Being a Teacher Again

I worked on this box yesterday while letting a private student carry on with her first foray into dry point etching. The box holds every single one of the gifts and thank yous from Australian students over the years. It is 17″ x 11″ x 4.5 inches. Today I will try to figure out the lid and extra support for the base.

It was so good having someone in the studio asking questions for the last two days. She made the field journal exactly like the one I made….only hers is a lovely slate grey and sports a beautiful raku porcelain button I had in my stash. I did not photograph it…just got busy.

She also brought along her XCut XPress to try out while learning how to make her first etching print. I gave her a small  plate much like the one I use for my own etchings and told her to draw an image the same size as the plate. I showed her an older one of mine.

It took her the entire afternoon to adjust the etching and the inking to get something close to what she expected. I think she is going to love making small prints.

Not only did she make the field journal/box and learn how to do drypoint, but she took notes continually on whatever I was saying. We problem solved a binding issue on one of her artist books, discussed free computer programs that I use to adjust photographs of my artwork, and talked and talked. Her husband also suffers from dementia and sharing stories helped a lot. It was good for both of us and I look forward to her returning.

Demonstrating how I can change photographs with a simple program, I was reminded how much the purpose of piece of work can change its meaning. It can go from tactile object to the ghost of an illustrated idea for words.

Like this…

To this…

Doesn’t this second image talk to you about holding things together? Unraveling? Marks of age? It makes me want to put the feelings into words and will likely end up illustrating a poem. Wouldn’t it also make a great cover for a personal journal?

It would be easy to get completely wrapped up in making images like this on the computer. But then they just become manipulated pictures….anyone can do that. But having this essence of something you made by hand that shows your own way of making a mark seems to capture the soul of what you were thinking while engaged in the creating. It deserves to be thought about, written about, explored more deeply than just an interesting image.

Don’t you agree?

Anyway I will share what I write about it. And also show the finished Australian Gift Box in another post.

Til later.

Finishing Up Fragments and On the HomeFront

I am using the old dictionaries to find images to add to the fragments.

So many nice images. I am not so sure that newer dictionaries have all these illustrations. Anyway I have framed all but one of the Fragments pieces. Here are some of the other ones.

So now I have used up five frames that I had glass cut for last year. I do not really have a shop to send these to so they will just hang in the studio til someone comes along.

Last week Lee helped me chop herbs to make a seasoning to package up for Christmas gifts. It takes a very long time to chop by hand and then it has to dry for days before it can be put in jars. This one is rosemary, thyme, oregano, garlic and sea salt.

We will make more next week after a private student returns home. She is spending a couple of days to learn how to make a personal field journal/box. Much like this one.

And I am filling in the third hand of Responsibility. Lee has trouble using the vacuum, sorting the recycling bottles, pulling weeds, and locating which drawer his underwear is in when he goes to take his shower in the morning. I now lay those out for him. I also have to load that pesky weeder eater cord onto the spool for him. But lately he has lost interest in cutting the grasses and weeds down. I can’t say as I blame him. And they are far enough away from the house so what does it matter?

While I am showing a friend how to make her field journal I think I will create a box for all the gifts and thank you books/cards from my Australian students. It will be fun to make compartments for each of them. Such treasures deserve a good place to be.

That’s it til later when I post the results of working in the studio this week.


We Are Ready!

Final wrapping of the dioramas and the last of some old personal history. Three panels with my hand prints and the things pertinent to my grandmother, Mom Mae. Even has some of her recipes copied from old recipe cards of hers.

Her recipe for “Squaw Corn”. Remember it was the fifties…

What struck me when I found these in storage was that I only showed them once in undergraduate school and got the “too nostalgic” look for those bits of cloth and sentiments. Now I look at what I am doing now and it is back to small bits of cloth and stitch and papers…..SAME THING!

So here are the works all put together in their order of going down in the hole.

My personal.

The patriarchs.


Expedition to Elsewhere and more details of them.

The bits and pieces that get buried along with all the soils collected over the years.

And lastly the art group notebooks.

All carrying some rosemary with them.

I am relieved that all this work is finished and here is where they will end up ….. out there where the sun is shining.

Til next time. I might do more writing and less pictures.

Making Choices

Here are all the notebooks from twenty some years of art group ready to go in the hole. The grave digger stopped by the other day and we picked the spot. Now I just wait for the window washers to come and go next week and bundle up the dioramas to pile up outside.

The studio is looking more organized.

Now all my wood blocks are in one place and closer to my press. The only Curiosity Box I kept is the tall one on a pedestal leaning against the wall.

Before the Expedition to Elsewhere work I spent a few years making these boxes. I did research on the origins of “collecting”.  All but this one box was either sold or donated to art auctions at Penland or Arrowmont. The following is my artist statement when they were exhibited.

Curiosity Cabinets

Artist Statement

I like to think of these boxes and the accompanying painting as “theaters of memory”.  They are staged presentations of the small things we collect.……things that require further inspection. So we bring them home, tuck them into drawers, place on shelves or discover in pockets. These pieces are my way of honoring the things I found irresistible at one time or another.

Each box has its theme set with the background of an inked collograph made on an etching press and cut to fit. Compartments are constructed within the box to fit not only the collected items but handmade books, hidden drawings and watercolors. Some things are removable, some are not. There is just enough space left for the owner to add a bit of their own collection.

You are seeing the last of mine.

Sandy Webster

I included my bibliography.

Suggested readings on the subject of collections:

To Have and to Hold by Philipp Blom

The Hummingbird Cabinet: a rare and curious history of romantic collectors by Judith Pascoe

On Longing: narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection by Susan Stewart

Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler

The one I kept is second from right middle row.

Philipp Blom said, “The objects in a collection connect us with something far away.” I really love his book and still have it.

Susan Stewart said, “The collections’ space must move between the public and the private, between display and hiding.” And I still have her dog-eared book.

So in the sorting and cleaning of the studio and trying to decide what my situation can handle in the way of “making” I have chosen more papers and fabric scraps and threads. And paints and prints.

All will be sewn in bits and pieces to small contact print papers that frankly are less than exciting but somehow at the time were “wonderful”.

I plan to work on small collages of scraps of things. Nothing too large. I want to use up the few frames that I have left for them or for new wood block/linoleum prints.

And make more tiny white line prints using hand made watercolors in the stitched pieces.

I liked adding the bits and pieces a few years ago so would like to return to it because it is something I can do upstairs sitting with Lee.

So I have gathered up the parts and made a place for them next to my seat in the den. There is something very soothing about holding them together and then moving them around to just the right arrangement. It is a very tiny way to keep order in my life.

Keeping things simple is where I am now. Here are some things that I came up with to help with that:

When removing the kitchen garbage bag, make sure to put several more in the bin before opening up the new one.

Lay out Lee’s underwear before going to the gym so when he takes his shower they are right there and I don’t return to find him still searching for them.

Fill the sink with soapy water right before serving dinner and put the cooking things in. Finish eating first so you can get the rest washed and dried so that you both leave the kitchen at the same time. (My kids used to get aggravated because I was always hovering over them to grab their plate, but all that practice has paid off.)

Make sure that you can find everything at all times. Be the one to take it out and be the one to put it back.

Keep bills paid in advance when possible and make sure that there is cash on hand in a hidden place.

And just yesterday I treated myself and the cleaning lady by ordering a brand new vacuum cleaner for downstairs. I simply can’t carry the upstairs one down and back and the cleaning lady would like not to.

Today is our day to meet a friend for lunch at the brewery and I am taking her granddaughter some fabrics for her and her friends to sew pincushions when she returns home. Bravo for them!


Til later.