New Work and Art Torture

Falling Leaves detail

 I think all artists go through periods where they are driven crazy by the work they are doing and that is certainly true of me.  I have been working on several pieces, or actually they have been working on me, on my psyche that is, and I have finally been able to get clear about them.  There are times when I don't know that a piece is complete and I mentally make and remake them.  But enough about the angst.  Here is my new work, two wall pieces, which are very different from the sculptural figures I had been making.
I think living in Wisconsin and its shades of white winters has had an impact on the kind of work and material choices I have been making.  I'm using all natural colored cotton, linen and silk and enjoying the subtle beauty of the fabrics.
Falling Leaves, detail
Falling Leaves is about 10 feet long and only 8 inches wide.  It can hang vertically or horizontally and has hemstitching, couching, applique and embroidery on linen.  The leaves travel gently downward and a shiny thread helps trace their way.  To break up the space I have inserted small darker pieces of linen all along the path.
100 Squares
The second piece, which I haven't titled as yet, is made up of 100 squares in a 10x10 grid.  Each square has an opening that allows light and shadow play on the wall behind.  While I am showing you this piece it isn't actually complete.  I need to put a backing on it and a small binding around the edge.  I got so excited when I decided it was finished I couldn't resist adding it to the post.
Falling Leaves



Ever since I have started gardening, herbs have been my favorite part of the garden.  They are beautiful, smell divine and there is nothing like cooking with fresh herbs.  Rosemary has always been one of my favorites (second to lavender).  When I lived in Virginia I could put a spindly little rosemary plant in the ground, ignore it and in a few months it would be three feet high.  When we moved to Wisconsin I pined for those aromatic, abundant plants.  I certainly could grow them here but they didn't get very large and died back in the harsh winters.  This past summer I decided I would not have a shortage of rosemary and bought six plants.  I could cut as much as I wanted, taking a little from each bush so they would never get hacked way back.  Well, it seemed they loved growing in a group and being cut back.  By this fall I had six lush, 18 inch high bushes.  I couldn't bring myself to let them die off so my sweetie helped me dig them up, pot them and bring them inside.  I have to say the house smells a bit strong but I am going to cut them back and offer up to friends rosemary sprigs.  
I was reading the lore about rosemary and it seems to cure every possible kind of ailment, keeps away evil spirits and brings good luck.  So, with my dining room filled with giant rosemary plants this should be a very good winter. 


Dyeing and Quilting Classes

This past weekend I got to teach some great women how to do some dyeing and quilting.  On Saturday Claire, Pam and Barb joined me and learned the basics of low water immersion dyeing.  We dyed cotton fabric in solid colors, mottled colors, dip dyeing, wet and dry applications and most fun, I think, over-dyeing.  I had them each bring a piece of printed fabric they didn't like and we dyed it a new color.  It is kind of amazing to see the results.

On Sunday five women came for Quilting Outside the Lines.  They had to throw out the notion of perfect...no straight pieces of fabric or perfect points, no turned under applique.  There was a lot of cut, place and stitch.  I challenged them to never use the same color of embroidery floss twice and I think there was great success with that!
It was a fun filled weekend but I will say, today I am wiped out...but I am getting a blog post up!


Summer's End

Beautiful hydrangeas in Georgia
Here it is already the middle of August and summer is drawing to an end.  I have to say the temperatures in Wisconsin have been so cool it has felt like autumn for several weeks now.  Next week is supposed to be warmer and I am looking forward to that, unlike many of the native Wisconsinites around here.  I still haven't acclimated to the cooler climate and like to feel the heat way down in my bones.  
Rhubarb from my garden

This summer has been a really busy one with lots of adventures.  After we got back from our beach trip to Georgia I went out to South Dakota for a cousins family reunion which was great fun.  We spent the days talking, eating, talking, eating, visiting the family farm, more talking and eating.   Just a week and a half after returning from SD my sweetie and I went up to Duluth/Superior.  He was at a conference and I got to enjoy the sights of Lake Superior, a great knitting shop and a quilt shop.  
Amazing boots at the Hitching Post in South Dakota

Now that we are done with our travels for the summer I've been settling down and working in the studio.  I have a whole batch of new work that is taking a completely different turn.  I'm working on wall pieces using natural colored linens, silks and cottons with very minimal amounts of embroidery and hand work.  The best part is I'm loving what I'm making.  I don't have anything completed nor do I have any photos, but that will be coming soon.  For now I'll add some photos of the sights of my summer.

Have a happy day!

Sculpture by Patrick Dougherty in my own town!



Mercer Williams House location of The Garden of Good and Evil.
We just got back from a fabulous vacation in Georgia.  We flew into Atlanta and visited Oakland Cemetery and the High Museum of Art.  If you think it is strange to go to a cemetery, you haven't seen a good one!  Oakland is historic and filled with beautiful sculpture and gardens.  Roses and iris were plentiful, and rosemary (one of my favorite herbs that doesn't grow well in Wisconsin) grew in hedges. 
No trip to Savannah would be complete without a trip to Paula Deen's store.
We then traveled to Savannah and stayed on Tybee Island just 20 minutes outside of the city.  We took many treks into Savannah and walked many of the beautiful squares it is famous for.  Savannah College Art and Design (SCAD) occupies many of the buildings throughout the city including a contemporary museum, ShopSCAD, a retail store for students, alumni and faculty to showcase their work and a restaurant run by the school that provides jobs for the students.  They served the best fresh lemonade I've ever had.  Enough words, here are some photos!

