

He is selective or silent

 

Her glass is half full

He is on the way to empty

 

How does this work?

 

After forty-seven years of one floating

And the other sinking

 

They simply trust the tether line

S. Webster.

 

Til later…

 

 

 

A Deeper Look Into My Art Practice Before

I was looking into more old journal drawings and came across this book that was made to record the thoughts and drawings of a series about my childhood home. The book was shaped like a house and the whatever was handy paper for the folios were marked into before any writing or drawing took place. I did not want to open it and have clean blank pages staring back.

So what follows is how a total of three house shaped structures came about and evolved along the way. I needed to capture all my thoughts in the process. I will start off with this one of many artist statements I wrote quite a while ago that captures how I work.

The Order of Things:

As an artist who is creating something, it must start with an idea, an idea that I feel strongly about fixing into a visual form. It must be something that matters to me and worth the expenditure of time and materials to resolve. The choices made along the way to completion are continually in service to that idea. There is no deviation through the seduction of materials and I will keep the processes of making within my own range of learned and practiced techniques.

I am not interested in making someone else’s art. I don’t have time for that. Nor am I interested in simply “playing” in the studio. The work that happens in my studio is exactly that, work.

It is an unwavering commitment to an idea that requires continual choices in a particular order of selection, combination, completion and assessment….S. Webster

Now the first house…

“Indeed, every great image has an unfathomable oneiric depth to which the personal past adds special color. Consequently it is not until late in life that we really revere an image, when we discover that its roots plunge well beyond the history that is fixed in our memories.”  Gaston Bachelard

Journal for a work addressing families, homes and secrets:

I am not comfortable exposing or even thinking about others’ secrets. Not even my own. Actually the corners will have to stay dark and the layers covered. I will need to find metaphors for our secrets.

There could be layers of houses with the walls made of letters from home – the positive letters of my mother’s – all layering over a more secret center pulse of the house’s existence – small windows here and there – one sees through to the next but never the whole picture.

“The corner is a sort of half-box, part walls, part door.” Gaston Bachelard

I like the safeness of the corners as well as the mystery.

“And this utterly familiar common thing would suddenly be revealed to me with all the wonder with which we discover a thing we have seen all our lives and yet have never known before.” Thomas Wolfe

And then I continue thinking about the houses I will make……

 

Return to the house structure for Revealing and Concealing Space…piano hinged box with separate roof and floor pieces. It can open completely out and turn inside out….adapt to the secrecy of my place in the house.

 

The back wall of fence opens to release me to the world of Nature….

“Doors that open to the countryside seem to confer freedom behind the world’s back.” Ramon Gomez

These are the things I would bring back into my space at home – all took on a preciousness and were carefully tucked away – hidden in boxes – or placed on shelves or pressed in books.

This house has moved to a place that encourages escape from its confines and all that implies – closed in, unfinished or disrepair – too small – no air for a young tomboy. Yet there is something comforting about its form. Solid and protective. There are remnants of the attempts my mother made to give the house a “homeness”. The curtain is enough as she was not a true lover of housekeeping – hated cooking and was terrible at it. Did not like housework and chose to ignore it. We were loved and allowed to be free. She was a very tolerant woman.

“It was a patriarchal system where men managed the means of acquisition and made the decisions which determined our lives. The woman’s obligation (and usually desire) was to ease those determinations into existence. As children we knew our place, our value, and our limitations. We also knew that we were not necessarily needed and therefore easily excused to wander and explore our natural world in complete safety and with wild abandon.”…from artist statement to Where I Once Belonged

The entire experience about constructing this house fluctuated with my feelings brought on by memories. Somewhere in the building and collecting and writing I let go of the secrecy of the house’s corners and wanted to find myself in this place. I wanted to show the freedom I had to go away and be out of the confines of a small place with too many people and too much unpredictable noise. Always out the door and gone – safely away rather than safely home. The wallpaper and finding the text – my own writing rather than Bachelard’s determined my final response to the house.

I still need to explore the secrets, the corners and the darker interiors of this house, but at least now I have a point of reference – a point I do not mind returning to for more and more information about myself and my memories of home (house).

