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.


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…


Legacies: Is one person’s treasure, another’s trash?

I have been giving some thought lately to the value others place on the things left behind.  I am an “enthusiastic” collector of vintage things–beautiful fabrics, hand-embroidered linens, travel souvenirs (especially cloth dolls), old beads and trims…the list can go on and on.  I love things that show the hand of the maker; and things which have obviously been loved and treasured.  In the past,  I have bought (rescued) something just because it needed a “caretaker”; I don’t do that so much any more.  One can take care of only so many things…and some, maybe even me, are certain that I have surpassed all expectations as far as that activity goes.  These days, I buy only what I love.  But, when left behind, will my treasure really be a legacy, or just a pile of stuff to be dealt with?  I guess I have decided to not worry about that.  There is no point in getting rid of something that I would just buy again.  But, it has started me thinking about other “stuff”.

I recently had to empty the closet that holds all of my fabric stash for some house repairs.  (Lots of other things live in that closet too: old beaded trims, feathers, ribbons…several pieces of needlepoint waiting for a chair, the marionette my father helped me carve, my trains(!)…many, many treasures…)  And as I put most of it back (and set aside a pile to donate), I came across my quilt tops–NINE !!! of them.  (I guess I like to piece far better than I like to quilt.)  And though I know my kids don’t love all my “stuff”, I figure they will have a hard time giving away my work.  And there is the problem.  I just don’t think 9 unfinished quilts are a great legacy.  And so, I have resolved to make this the year of the quilt…I am going to try to quilt a bit every day.  Maybe I will be able to at least stay even–I’ve got a few ideas for some fabric that I found in my stash!  Maybe I will manage to finish a few.


Taking a Fresh Look

“Patience” is a small 12″ by 12″  fiber art piece headed to the Mahopac Library for the annual FANE (a group of fiber artists from New York and Connecticut) show this Sunday.  I sent my kids an announcement postcard (showing off a bit, I suppose) on which it was featured.  I was surprised that their response was that ” it made them sad to see the bird


on the nest, missing the party”.  I guess that their view of it wasn’t too far off of my original thought.   Mothers do miss some good times and some adventures while they are home, sitting on the nest, minding the flock-to-be–keeping it warm; keeping it safe.

But, here is a fresh look:  As a mom whose kids have flown the coup and joined the party, that time on the nest was too short!  ( Thought it would last f-o-r-e-v-e-r…)  And look at that party going on…”Mom” has a bird’s eye view!  Maybe the best seat in the house!  And, here’s another fresh look: just see how those little birds turned out!  (It is enough to make that momma bird do a little dance…maybe, sing a little song…)   Worth every minute.

*For those who might want to know:  Each of the fabrics used in this piece were hand-dyed, and/or printed or stenciled with found objects–the fireworks were created with an old plastic placemat!  Trims are vintage sequins and beads.

Making Not So “Ordinary” Things

I have been going through my old Selvedge magazines: re-reading, clipping, and trying to toss the rest…if you know the magazine, you might understand the dilemma…but that is not the point here.  An interview of Sveta Dresher (J/F 2010) made me stop and think.  I am still working through her answer in my mind.

The question:  “What makes a handcrafted object special?”

Her answer: “Many things, but the most important is that the individual who makes an object by hand puts aside everything else to concentrate on that one thing they are making.  The time spent on it is someone’s undivided attention.  That translates into more than a handmade ‘look’–it carries people’s energy around the world.  It matters how the person who makes it feels about it and whether she is conscious about the process…that’s what makes the difference.”

Sitting on my studio table at the moment is an old wooden hanger that someone took the time to cover in a pretty crocheted pattern.  It is cleverly made to button onto the hanger.  The two buttons (one on each side) are mother of pearl.  The crochet makes the hanger work better as the clothes don’t slip off as they surely would otherwise; it also makes an ordinary thing into a charming, more interesting thing.  How long did it take that woman (and we all know it was a woman!) to do that?  What else was she “supposed” to be doing when she was working on this hanger?

