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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Making Lemonade…

IMG_5761The blizzard is gone.  The sun is out.

Yesterday it was a totally different story.  The wind howled and the snow fell… all night, all day…and then, all night once again! Keeping a long-held promise to myself, I hauled my bins of “things to dye” (stashed since the move) out of the basement.  I was thinking that this might be a prime time to try some snow-dyeing…and to (finally) sort through the random piles of “this and that”…to toss, to keep…to dye!   Such an industrious activity on a “stay-in-bed-and-read-a-book” kind of day…

But, actually, it was kind of fun.  I felt so virtuous…After about an hour of sorting, tossing and folding, I had three bins of neatly organized fabric ready for some future work…and four piles of stuff for my snow-dyeing venture.  I had vaguely assigned a “color” for each pile: pink, green, blue, and purple.  This morning BEFORE engaging in any other snow-related activity (like shoveling), I actually followed through!  I dumped my bag of soda ash (about three cups) into the washing machine and filled it about halfway with very hot water.  I tossed in pile number one–the blue pile and let it soak while I had my breakfast.

I kept it simple.  As I pulled each piece out of the washer, I twisted it as I wrung out the soda solution back into the washer tub (I was hoping to re-use it for each of the piles…SO efficient!!!), and put it in the awaiting bin.  When the washer was empty of fabric, I tossed in the “green” pile!  I carried the “blues” down into the basement (note, the door in the above photo…the mother lode of snow, right?)  I set up a bucket with an upside-down plastic bowl and a perforated plastic plate (they elevate the fabrics up out of the spent dye solution once the snow has melted).  Then I put in a layer of my twisted and scrunched stuff…it was pretty random…old linen napkins, a shirt or two, previously but unsuccessful dye experiments…found fabrics from the flea market.  And, then, I opened the door and shoveled enough snow into the bucket to cover it all completely (sure beats hauling bags of ice from the grocery store!).  I sprinkled a random selection of “blue” dyes…cobalt, navy, teal…over the ice.  Since I still had room in my bucket, I repeated the whole process…this time choosing several different blue dyes…And then just because I could, I topped it all off with another big fat pile of snow…goes to show, there is more than one way to shovel snow…some much more fun than others!

IMG_5759I repeated the process…until all my piles were gone…Look at those lovely buckets full of promise…tomorrow is going to be a very colorful day!  Can’t wait!

JUST PLAIN FUN!

IMG_5744It has been one of the joys of unpacking…the re-discovery of a treasure (previously stashed so deep in my pile that it would have never seen the light of day, except for “the move”), and re-visiting that old idea with a fresh point of view…maybe, leading to a possible path to new work?    (These are also the very things that are currently creating a log-jam in the “studio”–the place where no work gets done.)  STILL.

Why?

I don’t have a straight-forward answer.  Most of the boxes are unpacked.  I have re-discovered so many treasures, each one fraught with inspiration never acted upon.  I sort and I stack…but I don’t “stash”…not yet, and maybe, never again.   At this point it IS very tempting to just put the stuff away…somewhere, anywhere to finally have a clear, flat space to work.

But, instead, I have found that it is far more engaging to just pick something off of the pile and “play” with it.  Hence…the envelopes!

IMG_5734I bought the template years and years ago.  Found the tattered, but oh! so charming children’s books over time.  Got the “ELLE Collection catalog for a quarter at the Goodwill. Took them to the beach a few weeks ago, after all the frenzy of the holidays.  Laid it all out on the table…and, played.  One has to admit, the envelopes could be useful…but really, it was all about the play.  Making them was just plain fun.

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My “Sophie” Scarf, Version 1

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My happy daughter, modeling her Christmas present…Version One of my “Sophie” scarf adventure.  (Notice the “danglies”…they were a real hit…definitely add to the “fun” factor!)  Version 2 (for me!) is actually not TOO far behind…maybe a month, or so?   I am still enjoying the process…and that is a VERY good thing…

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ps:  Still frustrated by my camera…or my photo editing…these are NOT the colors…far too bright, and yet, I can’t seem to “find” the right ones…

Season’s Greetings

IMG_5691The sun finally came out…and, so…voila…maybe a reasonable(?) set of photos of this year’s ornaments!  I hope your holidays are full of family, friends, and fun.  I will be back in the New Year…the studios are ALMOST together…am truly looking forward to a fresh start and some new work.

