In the “spirit” of the “thing”…

As is often the case, there is usually more going on “behind the scene” in any given circumstance.  My presence here (right this minute, on this page…with NO PHOTOS)  is a case in point.  Since our move to the Brandywine Valley, my life has changed often and in many ways.  Maybe it was doing that for years the entire time we lived in New York…after all, we were there for that final time for more than 20 years…with two kids…  “Hah!”, you think?  But, truly, looking back, it seems like it was one long continuum…same goals, constant, endearing friends, and ALWAYS my “work”,  striving…day after day, year after year:  a life “in a line”.

Poof!  it seems that our move shifted some sort of cosmic “kaleidoscope”…terrible things happened and wonderful things happened…there has been no “straight line” since we pulled out of our New York driveway for the very last time.  This is not a complaint;  just, an “observation”.   Once all the house renovations were done (not going into details here, let’s just say that life on a ladder and behind a sledge hammer isn’t everyone’s dream)…and then there were the sad and the tragic things that I guess happen to everyone, but when I looked up…it was three years later!  When I could finally go back into my studio with a free heart, I discovered  just how Sleeping Beauty must have felt.  OH!  OH!

Picking up the pieces has been “interesting”.  I am “on my own” so far.   But, working again has been such a joy.  Getting this blog back seems somewhat of a miracle in itself (lots of behind the scenes work done there to recover all that was ravaged).   But, “where are the photos”?  Good question.  In the interim, updates have changed my software beyond recognition!  (and, understanding).    Working on it…promise.   Soon.  (she writes, with fingers crossed).

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Don’t you just have to smile with those two on your side?  …

Sunday…

It would be far easier for me to just “let the day go by” with no “wise words”… (Sunday, traditionally being my day to “post”).  But it seems disingenuous, somehow.  Even though few ever comment, I know by the graph that word.press “oh so kindly” provides me that unknown readers do take the time to check for an update more often than I have managed to do for far too long.  And, I feel accountable for that, somehow.

Seven windows left to paint.  Doesn’t sound earth-shaking.  In the beginning, that would have been nothing…easy… after three years…not so sure.  Sometime in the next few days, all will be done.  But what I am not quite sure of is how one picks up the pieces at that point.  Think about it.  It has been three years since time in the studio has been a “given”…a way of life.  Projects were always in the works…on paper, on the table, on the wall.  So much has happened in the interim. (and not much of that “ART”).    Most of the “work” that has gotten done has happened more in spite of the state of things, rather than because it was “work”.  Art has definitely taken the back seat to “life”.   This is uncharted territory.  The things that used to drive any progress in the studio seem uninteresting, or just plain GONE…

There are two ways of looking at this.  The easiest…simply picking up the pieces…truly, no longer seems to be an option.   The harder thing will be to make new choices…can one abandon things in which so much time and energy has already been invested?  Not clear.  No one ever tells you that when opportunity knocks, hard choices have to be made…and, that clock is ticking…

Total Disarray

Since the contractors showed up (unexpectedly…two weeks early!!) on the first of April (looking for a fool, no doubt), all of my “lives” have been in disarray.  As promised, they cut and pried the stucco off of the entire exterior of our house (all apparently incorrectly applied in our part of the country, leading to extreme water infiltration and rot).  That process created a whirlwind of dust (once again) that settled into every nook and cranny.   It is STILL “settling” on every flat surface inside the house (just visualize the impact of that). Once that mess was made, they pulled out and replaced almost all of the windows and some of the doors.  The results of that created untold consequences on the inside of nearly every room in the house.  My oh-so-nicely restored trim was pried off with the exact results that you can probably see in your “mind’s eye”…you can’t imagine what it did to mine, up close and, very personally…And then, John’s mom got sick; she re-bounded for a bit, but then, not.

I think we are on the up side of the curve now.  More things outside the house are back together than are not.  The contractors should be done and GONE by the end of the week. My recovery will be longer.  I will begin re-painting this week; putting things back together; DUSTING…  Kids are coming home soon to spend a bit of time remembering and honoring their grandmother.  I WILL get back on track art-wise, and blog-wise…but, for a bit longer, things will be unsettled.  Check back in a few weeks…but, thanks so much for stopping by…

A New Venture

IMG_5765I am not particularly one for new year’s resolutions.  I find failing at them beyond depressing.  So, I am not going to call my “new” intention a resolution, but rather more of an “effort”…of the on-going variety…How is that for some rationalization?