There is even a bit more to this hanger’s story:  Trawling one of her favorite thrift stores (a local church/volunteer enterprise) my mother spied the hanger holding a blouse–probably hung just as it was donated: on THE HANGER.  When she went to the counter to pay for her finds, the clerk went to take the blouse off the hanger (just as one might expect) but my mom, to the surprise of the clerk, stopped her.  Mom just wanted to buy the hanger! From the shop’s point of view, though an unusual request, that was even better yet–two things to sell!  Everyone was happy.

I am now the owner of this hanger and am hoping it will add something to some of the photographs I want to take of my “artfully embellished” jackets and such.  But, back to the question: why does someone cover a hanger with handwork? knit a dish cloth? crochet or weave a potholder…especially those, when surely in their use, they get stained, worn…and eventually, most likely…tossed?  And yet, the work of an unknown woman, who spent some precious hours and some careful thought has enriched my life and made me stop and think.  That is a legacy of sorts…a worthy one, in my opinion.  I am still thinking about Sveta’s answer to the interviewer’s question…


Dancing around the Subject

So, it is not that I think anyone in general is looking to see if I have something to say this week…but, I do know there are a few who are. And those truly matter to me. So even though I admit that I have been dancing around “the blog” for more than a few days–and in a truly desperate measure, even avoided it this morning by shoveling 5 inches of snow off of a very long driveway…I will now try to “dance” across the subject.

Why “dangling threads” ?

Two years ago, sitting around a table after a wonderful dinner (and a few glasses of wine), my daughter and future son-in-law, my son and a friend set about trying to come up with a domain name for my website. Now, this is a bit of a joke, because even though I wanted one desperately, hoping to instantly be hooked up with lovers of craft and buyers of stuff, I truly had no skills to deal with any on-line presence…but optimism springs eternal, I guess. They were having a grand time coming up with clever possibilities…a laughing out loud, “how ’bout this?” kind of fun…I don’t really remember any of the suggestions, but they were having way too much fun with their oh-so-clever quips. In a lull in the fun, I offered up “dangling threads”. It was noted, searched and bought quicker than I can find the “enter” key (still) and a website was born. And even though I haven’t managed to get my portfolio on-line (the original goal), two years later with this “newbie” blog and a mini-etsy store, the “dangling threads” still seems to fit.

I am a collector of stuff and a maker of things; I use the stuff to make the things, and running through all of it is the thread…and, as this effort has been compelling me to consider the work I have done in the past, and that which I am doing now, I can see the “thread” running through it, as if the whole body of work has been one very long conversation. I find this reassuring: I can see the continuity, the improvement in skills and craft, and, sometimes even the compelling next step–that dangling thread is still there. All I need to do is thread it, stitch, and see where it goes…

Putting Away Christmas

For quite a few years, probably ever since my kids left home, taking down and putting away Christmas has been a rather melancholy affair–and I have LOTS of “Christmas” to pack away. In early December, with all the anticipation of kids flying in, of finishing off the cards and ornaments, and getting the last minute wrapping done, pulling out all that sparkly stuff seems like an adventure.

First up goes the creche figures on the mantle. I bought the plaster of Paris blanks when I was pregnant with my daughter from an old Ben Franklin 5 & 10 in Kingston, New York. (We were there on assignment, living in a rental house, no friends, far from family.) I had set up a temporary studio and painted them as my baby clock ticked down. Shortly after she was born, we moved back to Texas…bigger studio, but far less time to paint kings and camels…it was years before the set was completely painted. Both the memories and the figures are one of my Christmas treasures. Most of my stuff is like that: the memory is wrapped around the thing until it becomes the essence of it. There is the bottle brush forest, most scavenged by my husband at the flea market in the summer and squirreled away for months; the German nutcrackers carried back by my sister from Germany years ago; the strings of vintage glass beads, definitely showing their age, that swag from the banister; the snowflakes and angels who fly over my village of Delft houses (none of mine acquired by flying first class to Scandinavia!!) in my dining room window ; the beaded ornaments that I rescued years ago–made by a mother, not wanted by her kids– hanging from my chandelier over the table; and, of course, the tree, every ornament on it, a story.

So, putting away all of these old things (and their stories) can be tough in January when the kids are back living their lives (as it should be) and all the family fun is over. Dusting Christmas stuff is never very rewarding. This year has been different somehow. Most all of it has been stashed away and I feel free to start on my new year. This one feels full of possibilities. I have lots of plans for work in my studio: the design wall awaits…

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