Something Old and Something New

I found it! Packed in with basket “stuff” was this hand towel that I wove many, many years ago when I was learning to weave on the loom and make baskets. It occurred to me that when we dry our hands we only use the front half of the hanging towel. So why not conserve yarn and only weave half a towel, hem it and hang it on a cleverly woven rug beater knot? I remember how ingenious I thought this was. Only three were made after it was roundly put down by both my basket makers guild and weaving guild. A very nice friend bought one, I gave one to my mother and here is the one I kept hoping more than two would think it a good idea. I was sincerely ready to go into production. Late 70s thinking with yarns bought at a Ben Franklin dime store. Funny stuff.

But more success in the studio with those leather bits and smooth rocks.

A cane toad spined book with earth pigments embedded into covers.

The upper smooth one on the right is covered with Icelandic cod skin. One side tan and the other grey. Upper left is kangaroo straps woven together on the top over a pretty patterned rock. Bottom left is cane toad woven into kangaroo on square 2″ stone. And another cane toad strapped rock with a piece of white rawhide woven through.

Here are the under sides.

Here is the small cane toad stone that I started with after the parchment looking rawhide ones from a couple of weeks ago.

Using the parrot fish skins did not work. The skin was too fluffy and easily separated but here is the failure in red on one side and black on the other. It has since been taken off.

And then I wanted the one stone with one strap weaving through the other to show up the weaving and added the perfect bit of bamboo root.

All of these rocks feel good in the hand and will be put to service on my work table in the studio.

Here are all of them in their new home.

Keeping them company in the center is a gift from one of my favorite students, now deceased, Lin Parker. It was a tumbling rock placed into the paint mixing at a plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is like holding a piece of shiny glass and is a good weight to do duty with the others.

There are a few stones left to cover but I tucked them out of sight in the bottom of this box. The only other ones that could be used are already weighting down the fish outside the studio to prevent them from banging into each other.

And now all I need to do is sew the text block for this book and make end papers with the marbled paper I made from the soils here at home.

Then I need to get onto designing and printing those Christmas cards. Small etchings would be nice in a simple design is what I am aiming for.

Til next time.

Building Men

Lee’s hands used to help me build so many things that were part of my art work. While having company here this week, I talked her into helping clean out the storage room so I could search for some things I wanted to donate to the folk school archives.

We found what I was looking for. These cloth, clay and pine bark small sculptures of the men of Brasstown. Here is Jake and Harold.

When we moved here in 1993 I would watch tall old Jake come into the corner store with his crooked neck and lean in toward whoever he was talking to….in this case Harold. They all had to look up to Jake.

I could not figure out at the time how to make separate legs so went with just this lower body from the bark a recently downed pine tree. Antique men’s underwear buttons were perfect. The shirts I made from some striped fabric from my stash of cloth.

Then I got better at manipulating the bark in 1994 and made The Home Boys. Happy dancers.

The shirts here were from fabric I wove on a dish towel exchange. I had to mount them on slabs to keep them from toppling over in their exuberance.  Lee would do all the cutting of logs for me.

Now they have all been delivered to the archives office as well as some black and white photos taken during a photography class in 1996 and later. They were pictures of things of interest to me and the men of Brasstown who were the subject of both undergraduate and graduate degrees.

In sorting through the pictures I found these of an installation I made in undergraduate art class. It is about men leaving, just going away. My interest was peaked by the study of hobos and why so many left and did not come back home.  I was always intrigued by those who leave and don’t look back.

So I made a threshold doorway, cut down some trees to invert and then clothed them with cloth and nails. Each has his bindle tied to his walking stick (just like the hobos used to). The walking stick kept them upright as they left.

And the reason all of those men left home was a lack of nourishment in some form or another so I made this and placed it just the other side of the doorway….on the inside.

I still have this empty bowl that was an accident piece from Lee’s wood turning days. The bowl could hold nothing and the basket materials I wove around the edges could not contain anything. Even the ladle had to be carved out so as to give these men nothing….no reason to stay. I loved this installation. I loved gaining the confidence of strangers who were happy to have someone care as to why they were gone from home. This bowl will be one of the last things I part with. Just holding it can make a person weep….weep and then smile at the memories I filled it with.

Anyway, Lee is no longer turning bowls but I have found several that our kids will take home. Our shelves are full of other ones and so are the cupboards.

I am about to go upstairs and have a bit of red and popcorn in one of his bowls….turned apple wood. It holds just the right amount.

