Wondering About Those Travel Projects?

My re-entry home was tough…but, it always is.  My kids go the extra mile to make me feel special whenever I visit…yummy dinners (which I don’t have to plan, shop for, or cook), intriguing side trips (no need for Siri), and, a cozy spot to read or work (on whatever thing my little heart desires)…I definitely need to visit far more often!  Funny how all the problems left behind are still here when I get back home.  Where is that Dust Fairy???

It IS back to “reality”…though things here have been improving.  More and more of the dust tsunami is gone; the tile guy has been making real progress; and, the freezer may soon once again work…  Winter is OVER.  Spring has arrived.  And, the “traveling” projects fared pretty well.  So, this is my theory.  At home, one can get so wrapped up in the “must-do’s”…there is no time for “what if?”   Getting away from the day-to-day, and working on just a few activities can truly help one focus.  There is a lot of unscheduled time…random moments of pick-up work can turn into true progress.  There is time to think, and time to act on the idea without the distraction of duty.   I had such fun just “playing” with my stuff.  So here is how it went:



I think I finally made a bit of a plan for my “Sophie” scarf.  Haven’t decided yet if it is simply going to be a grid of “circle in a square” motifs (that could be very colorful, low risk, low stress), or a more complex layout with bands of squares, big and small, separated by stripes of circles.  The latter plan sounds much more interesting, and truly appeals, but it will be a construction nightmare (maybe another trip should be in my plan just to work this out.)   All would have to be assembled “as I go”…winging it, hoping for the best.  Trusting that random serendipity will be beautiful…hmmm.   I figured I didn’t have to decide; I knew to begin, I would need lots and lots of circles…so I happily crocheted them:  many, many circles…playing with both yarn and color combinations.  (By crocheting with two strands at a time, I can increase my color variations almost exponentially…definitely, a “Sophie” strategy.)  The caveat, though, is that “lace weight” is a somewhat loose term as far as yarn goes…resulting in circles of various sizes…combining yarns can be somewhat equalizing…but only if that is the driving factor in pairing choices…a concept I can appreciate…but for me, the choice based on color will always win…I may regret it…but, right now…that is far too much worrying for a “travel” project…


Dreading dealing with all of the ends, I decided to weave them in as I go…This has turned out to be a rather “zen” kind of activity…good thing, because the “ends” tend to be a bit endless…



THE SWITCHBACK SCARF with the undecipherable directions…

Took my balls of Noro sock yarn…ready to go.  Kate sat down with me the very first night (good daughter that she is), and showed me how to get started…(tried and tried to understand just what those written instructions were telling me to do)…and, GOT IT…off I went…fun.  But, I hated all that orange and brown…what a way to start…after about a foot of crocheting, with orange and orange, turning into to brown and gray, I decided to rip it all out.   It is a sad tale…but, one with a happy ending.  I decided I could be “the boss” of my yarn.  I cut out the orange and the brown.  I started again.  The colors played out as I worked…(even a bit of the orange)


Not quite done with it…and, there is trouble lurking in the last bit of both balls…IMG_0283

more orange…and after that lovely bit of lavender, I know what is coming…gray and then, that brown.  Still the boss of my yarn balls, I think I am going to quit while I am ahead, and finish it off…if I could find my instructions…

(Have to admit, it has been so much fun working with the colors as they come off the balls…I bought another skein in a different color way!!!…no brown or orange though… another travel project???



