Touched by Hurricane Sandy

I just didn’t have any pithy? or wise? thoughts to offer last week.  We had just spent a very long week of 10 hour days trying to reclaim the houses that were “enjoyed” by our summer tenants at the beach.  We call it “hell” week and as usual, it lived up to its name.  I have a feeling that our tenants have far more fun at the beach than I do.  John left for Europe, and I came home alone with a van full of tools, things to be fixed, and not a lot of energy.  By Thursday (my self-imposed weekly blog deadline) I had done nothing interesting to write about…but

in a brave moment a few months ago, I signed up for a workshop in the city with Lynne Perrella, a mixed media artist with an original eye whose work I very much admire.  “Brave”? one might ask.  Well, for me who rarely takes the train into the city, let alone the subway (under ground??!!!) to an “unknown” part of town…let’s just call it ALL a “personal challenge”…add to that, John was in gone…so, the city, the train, and, the subway without a safety net?   And then, Sandy showed up on the horizon!  Have to admit, more than a few times, I considered just letting it all go.  Still, I went about gathering together the supplies and tools on the workshop list, and checked and re-checked train schedules and bus routes (I could always walk, right?).  Made myself a route cheat sheet to stash in my pocket; memorized street names…you get the picture… And Sandy just kept coming.  And, in the end, so did I.

I came, I stayed, I worked, and when word came that the MTA was shutting down the transit system in a few hours, I LEFT!  I was soooo glad to get home to “my spot”…even if it was to hunker down to watch the ominous newscasts of the storm making a dead aim for “my beach” and which as time passed (thankfully with hot water, lights, and tv–never taken for granted after last October) also heading for a part of the city that I am sure I will visit again…and, yes, I will be taking the subway to get there.

Just a note:  Hurricane Sandy was truly devastating for many and will continue to be for months, even years.  My story is just a small one, and totally inconsequential to the rest of what is going on just miles south of here.


Christmas Cards? It IS October, right?

It has been a busy two weeks.  My mom and sister snagged a New York-bound ride (from my nephew) and spent last weekend here.  Of course, the big draw was a double-whammy of flea markets (Stormville and the Elephant’s Trunk) since it was a holiday.   I truly do try to keep a reasonably clean house–at least, most of the transient clutter is generally picked up or stashed behind closed doors!  But, when my mom comes to visit (a rare event), the leftover child in me tries to measure up.  Add to that, my sister is one of the few visitors who enjoys looking at EVERYTHING (and there is quite a bit of “it”, especially in my studio), and, IN GREAT DETAIL (lots and lots of eye candy, unfortunately, most with teeny cracks and tiny crevices)…So to maintain the fiction that all is ALWAYS(?) neat and “dust-free” (hah!) I spent most of the week cleaning.   And, happily, along with banishing the dust, I also finished up some old projects in the whirlwind…leaving me with a clean house and a clear worktable on Monday morning!  Don’t you love the chance for a fresh start?

I decided to start my holiday cards!  (What?)   No time like the present.   My November is looking to be even shorter than my October…  If it seems as if I am rushing the season, I would offer up the following defense:  I do a lot of “making” for the holidays:  gifts, ornaments, cookies, and, yes, handmade cards.  My kids come home for an extended time (I love that) so my deadline is way before December 24th.  And, because I want to savor each and every part of this very special holiday, I try to give myself time to do it all.   I love making Christmas cards.  It is a very particular kind of challenge.  One has to make multiples of one two-sided thing, in an efficient but spectacular way, with each card still being unique. And, for the last few years, I have decided my cards should be “useful” in some way (other than as filler for a recycle bin).  So I make cards that might hang on a tree or mark a spot in a book.  They are usually hearts or stars.

This year, taking a cue from some of my art journaling experiments,  I tore four large sheets of watercolor paper from my pad.  Using inexpensive, but still intensely colored tube watercolor paints, a wet-on-wet technique, and a very wide brush, I painted both sides of two of the sheets with reds and greens and, the other two, with blues and greens.  Then, while the paper was still wet, I tossed coarse Kosher salt onto the surfaces.  Because the paper was wet, the colors continued to migrate and mix. As the paper dried, the salt absorbed the moisture along with some of the color, leaving behind beautiful crystalline patterns–very wintery looking.  I designed a template to trace and I cut out my pieces.  I used up all four sheets!  They were so lovely.  Because of the wonderfully varied surface, each four-pointed “star” is unique.  I think I will combine sets of two to make an eight-pointed star, probably mixing a red with a blue, not sure…still a “design in progress”.  But, the best part, there will be LOTS of stars!

Dotting I’s, Crossing Some T’s

I have a long, low trunk in my studio.  Inside is John’s record collection.  The “rule” used to be that nothing could be put on top of the trunk.  Who would want to move stuff to get to a record?  Not my husband!  But  the CD’s have gradually won the music war in our house and records get little play time these days.  Gradually, things have landed on that oh, so tempting flat surface (big surprise, right?).  These are  “someday soon” projects, the ones that I don’t want to put away in a drawer or basket and forget about.  The theory is that since they are just perched there for a short time that they aren’t really “on the trunk”.   I wish I could say that is the way it works…

But, this week I have actually picked up one of those projects.    I went for the one that was taking up the most square feet!  That was the vintage-looking wire wreath which looked great in the sparkly store but kind of puny on my wall which was on top of two large black jeweler’s trays filled with about 30 little (and open!!!) containers of various leaf-colored seed beads which were precariously propped against the two stacked containers of little (but very charming) old glass buttons…  You get the idea.