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IMG_5715ps:  My resolution for the New Year?   Finally try to learn how to use that camera!  I can probably even find my manual!

 

 

In the Mail!

IMG_5634My cards are done.  As always, there were many challenges along the way…some inherent in the process, itself…and then, those others which have to do with trying to live a creative life inside of my day-to-day one.

The brief seemed simple: create a paper angel who would carry a Christmas message to friends and family.  But then, I had to come up with an angel.  What would she wear?  How would she fly?  What message could she bring?  And, lastly (and believe me, avoided until the VERY END) how would I create her face?…the face of an angel?  Many artists do A LOT to avoid drawing faces.  Been there.  Done that.  Decided to rise to the challenge on this one.

And so, early on, my angels were heads attached to legs.  Then, they acquired stenciled dresses.  Each is different (essential, I think) and figuring out how to do that is an important part of what makes designing such a project engaging).  On first look, that might seem like a tedious process, but in truth a large sheet of sturdy rice paper was spray painted with various metallic colors over “stencils” (found and real) of lace-like patterns.  When the dress and sleeve templates were traced and cut out, every “dress” became unique.  The body pattern (head to toe) was traced onto an old piece of poster board; arms and wings, as well.  They were good, so they even have haloes!  All were glued together in a very straight-forward, step-by-step process…and angels gradually appeared!

Except, they had no faces.

Perhaps someone smarter or more practical would have drawn in faces before all the rest of the assembly.  Then there would have been room for error, to toss aside rejects, maybe even to change the design so that faces weren’t really needed…tempting, that last thing.  I KNEW that…danced around it, as a matter of fact.  But, since I HAD already invested so much effort, I was forced to truly engage with the challenge (I know myself well)…and, I made faces!  They are not perfect.  One angel in particular truly looks like she would rather be doing something else…but, each has a bit of personality.  And, each is unique: my goal from the very beginning.

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I sent them out…they are in flight.  Merry Christmas!

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Still Playing “Catch Up”

I am not sure when my life is going to seem “ordinary” again.  For lots of important reasons, it still is NOT.  So, in lieu of “thoughtful words and meaningful commentary” (my goal, anyhow), I am simply posting some photos of what I have been doing as I snatch moments from my days…

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The “Sophie” scarf is progressing.  I am crocheting around the edges of the scarf… combining a lovely purple with a dark hunter green…attaching the dangles on the points, and outlining them in single crochet, as I go…more than half done…

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Pieces and parts for my holiday cards are all over my dining room table (studio still under “renovation”)…soon I will have to come up with the faces…otherwise, think they might be kind of interesting in the end…

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Definitely…face time…

ps:  This is the best I can do right now…more later…promise…

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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An Entertaining Diversion…

IMG_5572It has been a long slog through the “detritus” on the studio floor…the table…the windowsill…out in the hallway…this is the “tough stuff”…the things I truly want to keep close at hand: newly re-discovered…many, many treasures that will surely inspire NEW work… but which refuses to get “categorized” and then…stashed…  I want a clear table to work on (one can dream, right?).   Ambling through Pinterest has been a sanity-saving respite from “organizing”.   In the random way that one gets inspired, along with my current activity of winnowing through my stuff, I encountered “dryer balls”…and, one thing led to another…

Over the years I have bought odd skeins of yarn out of the “clearance bin”.  The original purchases were meant to be “doll hair”, and then, later, for “texture” in other fiber work.  Never aspired to be a knitter, so I rarely bought more than one of anything.  As many artists  know (and probably others, as well), it is much more fun to “imagine and buy”, than to “work and use”!  And that is how stashes get out of hand…which after 20 years, was definitely true in my case.  I am NOT a knitter…why did I have SO MUCH yarn?