The paints were especially engaging.  That three-hour time difference…getting up at 4 in the morning?…never minded it…that just meant more time to mix pretty colors.  Each session, I would pick a color to be “the star”…and I would mix and muddle the others in however I wanted.  So engaging…until disaster struck.  I had packed up my box and put it in my suitcase to move from one lucky kid to the other…the paints were still wet…ALL slid into a muddy mess…SO GLAD I had it wrapped in a plastic bag, but, I got a real understanding of what Alizarin Crimson can do…


The idea of washing it all down the drain seemed far too extravagant…plus, not very ecologically sound (been to California, lately?  just getting rid of “garbage” can be a full-time activity).  So, instead, I started fiddling with my “custom” mixes…


And, still had fun…even more fun, really…

That is it.  That is “what I did on my Spring vacation”…

Catching Up

It has been a grueling few weeks…my painting project was interrupted by the “tile demo disaster”…that’s as in “demolition”.  What a lot of work.  We chiseled up the tile down the hallway, into the pantry, into the “music closet”, into the bathroom…onto the landing to the basement, bit by bit.  Once the tiles were gone, it was pretty clear that we needed to take up the backer board as well…more chipping…some with a hammer and chisel…some with a tire iron and sledgehammer.  All had to be put in boxes…boxes and boxes…a BIG job…and, a very dusty one.  The dust got everywhere; even upstairs.  We cleaned it up.

Then we started in on the dining area.  We were dreading this one (but for entirely the wrong reason, as things ended up).  The floor in there is heated with pipes running in loops encased in several inches of concrete under the tile…so, we were thinking that getting the tiles separated from the concrete without causing leaks to spring in the pipes would be “tricky”.  The tiles popped right up!  Easy…little did we know what was coming.    Left behind were the concrete ridges of the thin-set…which, in the end (after much ineffective, tedious chiseling…inch by inch) had to be ground away with a monster tool…And, even though we thought we had set things up to capture all the dust with lots and lots of strategically placed plastic sheets and drop cloths, it turned out to be a TOTAL dust bomb.  At one point I couldn’t even see John working two feet away.  And, guess where all that dust went?  EVERYWHERE.  Even found some in the refrigerator…If it was out (first floor, second floor, didn’t matter) it got dusty…really dusty.  Pretty much every dish in every cupboard had to be washed…and that was just the easy part.  Days of vacuuming and damp mopping…If you are an optimist, you could say that at least I now have a VERY clean house; if you are not, you just know there is STILL dust lurking, yet to be found.  And, I haven’t even been able to think about dealing with the studios…ever tried to dust buttons? dolls? fabric?

So, that is my excuse for “no work…no blog”.  But, I have literally, left the dust behind for a few days, visiting my kids…and I brought along a few projects…


I found this little journal on the sale shelf at Anthropologie, thinking to keep it in my bag to record odd thoughts as I was out and about…I was sick two weeks ago and not feeling like doing much…I dusted off my tray of washi tape (really, I had to dust it off!!!)…sat in my chair and played.  I made the book “mine”…maybe, now, I will actually use it…I packed it in my suitcase…have found a great new artist (thanks, Paula!)…wrote her name down…


Kate and I found this funny scarf in a yarn store at Christmas…tracked down the pattern, found the yarn…she finished hers (of course).   I couldn’t make sense of the pattern.  I brought it with me…got a lesson (Kate is very patient)…and, now, I’m on my way!  The original pattern calls for crocheting from both ends of a skein of Noro Taiyo sock yarn (very long, unusual color ways–can’t believe I am actually crocheting with ORANGE yarn, but things are looking up…the purple is next!)  I wound my skein (working from each end) into two (somewhat) equal balls.  The idea is that you work an inner and an outer loop from one ball, drop it, pick up the other and do the same…the colors sort of wend out of the balls in unexpected combinations…totally fun (now that I know how to do it!!!)