So…can’t say it is done yet.  But, things are hopeful.  The plan is to wire together the beaded leaves, the button “flowers” and crystal clusters and to insert them among the looped wires.  This project is NOT going back on the trunk.  Which I guess brings me to the point of this rambling entry.  I am finding that there is usually a reason why these things don’t always get picked up and finished quickly.  Some projects just have to sit a while.  The leaves were originally an experiment with French flower beading, the fire-polished crystals are left over from my daughter’s wedding bouquet (so a good memory), and the buttons…well, I have more than a “few” of those, but these are “singles”, hard to use for lots of projects, but too lovely to stash away.   A few months ago, these were three separate piles on the trunk.  The wreath got plopped (um, “perched”) on top…and it all of a sudden said, “Look”!   And, I  did.  That is the beauty of a “someday” project.

Whirling Dervish?

So, the cabbage turned out great (just my opinion, since I agonized over every part and process–“stretching” is a benign word for it).  And, I just spent a week with my mom, shopping. But don’t get the wrong idea…we look for treasures in unexpected places, usually thrift stores rather than “high” street.  But, the finding (and the lunch out)…that’s the fun of it.  Anybody looking for some great wooden cigar boxes?

So, I am back in my studio, full of that September feeling: you know, the one that really feels like a new year of new beginnings.  The kids on my corner, waiting for the school bus, just radiate those high hopes and dreams for a brand new year.  I guess it is just programmed in.  For many, many years, September has been my time for beginnings.  So, in spite of the fact that my house is a bit dusty and my fridge, a bit empty, I have had soooo much fun this week.

The slices have been diced (mostly), and are ready…

So, that beautiful stack of fabric, bought last December!!! which has taken up prime seating space in my studio since then, was sliced, but now is “diced”.  I cut strips in combinations of widths that when sewn together would result in a 3.5 inch strip.  The sewn strips are then cut into 60 degree triangles.   I plan to sew them together in alternating sets or in various combinations to avoid those pesky corners at the seams that would like to meet, but rarely do.  We will see.  That is the plan anyway.

A favorite quilt top, basted, ready for the quilting hoop…

I have pulled out one of my quilt tops:  in the pile for years, but probably one of the first in which I just played with fabrics that no one else in their right mind would even consider might go together…I love it.  And there it is.  Now, basted and ready to quilt!  The last time I did this crawling around on my studio floor was a few years ago…I am trying to reform…all those quilt tops…maybe this could be considered exercise?

Playing with watercolors and salt in a new journal, pages and pages of color…

And, not even last (other stuff has gotten finished up!!!) or least, I have been messing with watercolor tubes and Kosher salt.  The original plan was to create backgrounds for “thoughtful” journaling…but as usual, the colors have taken me hostage.  I think this is another “stay tuned” kind of activity.  But, an artist has to be flexible, right? especially in September when all work can be new.


Done! and Sitting Pretty

Finally done…and a challenge to the very end.

As I was working my way to the center, I got sort of comfortable with the general process…each enlarged and photo-copied leaf had been numbered and cut out to use as a pattern for that particular leaf.  Working from the outside of the spiral towards the center, I chose the fabric for the leaf, rough cut it, spray basted the rough cut to a neutral base fabric, traced the leaf outline from its pattern, fussy cut that piece, stitched its veins using various colored threads, added detail or shadows with alcohol inks or paints, and then stitched the completed leaf into place, using a clear vinyl overlay for accurate placement.  But, as I got closer and closer to the center, anxiety set in (hear that shark music in the background?)…how was I going to do that center?

This was literally the heart of the matter: the part of the photograph that had seduced me in the first place…to just “pick this one” even though I didn’t have a clue how to start it, let alone, “make” it.   I confess: I danced around the problem.  Tried a few things…painted my front door, ran the vacuum…walked by the design wall, did some laundry…cut out some paper pieces…read a GREAT book… tried folding, tried enfolding…danced around some more…cut out some leaves from fabric… just NOT HAPPY.   I truly didn’t want to have leaves moving off of the flat surface for very good, practical reasons.  I finally decided to try tracing the shape of each leaf as if it were layered in two dimensions.  Then, I would attempt to paint in the third dimension.  In the end, this was my solution.


Signs of Progress

Sitting Pretty

This challenge has been more so than most…it is not exactly a solved problem, but so far, so good.  Still haven’t worked out the center…yet another challenge, but definitely, one for tomorrow.

The Perils of Being a Perfectionist

The  bag sat in the middle of my studio floor for months.  I thought it was just waiting for its handles.  They were stashed in the bag.  It was already doing its job!  Of course, as it sat there, other things got stashed inside too–just so I could find them “when inspiration struck”.  It never did, and the bag sat there, waiting.  (I do that too much: sit something out in my studio so that it “reminds” me to start it, or to finish it, or just to “not forget” it.  I would like to say that the strategy works, but mostly, things just sit there: new work, becoming old work. It is that motivation by guilt thing…I don’t really recommend it; it rarely works.)

Back to the basket:  I finally figured THIS one out.  My bag was not sitting there waiting to be finished; it was waiting to be dealt with.  As I was making it, I had thought I was doing a good job.  But actually, once I had “finished”, I found that my zigzag stitching had occasionally missed connecting the coiling spiral–no quick fix for that.  The ever expanding shape, was OK, but bumped out a bit, here and there. Over time, the bag had begun to sag…sure didn’t like that look.  I did buy some Timtex, thinking that a lining might solve that problem…but, all continued to sit there.  In a grand sweep of my studio last week (when those guilt-inducing things either get stashed, tossed, or done),  I picked up that bag and my seam ripper and took that thing apart stitch by stitch.  What a relief!  And although that 300 feet of clothesline is once again a UFO, it now might actually one day  become a bag again…with handles, no lining…