 

The second in the series was a small house that has a book coming out of the side. In the attic space is a strip of paper all bundled up with the text from “where I once belonged”. Pages were coffee filters. I never wrote on them….

The third in the series was back to building a house.

I have made the third house – returning to the early idea of a house that opens to reveal its corners that remain inaccessible. It is slightly taller than the main part of house #1. The front two corners are hinged to the back half of the house halfway down the outside wall. The interior is more of the wallpaper of #1 and the addition of a photocopy of a picture I took at Dolph Smith’s homestead in Ripley, TN. The distorted view through the window and the exterior’s clapboard siding has such a look of familiarity. The outdoors beckons (through the window) to come outside, “come away” it calls. The floor is treated as in #1 house. Outside the house a shingle look of papers overlapping – much better looking so I recovered the exteriors of house #1 and the book house of #2. Roots only appear here and there (one floor with attics above. I like this one.

I had someone make a tiny wooden chair to put in the center of the floor of this third house…it’s emptiness was my “presence of absence”.

All the writing above appears in the journal along with other notations of materials used and why.

This series was exhibited a few times. I loved making it and taking notes on my memories of what mattered to include in the houses.

The last I saw of them was here….about a year and half ago.

I found this process of making interesting and wanted to share it. Tomorrow I will return to the usual…more drawings a day, more images and writings from old journals.

Til then

Bracing for Winter

I have decided to just ignore the next few holidays. No decorations, nothing that will have Lee asking about when the kids are going to come. They are to stay home and stay safe. We will do the same and have celebrations closer to summer when the virus should be better controlled and vaccines are available to all of us. I just started this 927 page book to read aloud to Lee. Might take all winter!

Here are some illustrations from My Life in Clothes and the Fairy Book.

And an unfinished fairy page. I don’t have too many pages left in this book but thanks to Lorraine I have more books to draw into.

And those four days of scarves and haiku….

Organic cotton

in earth tones of stripes and dots

by Gudrun Sjodren.

 

Two long plant dyed scarves

twisted, knotted with tied ends

makes a neck warmer.

 

A very complex

patterned, layered and dyed scarf

I bought in Bali.

 

Mary and I both

wanted this scarf so we cut

it in two pieces!

I will take more photos of my sketchbooks from travels, etc. and post them another time. But the other day I found this piece of writing I did from a “taste” prompt in a writing class. My mouth watered as I read it!!

Lick off a spoon Poem

Homemade Fudge

For this I will use my largest wooden spoon.

I am sure I read somewhere that you need to use a large spoon.

It is a big pan with high sides.

The sugar has started to dissolve in the water.

I clip the thermometer to the side keeping it‘s tip off the bottom.

I stir it and taste the simple syrup on the spoon.

Now the cocoa powder is stirred in.

Taste again to make sure it really does taste like chocolate.

Boil to soft ball stage – 232 degrees Fahrenheit.

Just in case the thermometer is off a bit, begin tasting at 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

Finally! 232 degrees.

But just to be sure it is soft ball stage, drizzle some from the spoon into cold water.

Lick the spoon.

And reach into the water to shape the drizzle into a soft ball.

Eat the ball.

Remove the pan of fudge from the stove and stir in the butter.

Stir vigorously til the fudge just begins to lose its shine.

Try to pour quickly into an 8 by 8 buttered pan.

OOOOhhh. Some has hardened in the pan.

Use the spoon to scrape it out – one mouthful at a time.

 

I found some other worthy bits of writing in old computer files and will post them later. I need to get this finished while I still have wifi at the house. The cleaning lady is cleaning. The caregiver will be here in an hour. I need to make a grocery list that starts with wine.

More later.

Getting Some Control

We have a friend who comes once a week to share her lunch with us. We keep our distance at the table. She listens to my apprehensions, worries, exhaustions…and then offer suggestions. The leaves above were a gift from her this week. I tied them together with string just to keep control over something and love how they dry and curl in this bundle.