Am thinking to make another “Sophie Digard”-esque scarf…so I packed a little box.  I want to make “a circle in a square”…but not a “granny” one.  That doesn’t seem like an original thought, but I looked and looked for directions…and, found none.  So I decided to try drafting my own block (never done that before).  This is definitely “a work in progress”…and probably will be, for quite a long time…  It is even more of a challenge because “lace weight” seems to be a rather loosely used category in the yarn world.  I crochet with two balls at a time so I can have even more “colors” to work with…but with the variations in the thicknesses of the yarns, my process creates blocks of varied sizes…which leads to alternative adaptations to the pattern…and, another trial block…definitely, not a solved problem…but still, I truly love playing with all those colors…


And, last but not least…I brought my watercolors.  I treated myself to these before we started all the moving business.  Never got to them.  In a flash of optimism, I  tracked down a palette box…and, never got it loaded.  I did put together a little tin of half pans to take to Amsterdam (why do I always think I need a project when I travel??)  But, “it was too cold to sit and paint”…”no benches”…lots of excuses.  I pulled out the “real” box last week (dusted it off) and filled it up.  As I did that, it occurred to me that I didn’t even know what  some of these colors were…Cobalt Green…Payne’s Gray…Tartan Blue…so I packed them, with a few brushes and a watercolor book to simply “play”: one color at a time…this is the Anthro Red page (a lovely, warm, mineral-like red, in case like me, you didn’t know…)   Quiet fun.  Engaging…

That’s it.  Not sure what the “take-away” is here.  I am having a “vacation”.  My kids like to take me out to see things.  We “shop”, in a random way, especially in used-book stores and thrift shops.  We eat out at great little restaurants.  We sit around, drink wine, talk and laugh about things.   And, in quiet moments, I treat myself to some play…it is all good.


Sorting…Revisiting My Stash

_MG_5489_MG_5487“Moving” is a very small word: it does not even begin to convey the impact of the process on one’s life.  Maybe that is even more true when one has done it as we did…wrapping and packing every single thing in the old place, and carefully conveying it to the new one.  And, since that new place has required lots of sanding, painting, and repair (still needs some of that), the expanse of time between the packing up and the final settling in has made each thing look new as it comes out of the box.  And, that has meant even more “curating”…do I still need it?  do I still want it?  do I still love it?

Case in point: my stash.  Some of it came out of boxes like old friends, especially my fabric.  It is now all stacked in neat piles in a dedicated closet.  Just fabric…only the stuff I love.  Whenever I walk into that closet,  I am surrounded by my history as an artist.  It is very reassuring…all is patiently waiting there for me “to get back to it”.

My “paper” stash grew from a more recent interest.  That might be why there is so much of it…of all types: torn tear sheets from magazines and old books with intriguing images for collage, printed papers (many that I have made, myself), textured ones, cards, vintage ephemera…the list (and piles) go on and on.  Every single thing looks like a possibility: stacks and piles of potential.  As an artist constantly seeking inspiration, it is tough to toss or donate any of it.  It is just too soon.  The randomness of it all makes it hard to steal a few moments to work with it though…

And then there is the stash of…I don’t even know what to call it…the “odd bits”?  I have been accumulating this stuff for years…lovely old buttons, vintage ribbons, handmade lace, embroidered trims, intriguing pieces and parts.   Except for when making my Christmas ornaments, I have NEVER used ANY of it!   Why?  Not sure.

I have decided that once I truly  get “back to work”, that that will change.  It is time to “use the good stuff”.  So, for the past few days, I have been spending random breaks from chipping up floor tile for sorting through it.  I have had some of this stuff for over thirty years, and have not truly looked at it since.  It was stashed and forgotten.  Taking a fresh look, piece by piece, has been engaging.  For some, the process is probably like looking through an old photograph album.  Each thing brings back a memory.  What I kept is now a truly curated stash.  If I didn’t “love” it any more,  it got consigned to the “flea market pile”…maybe some of these things can inspire someone else’s art.