Rooftop dining looking out at the marsh

Garden at Oakland Cemetery

Detail of statuary

Mother and Daughter Statuary

Detail of statuary in Oakland Cemetery


Mandala Cloth

Long ago I wrote about some unfinished work I had and this piece was among them.  Happily, I can now say it is completed.  As you can probably tell, I used details of it to make my blog banner. 

 I applied shisha mirrors and heavily embroidered and appliqued the cloth.  Birds, leaves, spirals, hands, hearts and eyes are images that always make their way into my work.  They are all such ancient symbols and I think of this cloth as a mandala or ritual cloth.  I hope you enjoy the work.


Pizza Without

I discovered about 8 months ago that I'm allergic to dairy products.  Seeing as cheese was one of my all time favorites it was a bit disappointing.  I like to cook I have been thinking about the qualities dairy, especially cheese, adds to the foods I like and how to substitute something else.  Mostly I have been discovering that just making things very flavorful keeps me from even noticing the absence. 

 I recently made a pizza and it was so great that I wanted to share.  I bought a ready made crust (Mama Mary's was the brand, Boboli's have milk in them) and I added sauce, pepperoni, mushrooms, red pepper, some chopped olives.  The winning ingredient was roasted onions and garlic.  To roast, slice 5 onions into eight segments (like an orange) and put them in an 8x8 glass pan with about 8 cloves of garlic, skins still on.  Tossed them in olive oil and roasted them in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.  After I took them out I covered the pan tightly with some aluminum foil (be careful, the pan is very hot) and let it sit for about 10 to 20 minutes.  This step isn't really necessary but I wanted them to cook a bit more and I was afraid if they stayed in the oven they would start to char.  I peeled and chopped the garlic and sprinkled it all over the pizza and voila!  It was delicious and it makes enough for two pizzas.  You will notice in the photo that half of it has cheese...that's for my husband.


Daily Artwork

I think one of the hardest things about being an artist is to actually go to the studio and make stuff.  It is especially true if you work in your home because there is always a distraction, laundry, dinner, a book, and I could go on and on.  At the end of the week I sometimes realize I haven't been in my studio much at all...no wonder artwork isn't piling up!  Quite a few years ago a friend suggested that I do a small piece everyday, something that would take less than five minutes.  I have done this off and on for several years and it really helps for the times when I am feeling less than creative and as a place to begin everyday I am in the studio.

 Here's how it works.  Decide on materials you want to work with and an image you'd like to repeat or a way to work with the materials.  Keep it small and simple.  Get the materials ready for several days or weeks so that when you go to the studio you pull out your materials and get right to it.  

If this seems a little vague, it is. Here is what I am doing right now and that might help you to figure out how you would use this technique.  I chose to work with rectangles of black fabric torn to about 3 x 4 inches, a smaller piece of muslin torn to various sizes and red thread.  Every day I layer the two fabrics in a way that seems interesting to me and then make a mark using stitching with the red thread.  I have decided to leave all of the threads hanging from the torn fabric as a sort of record of the process.  Literally, this takes me less than five minutes a day.  I now have a nice pile of these pieces.  I find that often how I am feeling or what is going on comes through in these very small pieces of work, making a record of my days. 

Let me know if you decide to try this or if you want to try but need more clarification.  I'm always willing to help.  Don't be stopped if ripped fabric isn't your ideal material.  Use paper, clay, metal or whatever speaks to you.  Make a collage, put a dot on the paper, draw a leaf.  Experiment within the medium and images that you choose.  The point is, get to your studio and make stuff!!!!


New Hat

One of my latest knitting projects is the Gretel Tam from the book Stitch and Bitch Superstar Knitting by Debbie Stoller.  I am not so good at taking pictures of myself, plus I have a cold and am not looking so good today so I got my dear dog Tia to be my model, against her better judgement, I might add.  I have wanted to make a tam for some time and I love all of the cables.  I used a different yarn than the pattern called for and my gauge was just a tiny bit small so the cables look a bit like brains but I still really like it. Another change I made was the cast on.  She suggests using a tubular cast on because it is stretchy but I found it annoying to make so I used a long tail cast on which worked just fine. I've worn it quite a few times in the last week and with our veeerrrrryyyy cold weather it did its job just fine.  Now I have to go get Tia an extra bone for her fine modelling work.


Time to Catch Up!

Hi, it's been quite awhile since I've posted on my blog...I really needed a break.  I wasn't inspired and topics to write about just weren't coming to me.  But after my long rest I'm back and ready to share the inspiring things I find in my life.  I wasn't quite sure how to start up again after such a long time but I'll just recap the last six months! 

We continue to enjoy our new home, adding our own touches here and there, especially the garden last summer.  I can't wait to plant some vegetable gardens and we put in a cherry tree this fall.  It is small but I expect loads of cherries in the next several years.  Sour cherries are among my favorites.  I dehydrated some this year and they have been tasty.  This is what the garden is looking like now.

One of my major goals for 2012 was to really learn how to knit.  I made three sweaters, several scarves and cowls.  I still haven't made a hat or mittens, but I'll get to that.  This is a cowl I made for a friend for Christmas using some yarn hand-dyed by my friend Jacque.  I taught myself entrelac , a method of knitting that looks woven.  I also got a spinning wheel!  I had one quite awhile ago and sold it which I have always regretted.  Spinning is such a zen activity and I'm happy to get back to it.

I also took some major steps toward getting healthy by losing nearly 40 pounds and doing the NHS Couch to 5K program, so I can now say I am a runner.  When I think about this I sometimes wonder who has inhabited my body.  It is odd that at 54 I have taken up running.  I think having Lara, the woman on the podcasts holding me accountable makes all the difference.  I surely wouldn't want to disappoint her!

Well, I think that's all for today but I promise it won't be 6 months until you hear from me again!