Til next week or a few days….whenever something comes up that is worth sharing. It might just be my cod skinned stone and cane toad book spine. Tomorrow they will be dry enough to see if the experiments worked.

Til later.


A Final Workshop for the Folk School

Like this natural contact print on the ramp up to the Book Arts Studio, I have left my mark on the Folk School here in Brasstown. Yesterday I finished my final class and it was a lovely easy ending after thirty years and six months. Five students taking a class called, “Books All About The Stitch”. Here is some of the work done.

Pat’s shifu book about her losing dialogue with an ill husband.

Jenn’s coptic and toji binding lessons.

And her charming little family felt books.

Kent’s stitched books, fronts, insides, and backs. Plus a detail of a small sewing book he did.

And his work in progress.

Beverly’s small books outside view.

And inside views.

Sarah’s mother’s tapestry box, closed and open.

Here Sarah works on just one more during closing ceremonies.

Our little display of work.

I worked on this recycled idea that Kent showed me in a class a couple of years ago. He had peeled the cloth off old books and glued the pieces together. I stitched mine. The green one was a book written by Joan Biaz during her early days in our anti war period. The cover had this small design that I made into an attached book mark for the patched book. It will be my sketchbook for Australia.

It was a quiet class. Each one lost in their own work and not in need of my attention very often. So I read from my poetry book when not stitching on the book above or helping out, or cleaning up. It was such a pleasant experience to just be in the book arts studio with them.

It was a perfect good-bye to teaching there

Now I will donate some pieces to the archive center there….sculpture works and books about the community.

I might even be able to take a class there sometime…..but not now. Now I am simply letting go.

Cut myself loose you might say.

This next week I will get back to that pesky cane toad with rocks and other leathers.

A little time back in my own studio and showing Marla how to use my presses while she takes a break from looking after Lee and joining in a printmaking class at the folk school.

Til next week with something else.


In The Studio This Week

This morning at the dam….just missed getting a blue heron in this picture.

Still working on the Responsibility Hands. One finished and another about half way.

The reason those fingers on the right hand are a bit crooked is a lifetime of abuse. Another thing I did these past few days was cover rocks with rawhide and kangaroo hide.

My friend, Gian, is a brilliant book binder and when I showed him the two rocks I bought from Shanna Leino he told me if I had a smooth rock he had the rawhide and could show me how to do it.

Here is our first attempt.

I drilled the holes for stitching too close in and when trying to close up the end I could not make the two pieces meet. So this happened and a bit of PVA and clamps helped seal the seam before sanding.

It was a great experience and very hard on the hands. Since Gian is leaving this weekend to go home to Canada I thought I would try again with the scrap of leather he left here in the studio.

And the back.

And this one.

These last two are still wet. But the one above had puckers in the back, the slits I made did not open and it was way too lose on the rock. I was over-correcting for the mistakes on the first one done with Gian’s supervision.

I was just about ready to cut the parchment-type leather off when it occurred to me that I would lose nothing if I put it in a boiling water with more of the corn paste that it takes to make the leather pliable. It shrunk down in no time and my slits opened into the elongated holes.

Here are the three of the rawhide covered rocks.

The two on the left will dry out as white as the one on the right. They feel wonderful in the hand.

Then I had a larger flat rock from a stream near here. I used up a couple of dremel tools making the pattern and then decided to use my last scrap of kangaroo hide to do one like Shanna Leino’s etched stone.

Here it is after being put in the pot, trimmed, sanded, waxed and buffed.

And the back.

My hands are very sore from doing this. The leather needs to be massaged forever with corn paste until it stretches. Holes have to be drilled…luckily I have a drill press in my studio. Sewing the pieces together halfway and then shoving the rock into place and trying to stitch the rest of the seam together. All of this has to be back stitched and the needle sometimes just does not want to go through. All the time the rock and leather must be kept damp and stretched.

It takes more than overnight to dry completely and then the seam excess has to be trimmed with very sharp scissors and then those seams sanded on the small belt sander next to the drill press, being careful not to get too close to the stitches.

And it all makes a big mess in the studio which has yet to be cleaned up.

I can’t wait to show these to Gian later today when we go over for a farewell scotch.

But this is hard work. My advice is to buy Shanna’s. Hers are so beautiful, I had to buy both of the ones she had left on her site a few months ago.

Her rocks are from Lake Michigan and her cover parchment is much thinner than the one I had, but aren’t they just lovely?

Til next time.