IMG_5493IMG_5482IMG_5486IMG_5496It is my intention to have my future work be inspired by some piece of what I chose to keep as a starting point…I think the next chapter is going to be challenging and new…as I said,  “moving”…way too small of a word…

Patience is a Virtue

_MG_5477Gray, sub-freezing days do not inspire me to do much of anything…except, maybe to crawl under the covers with a good book.  I am not a winter person, probably due to those many New York winters of endless snow shoveling.  A few weeks ago, on a rare day out, I treated myself to a visit to the local garden shop.  This isn’t just any shop; this one is owned/connected to the Anthropologie store across the highway.  And, it is one of my absolutely favorite places to wander and to linger.  As with its parent store, the displays and merchandise are always original, creative and over-sized.  Such was the case of the huge tin urn filled with eight-foot tall tree branches sporting lots and lots of fuzzy buds…some sprouting gorgeous hot pink flowers!  It was two degrees outside.  Inside, there were flowers…blooming!  An unexpected sign of spring.  So refreshing.

Looking out my back door a few days later, I noticed a tree that had some fuzzy buds on it. Could it be?  I grabbed my clippers, crawled over the pile of snow and ice left by the plow, and cut some branches.  (Mine were NOT eight feet tall.  Maybe, two feet, if I was being gracious.)  I scrounged up a vase and arranged my finds in a sunny spot on my kitchen table.  And then, I waited.  And waited.  Nothing, for days; for weeks, even.  Ready to give up and toss them out, I grabbed the bunch…but, there right in the middle of my hand, I noticed this little pink thing peeking out!  The next day, nothing new.  D-A-Y-S later, a few more fuzzy buds yielded a hint of pink.  This morning, I counted nine.  Not splashy over-sized Anthropologie-worthy blooms…but, for me, still, a truly encouraging sign of the new season to come…and it can’t do that too soon for me.

UPDATE, March 2:  Nearly all the fuzzy pods have popped!  I have the promise of Spring on my kitchen table!  Tried to take a photo, but it all doesn’t fit in the frame…isn’t that wonderful?


A Thought for the Day

IMG_0182No deep words…just the result of a bit of “found” time in the studio on a recently unearthed flat surface.  It felt good…both the “doing” of the work and the feeling that some old activities that I used to love are once again possible.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

A Fresh Point of View

In the last few days, it has occurred to me that what I have been bemoaning (now THERE is a classy word for “complaining”), i.e. all the time that has been stolen away from my “real work in the studio”, has not actually been lost at all.  I can see that now, as I am nearly done.  I will try to explain.

IMG_0163I have been painting my house, room by room…and, sometimes, the large, connected spaces, all as one effort.  There has been A LOT of sanding, patching and prepping.  I did choose a color palette for the entire house, thinking of it as “all of a piece”.   But, except for the “white” spaces, in the end, I have abandoned the color chips, and mixed the colors myself.   (That is a risky business, which I may pay for down the road, when the inevitable touching up is necessary).  But, after more than one disappointing session when the color on the swatch or in the can seemed to be perfect, but looking too dull, too bright, or just “not right” on the wall

IMG_0169…I finally just started stirring up my own.

It is not as adventurous as it sounds.  I have been working from a very limited palette: a fresh blue (actually named A Breath of Fresh Air), a light pink, and a cool and a warm darker gray.  My white is a creamy one, just the color of whipped cream, with a dash of vanilla stirred in.  All of the trim is white; most of the wall colors are rather light.  My now pale pink dining room is a real treat.  I love walking by it: the color changes throughout the day because of the light shining in through the windows.  And although, the entry and the hallway up the stairs are the exact same color, they all look different, each from the other, all at the same time…Again, because of that magic light.  The gray in the kitchen and down the halls is silvery.  I mostly chose it because I didn’t want a “real” color.  Early on, I did mix a blue to paint the ceiling in the nook off the kitchen, where we eat.   (Little did I know, I was setting a precedent with that “paint-mixing thing”)…But again, because of the light, it is blue during the day, but gray like the walls when we are in there at night.  The studios were all colorful flights of fancy, but I have written about them before…

Hit the wall (so to speak) this week though.  The living room.  The trouble with it was that we actually LIKED the color in there…but, it needed painting badly…and, in the end, it seemed too dark with all the lighter color play going on in the spaces adjacent to it.  We made a best guess and picked a color: not quite the Wedgewood Blue it was, lighter, but blue.  I painted a wall…and it was a lovely color…painted another wall and still lovely, but bright…just…BRIGHT.  I poured the paint in the tray back into the bucket, dumped in some white,IMG_0172 stirred and stirred…and painted another wall.  Still…wrong.