For a while now I have been reading of others’ “daily journaling” activities.  I have been especially interested in experiencing for myself the value of a daily practice.   My handwriting has deteriorated to nearly illegible.  And, whenever I attempt to sketch out a random idea, my head and my hand respond like totally independent entities.  To describe my drawing style as “loose” would be “kind”.    Plus, my designs always look the same…boring.

And so, I have begun.  I found an old spiral bound book containing black card stock.  Choosing to “draw” with a white pen gave the idea some panache.  I decided to play with patterns…for two reasons.  One, I figured by forcing myself to repeat motifs I could re-train my hand and my head to work together.  And two, I like repeated shapes, and have often used them in my work.  Maybe the play could inform the work?  To keep myself honest, I have been writing the date on the page…

IMG_5766I am thinking that the most compelling reason why this has been working (so far) is that I have set aside a time to do it every day:  every morning, early, as I sit here by the fire with my coffee and my pen.  I have read that if one does something for three weeks, it becomes a habit.  Not sure if that will prove to be true.  But, I am totally enjoying the daily mind-stretch…and, as the pages accumulate, the sense of accomplishment is real.  Perhaps if I keep going, something fresh will show up in my work. Still, I am not going to jinx the thing by calling it a “resolution”…

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Working “on the Fly”

I spent the last two weeks being “the presence” in a courtroom as the trial for the man who killed my daughter’s husband wended out.  Incredibly, a jury of twelve managed to find him guilty simply of a misdemeanor…  No justice for Tai-Jin.  No justice for my daughter.  Somehow, we now have to move forward, but, for sure, it will be with an eroded trust in the system, and, I think, in people in general.

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In the early mornings, I sat quietly at my daughter’s dining room table, sewing beads in orderly patterns around the edges of my hearts.  There is a lot one could construe from the comfort that activity gave me.  Maybe with time, some wisdom will come.  In the meantime, I continue to just pick up the work and add a few more stitches.  Maybe the palettes will be next…

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New Year, Fresh Start

September sunrise…unedited…taken from the boardwalk...

For me, September has always seemed to be the best time for a fresh start.  Change seems more possible somehow.   In January, the “new” year seems to come dragged down by all of the holiday leftovers whining to be dealt with…taken down, taken back.  It can be weeks before anything truly “new” happens.   But, September…it gently ushers in a season for new possibilities, new choices.  The summer turns quickly here, where I now live.  One day it is hot; the next, it is NOT.  From AC to heat, just as fast as that.  No leftovers.  A new day…as fresh as the cool winds blowing up from the valley.

I took a break from this blog weeks ago because I was feeling like a “fake”.  I was doing the work: that was for real.  But, I felt like I was doggy-paddling…just barely keeping “even”.  The house, the stuff, the mess…it was just too distracting.  Finding inspiration and the will to keep working on the art was simply too hard.  “Frustrated” doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt.  But now, the house is painted (a monster of a job…top to bottom and all in-between).  Most of the stuff has found a spot.

Pictures remain to be hung (the icing on the cake).  Some moving about will still happen.  But, the space I am living in finally feels like “mine”.  NOW, I can make “art”.

And, I am thinking,  even that will be different.  My priorities have changed.  I want to enjoy what I am working on.  I want to follow wherever inspiration takes me.  I want to “play”;  I want to let the muse out of the box, and stuff the ever-present “critic” back in.  Some old work may never be finished.  I think am OK with that.   I have “re-found” (excavated”?) so many treasures, purchased years ago, stashed for “the perfect project”.  Not saving them anymore…I am NOT.  If not now, when?

I think my old work did have “a voice”…one could tell it was mine.  But, I think, moving forward,  I want to play with ideas more.  I want to take some chances.   I want to explore the process.  If anything comes out of it, great.  I want to learn some new things; I want to have some fun.   New year, fresh start.   Photos to follow…

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…

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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…

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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!!!)

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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…

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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 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

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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.