So back to the dryer balls.  “Made of wool”…”no more dryer sheets”…”saves energy”…hmmm.  So, I winnowed through my stash, pulled out all of those skeins and odd balls that I was certain were 100% wool (roving was recommended in the “pin”), and started winding balls…  I admit, it was fun finally using those lovely yarns… and a somewhat mindless activity…playing with colors, always my favorite thing.  Yarn changes were easy.  I simply started wrapping the new yarn over the previous one, being sure to catch the end of the first securely.  With the final wrap, as the yarn grew short, I threaded a large-eyed darning needle and secured the last foot or so, by stitching at intersections, burying the spans between them in the ball, itself.

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I pulled my trouser nylons out of the trash (had just thrown them out the day before…didn’t like them…was NEVER going to wear them…had been cleaning out that spot too…serendipity!)  Then I carefully stuffed and knotted the balls into the stockings.  Tossed them in the washer with detergent and very hot water–(felting requires soap, heat and  agitation). Then, ran them through the hottest cycle in the dryer.  (The noise was tough to take…so I eventually threw a couple of towels in there too.  Figured they might actually aid in the felting process.)  When I untied the first ball, it did not seem to be completely felted (the outer threads weren’t totally secured) so I repeated the entire process.  I eventually started throwing in my regular laundry as well…

IMG_5576In the end, most of the balls took at least three passes of the washer/dryer process to get completely felted.   Opening them up was a bit like “Christmas”.  I like them…they are far more “fun” than a dryer sheet.   Now, I just have to give them a “test run”…they might actually work…

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Late Again?

Given my stated intention to start posting again in a somewhat regular way (was that already two weeks ago???), I guess one might say this post is “just a bit late”.  My only excuse is that I am doing my best.  I am no longer the only one with an idea about how the day should go…and most of my days rarely wend out “according to the plan”.  I am trying not to feel guilty about the things I don’t get done… That said, there HAS been some progress on the project front.

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Crocheting the scarf together is a “slow go”…  At this point, though, almost all of the squares are joined along two sides.  I am thinking that joining them in the other direction will go much faster, as the piece gets more and more “fabric-like”.  Here is hoping, anyway…It feels good in my hand as I work on it.  I am thinking to add an edge all around…with little circles on the points?

This is also the time of year that I begin to think about my holiday projects.  For many years now, I have made an original ornament from something culled from my stash.  These are my special gifts to my family…and sometimes, for a friend or two.  If I start thinking about it early enough, make a plan, and actually BEGIN, I find I enjoy the whole process immensely.  There is no time pressure.  Usually quite a bit of handwork is involved (the best part), and I love the quiet work in the midst of the ever-growing craziness as the holiday approaches.  I pulled out a few possibilities as I was unpacking.  They were sitting out on the table for a while.  One pile kept calling to me.  So, I think this year, the ornaments are going to have a bit of an Italian flair…

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The starting point was the fabric:  a wonderful piece of Italian silk found years ago at my favorite flea market (STILL miss that place!).  It was probably a manufacturer’s sample, maybe for men’s ties?  It is not very big, but there are about 12 wonderfully different color combinations all on the same piece.  I am thinking that playing with these could be fun.  Not sure what will happen with the organza ribbon.  But, it looked like a party…

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The beads are from my stash.  I have been collecting and holding on to these for a long time.  They are old, probably from Murano. ( Can you see that strand of oval millefiore beads in there?  I wonder how many tourists manage to leave Venice without buying at least one of those!)  Again, not sure how they will end up in the thing.  Liked how they looked lying on the fabric, though…

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I re-“found” these as I was unpacking.    More treasures from the Elephant’s Trunk…One summer a vendor at the market showed up pretty much every week with a few!!! boxes of these.  He had bought the contents of an old jewelry shop.  Boxes and boxes were un-earthed in the basement!!!! never-opened!!!  Some weeks I managed to walk right on by him, but more than once, I stopped, looked, and bought a few(?)  He thought they were from the 40’s…  They make me smile; they remind me of some very good days…

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And then, I added these to the mix: more treasures from my stash…the colors are good…

So, all of the above will sit out for a bit on one of my old silver-plate trays (part of the process).  As I finish organizing my studio, it will be sitting there.  Out.  I will be thinking about the pieces and parts.  Passing by.

I have a trip coming up which is always a good time for some handwork.  If I am ready, the fun will begin…stay tuned.