After lunch I get Lee set up to be outside doing something while I vent to Barbara. Here are some of her ideas:

Start using the dishwasher again! Don’t rush through the meal and wash up while Lee is still eating…put the dishes for the day in the washer and even if it is no where near full, turn it on after dinner! It works!

Add another hour to the caregivers time and get five hours of free time. I talked to the caregiver and her employer and that idea goes into effect starting Monday. This way when I have toi do the shopping it does take up half my time, just some of it.

Use the apartment more to remove myself from listening to what is going on with Lee and the caregiver. What a great idea! I only used it once to write the text to construct books around before.

Speaking of which this is what I wrote the day before Barbara came that put me in a frazzle when she was here.

In Just Two Hours

 

In just two hours:

Left to do the grocery shopping,

had a car to car visit with neighbors

on the way back to my house.

Like everyone else when they see me,

I am told they think of us.

Can they visit Lee?

I tell them he may not know who they are.

We go our separate ways.

 

Groceries are unpacked and put away,

so is my coat and purse,

I am sweating.

The cold wine called,

I couldn’t just carry the bottle downstairs

past the hall where they would see me,

the caregiver and Lee.

 

And now I am here in the studio,

writing and holding the water glass.

Trying to make it last.

 

So yes the apartment works fine. I do not get internet there but the house phone can be carried over so the ringing will not upset Lee.

There are two trunks full of old memories I needed to look into and toss some out. Under a couple of trash bags I took over a bottle of wine. Yesterday I wanted to be ready to retreat here as soon as the caregiver came.

The first thing I did was fix a spot of herbal tea in my old favorite pot with the cup down below. Used a little of coffee raspberry flavoring to sweeten it.

Then I set up my pads, sketchbooks, laptop, etc on a table Lee made using sewing machine legs that is by the window and near the loom he made me in 1982.

The apartment also has old oil paintings I did in the mid 80s.

The door into the apartment and the counter tops Lee made.

And those two trunks stacked at the bedroom end.

And after facing the trunks, filling a large garbage bag, sorting letters and old photos for the kids to deal with, I treated myself. Wine in a glass that Lee frosted.

In looking at old photos of myself with the intention of just throwing them out, I was caught in a childhood I had forgotten about. Since I am the only surviving one of six children, there has been no one to say, “Remember when…?” The result is, you simply forget. I looked at an old photo book of me from 2 to 23. Then I met Lee and less than a year later our daughter was born. Those photos from that time  on were packed up weeks ago to push off on the kids. My childhood, their report cards and drawings all kept in one of the trunks are now ready to go off with them. They get to throw them away. I just could not do it.

The last four days drawings of scarves.

Antique silk scraps

pieced together randomly –

irresistible!

 

Very drapey mesh

of rayon strings loosely knit

and knotted at ends.

 

A knitted tie dyed

loop of a nice colorful

band in pinks and blues.

 

Multiple knit loops

gathered and knotted

from Laughing Squid.

*Note: I tried contacting Laughing Squid this morning to order another one of these fun neck pieces that wrap three times around. They must be out of business now. It was an Etsy shop. I wish I had bought more at the time.

More journals….

 

2007

Is there anything like a belly full of extraordinary food and wine – then locked up in a single cabin first class on the Ghan swaying your way into the Northern Territory and listening to the anti war version of Waltzing Matilda” I think not!

I am washed, lotioned and propped up in a space that is pie shaped, 24” at the pillow end and six feet down it is panning to 48”. My door to the hall is across from my daughter Amy’s cabin. A wash basin folds up not six inches from my right foot. All I need is here in this space.

A wonderful dinner with Aussies – full of politics, wineries and family talks and a promise to meet at breakfast. Then there is the window- more than a metre and open to the outback of Australia. What is out there in the dark? I know it is wild, mysterious and beautiful – nothing less. I will sleep through some of this and be sorry that I did. But I am older now than the last time and can trust Australia to be hre when I wake. Good night.

And Anzac cookies made this week.

Til later….Lee just broke the leaf blower again….I will just buy another one on Monday. There could be another leaf somewhere.