Tried again: stirred in some gray. IMG_0173


UGH.  Defeated, I quit for the day.

For the past few days, I have been walking by that room, trying to catch the light.  I have a new plan for tomorrow…more dumping, mixing, and stirring…And, hopefully…the color will be beautifully “right”, and I will finally get to paint all four walls.   Then, the downstairs will be done!

Which brings me back to what I have discovered about the work I have been doing for the past year or so.  I was thinking too small when I complained about missing my creative life in the studio.  A year and a half ago, I packed up all of my things, and curated as I did so.  As I unpack now, I am still curating.  There is almost nothing remaining that I do not love or which does not inspire.  Most of it has found a new resting place.  It all looks fresh.

And, the space I now call home is (almost) truly mine…right down to that “just perfect” color on each and EVERY wall.  By the time I am finished (two rooms left to go), every single square inch of this house will have been worked on by my hand.  The colors will sing.  It feels good.

Flea Bitten

IMG_0153It has been a LONG time between flea “bites”.  Since we moved away from my favorite hunting ground, the Elephant’s Trunk (so sorely missed), there just haven’t been many opportunities for great finds.  Here in my new spot, there are still! boxes to be unpacked…mostly, just those kinds of treasures.  In a way, I guess I have saved the “best for last”.    In the last year, not many things have leapt off a table or shelf into my hands.  But, that very thing happened this week.  Twice!

I know most people don’t shop the Goodwill for “eye-candy”, but it has always been one of my favorites.  You just NEVER know what you might find.   Look what I found!  Fairy tales…in Chinese!  (thanks, Kate) with such gorgeous illustrations!  Think I am going to turn the pages into envelopes…

Envelopes?  A totally fair question.  Blame Pinterest.  I saw a pin that caught my mind and it just won’t let go.  Last week, while dropping off a donation to the Habitat Re-Store (house-fixing still taking precedence over time in the studio), I found a couple of truly battered books for a dollar to try out the idea…


Probably, not “art”…just some cheap fun.  Will see where it leads…hopefully, not to an entire shelf of old books needing a new life…

ps:  I am trying out using my phone for photos…they will get better…(fingers crossed, because it sure makes the whole process simpler at the moment…)

Deviating from the Printed Path

IMG_0142The week has been gray, gray, gray, and rainy.  Thankfully, no snow.  Work on the house continues.  In the last few days, I have painted a very large closet, soon to be a pantry (and, hopefully, NOT the catch-all for everything else that still needs a spot).  I have painted the trim; the shelves are in place.  Done.  Cross that one off the list.  I have also painted three ceilings, and put the first coat on the walls of two of those spaces…There has been no progress in the studio…

Except for the knitting.  It is the current “pick-up work” when I just have to take a break…and that might be why, about four rows into the “modest ruffle” as described by the instructions, I discovered I had flipped the “right-side/wrong-side” row sequence, totally veering off the intended stockinette finish.  UGH.  Ripping back, or “tinking”, as I have heard it called (sounds more charming than the actual process) was not happening.  There were nearly 300 stitches in each row!  I took a leap of “whatever”, and LEFT THE DIRECTIONS behind!  Risky business, believe me.

The large band of bumpy stitches in the photo is my sorry mistake.  Whatever is beyond that is my attempt to recover from it…so far, so good.   The pattern calls for 10 rows of stockinette…don’t know if my extra row of yarn overs will make my ruffle “immodest”…but, it just doesn’t look done yet…I AM keeping track of that ws/rs business, though.  And, oddly, the project has all of a sudden gotten much more engaging.  Go figure.