The Things I Used to Do – More on Those Artist Retreats

Beach chair at Puget Sound


This is a photo I took at Puget Sound when our artist retreat was there for a week of working and talking and looking closely. This chair was left on the beach and looked so inviting. It was a place you could sit and forget everything, just let yourself go and pretend there was nothing more important than just letting go. But I did realize that sooner or later I would have to get back to the work I thought was important at the time. I was hand stitching with secret written spun shifu threads that were made to hold patches of old clothes belonging to my husband and I into small panels to then be pieced into a large quilt shaped like a calendar month of our anniversary. At the time of the retreat we had been married for over thirty years and it seemed like a good project to work on – commentary on being together for so long. (Now we are coming up to number forty-eight, rare in this day and age.)



This is a detail of what turned out to be more than five by seven. Each square is a day of the month of October. Coffee filters, spun and cut into quarters, clothes and a transparent cloth for the backing. Some days there were bits of gold, some days the thread of shifu was ragged. I like this piece and exhibited it shortly after it was finished.

Near Puget Sound
When I wasn’t wandering the beach, I found other places to sit and write. I will be taking a writing class this next week and my head will be on character and story development. It won’t be my story but I see myself in almost all of the women I have conjured up. It is going to be good to get back to them and others that may just suddenly show up in a writing class when the instructor gives a prompt.

I sketched some of the pieces I photographed and referred to two books I was using at the time, Anne Lindbergh’s Gift From the Sea, and Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space. After a year of sketching and writing in my book not only quotes from their books but my response to some of what they said, I created this work. It was a way to interpret the three way dialog we shared for about a year and ended up on another quilt piece. The pages from the sketch book were torn out and hand stitched to hand written text pages. The remains of the book became a receptacle for a small vial with a tiny burr in it. The book was embedded with soils of home and roots.

One Year Away on Exhibit
Here it is on exhibit and a detail below. What I learned was that Anne Lindbergh came and wrote from a place of privilege and much as I loved her descriptions, I did not find her all that easy to identify with.  On the other hand, Gaston Bachelard is someone I have referred to over and over again. It is the one important book I talk about to students who are thinking about ways to visually describe space. My copy of Poetics of Space is the most dog-eared book on my shelves.

One Year Away


And now I am going to go off and do more supervised writing, do as much listening as i possibly can, which is hard at my age (seventy-one) when my mind is in a state of constant chatter and insists I pay attention.