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.

Christmas Leftovers…

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We just got home.  Sent the kids back to their “spots” last night.  They got home safely.

It is a new year, but I am feeling like I am not quite done with Christmas.  It was such a rush to get the “painting project”, i.e., the house, in shape for company on Christmas day; Seventeen for dinner…haven’t ever had my dining room table stretched out so far.  And all that lovely china and old silverware added to the day’s sparkle.  It was such a joy to drag out the familiar old (and much treasured) ornaments and decorations to find new places for them to shine.  The house feels more like home now.  It was a good holiday.  I am going to savor it all for just a few more days before the ladders and brushes come out again.

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A Post Script…only because it seems like it must be said:  We celebrated the holiday; we savored the good family times; we truly enjoyed being altogether…we “got through”…IMG_5428

 

Tai-Jin was sorely missed, will forever, be missed…but, we got through.

May this New Year be a good one for you and yours…we are hoping for the same.

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A Sea of Color

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IMG_5334Success all around.  The pile of odd balls and old colors are mostly gone.  What is left will be stashed among  other threads that WILL get used in the general way of things.  A few squares still need some ends worked in.  They are sitting here by my chair, waiting to be finished during those random moments in my days…the project no longer needs dedicated attention.  It’s time to put one of those dishcloths at the sink…and see how it works.  I guess a smarter artist (not sure that term truly applies here) would have made ONE and tried it out. I think I just needed to play with some colors in a low-key, undemanding way.  Even if they don’t last, fall apart, and get ugly, I have decided I truly don’t care.  I am thinking of them sort of like one thinks about a bouquet of fresh flowers:  they don’t have to last forever to be lovely in their time.

A Truly Thoughtful Gift

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My son gives “good gifts”.  They may come wrapped in a used brown paper bag, stapled together at the top.  They may have been found by the side of the road.  They are without fail, special and chosen thoughtfully.  His most recent gift was beautifully wrapped, and probably too pricey beyond words.  It made me cry when I opened it…

I have coveted a Sophie Digard scarf FOREVER.  I love their detail, their colors, their craftsmanship.  I have sought them out in shops and I have pored over them online.  I have even tried crocheting my own version (some photos in past posts, “Inch by Inch” and “The Inherent Danger of Flat Surfaces…”).  Whenever I get to San Francisco, I try to stop in one particular store in Cow Hollow so that I can fondle (and admire) the latest Digard offerings and then, gently (and reluctantly) hand them back to the shopkeeper.

What makes them so special?  They are hand crocheted(!) by what must be a whole town full of women in Madagascar.  Generally made of merino wool, each lace-weight strand of yarn can be made up of sixty strands…all of different colors…yielding richly varied colorations and stunning detail.  IMG_5169Teeny tiny motifs, hundreds of colors, beautiful workmanship…truly beyond practicality, and, well into masterpiece.  Being casually handed such a gift as a “Thanks, Mom” at his rehearsal dinner will be one of those moments I will remember and cherish forever.  Like I say, it made me cry.  (But that won’t keep me from wearing it every chance I get!)

Bird Songs?

Birds and I have never had a great relationship.  I have noticed that a lot of mixed media art has a bird in it…As a matter of fact, I have heard that this is one sure way to “improve” a piece of work…to “just put a bird on it”!   I DO like feathers.  A lot.  Have a great collection of wonderful vintage ones, mostly scavenged from ladies’ hats.  My mom still has a stunning one totally covered with beautifully patterned green feathers.  I wonder when she last wore that one to church…hmmm….

Years and years ago, while John was in grad school, I taught art (and lots of other things) in a middle school.  To say we were living the struggling student life, is a kind way to describe our life style.  Thus, to save gas (a whole 29 cents a gallon) and money, I biked the couple of miles to school.  (My students had a great time making “alterations” to my bike…but that is another story.)  Along the route, there was one tree that had an angry bird.  Every time I rode by, it would swoop, chatter, dive-bomb…and, worse…

That said, our new spot is a bird haven.  Our trees are home to at least ten different kinds of birds…probably more.  Not sure why.  Maybe because we are at the very top of the hill?   It seems each tree has its own bird family: cardinals, robins, martins, swallowtails, sparrows, flickers, doves…In the early morning (reeeeally early…about 4:30 this time of year), they begin to “sing”.  ALL of them.  It is a cacophony of bird NOISE.  They “sing” all day long.  It has become the background music to our life here on the hill.

A few years ago, my sister gave me a bird house made by a vendor at the Elephants Trunk.  I never wanted to put it outside in New York, because I was certain that more than likely its inhabitants would be mice, rather than birds.  So the house sat in the basement for years.  It got scooped up in our move and was rather unceremoniously plopped on the wall outside the kitchen window.  It was winter.  One day in the spring, I saw a bird go in!  How did it fit in that small hole?  And, then another flew in…(re-called that dive-bombing bird)…As we continued to watch throughout the spring, we saw the two of them, flying in and out all day long.  They could hit that little hole, swooping in from hundreds of feet in the air…swoosh, right into the hole. (Entertainment is cheap in the country.)   In and out, all day…STILL!  And then, a week ago, we discovered why…

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Junior apparently has a big appetite!

The Fragility of Life

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I do not know quite how to write this entry.  But for those of you who continue to “just check in” to see if I am finally back to work in my studio, I feel I need to at least come up with some words.  My son-in-law was killed in a tragic car accident a few weeks ago.  It was a seemingly random event.  He was not the driver.  He would have been 28 on Wednesday.  He added a grace note of joy and humor to our family.  We loved him.  He was the light and the lodestone in my daughter’s life.

She has been here with us for the last week or so.  And, ironically, my studios are getting painted…at her insistence.  We paint and we talk.  But, it is not enough.  Who could ever find the words?  She is going home soon and I worry…how will she be able to walk in her front door and pick up the pieces of her life?

On another note, my mother is out of rehab and also staying here for a few days.  She is trying very hard to get back her life as well.  But, progress is slow.

Here on the hill, all is teeming with life.  Spring has finally come to the valley.  An amazing array of birds visits the weeping cherry tree just outside my kitchen window.   (Most of them I don’t recognize: a bird book is in my future.)  But, as in the rest of life, the hawks are ever-circling…

An Unexpected Treat

I know there should be a picture, there should always be a picture…but in the way of unexpected happenings, I didn’t have my camera…that being about the last thing on my mind, these days.  Though my mom is doing better, my days are truly taken up by keeping her things going…laundry to do, lunches to bring (she is getting rather crotchety about her meals), bills to pay, and just plain old time to spend visiting to help her days go better.  (There is talk of sending her home soon…she has worked very hard for it…but, at the moment, it is a bit mind-boggling…how will we deal with that?)  Then, there are the things here at the house to do…daily two hour painting sessions aren’t feeling much like progress…the boxes are getting to the point that they could use some dusting…I refuse to dust my boxes!!! or even to vacuum around them…”frustrated” doesn’t begin to describe my current state…think the “downstate” word is “tetchy”…

But, the other day I had a few hours “free” between places I was expected to be .  I had seen a notice in the paper about a fiber exhibit at the Delaware Art Museum.  I am hoping to find a group to join, and I thought to check them out.   With one  exception, their work was just beyond me: stitched saran wrap, gauze bags of tied wool balls laid out on the floor, a wall of mangled black plastic mesh…but, the art museum was an “old haunt” of mine…so I just wandered about, and re-discovered a very special place.

I think I was in the fourth grade when my elementary art teacher asked my parents if I could be a part of a Saturday program at the museum.  One kid from each school…every Saturday…free rein of the upstairs studios…huge rooms, full of light, AND easels, looms, and potter’s wheels.  Take your pick!  Make some art!  My father drove me in (it had to have been a forty minute drive each way) for years. I was still doing my “Saturday thing” in high school!  What a gift.

The museum’s main claim to fame at that point was its collection of Howard Pyle paintings, especially those used to illustrate Kipling’s novels, Treasure Island and Kidnapped.  These were huge (to a kid, anyway)… of pirates and mermaids and found treasure.  I loved them.  I walked through that gallery every week.  They are there.  STILL love them!

The museum has been renovated way beyond the little place I knew, with its wonderfully  narrow stairways up to the second floor to galleries that always seemed more like someone’s library or living room…in fact,  all those studios I remember so fondly are just  “gone”.  About all that remains is the old brick facade, now encased in green glass and steel.  But the paintings are there!  Old friends.  It was a wonderful afternoon.  I will be going back often.

 

That “thing with wings”…

Why no posts?  I am caught in that unreal world of caring for a very sick parent.  My mom has been in, out, and back in ICU for the past two weeks.  And, though there are three of us, I am the one of her kids who can most easily(????) be her primary watchdog.  So there have been endless nights sleeping in chairs in her room and long days of mostly, hand-holding…whatever it takes.

I think of Emily Dickinson’s poem about hope being “that thing with wings”, and picture the flock of hawks that soar over my valley.  That’s what I need: some hope with some very big, very strong wings…take care.

Random Thoughts about Knitting

I am doing it again…knitting…really and truly this time.  Following instructions, ripping out (think the lingo term is “frogging”), and trying again…but still, “getting it”.  It is a bit thrilling.  (Keep in mind, it is January here: too cold and too treacherous to go out…so thrills are few and far between.)

Kate talked me into doing this “mystery knit along” with her…every Monday, my mail has two clues (two different sets of instructions).  I pick one or the other and knit it.  The following four Mondays, the same thing: two clues, pick one, and knit.   In the end, I will have knit a shawl.  You can see how this could get very interesting. (The designer, Ysolda Teague must be a bit of a math whiz…no matter which clue one picks each Monday to knit, the instructions work!)  A choice between two clues each week,  five weeks…32 different variations…and then there is the choice of using one color or two…Many doing the knit-along post their photos on ravelry (the “go to” place for knitters, and others who play with yarn)…it has been fascinating.  Sharing it all with Kate has added to the fun of it, for sure.  I am still on clue one…but almost done…so, am continuing undaunted.  Feeling a bit cocky about it all, actually!

Although it is dangerous to think and knit, I have found that it just happens and I have learned a few things.  Am thinking knitting is a lot like life.  Here are some of my (very) random observations:

Mistakes happen.  Mistakes have consequences.   (Dropped stitches, in particular!)  One can fix a mistake and move on.

It is ALWAYS best to “do it right” the first time.  (One can really learn how to knit, while ripping out, though.)

Pay attention to details…(especially those very little, but very mighty,  yarn overs).

There is more than one way to start.  (so many ways to “cast on”…and why would one want to start out with a knot, anyway?)

If one is counting stitches, it is impossible to think (worry) about anything else…(ripping, ripping…what row is this? right side? wrong side?)

Lifelines (see that bright green thread in the photo?) are very good things..(ripping out rows and rows–lace? eek!, reloading stitches…with the right twist, mind you, and then figuring out just where one is…how to count rows???…don’t ask how many times it happened ’til I got wise.

Effort pays.  I think I am going to really make a shawl!  I will be so proud of myself!

Knitting is a lot like life.  I am liking it.

 

Rising to the Challenge

I would be lying if I said I was “back to work”…work being that which is done on a table, in a studio, usually involving some creativity and lots and lots of color.  Such a place doesn’t exist here, just yet.  But, I did manage to carve out the time, energy AND, the necessary flat surface (the hardest part) to do the step-outs for my upcoming article in PAGES…just in the nick of time…clock was ticking, ticking…It felt good.