old ideas forming a new shape

Hermituprightcommercially printed cotton fabric glue-stick collage mock-up of The Hermit card from an unnamed oracle deck of my own device.  Tarot-centric but only as a jump-off in terms of symbology and its placement throughout the deck . 5 x 5 recycled cookie packaging substrate.  circa 1999.

 One of my long-term ultra slow creative endeavors involves collaging a full deck of tarot card prototypes with quilter's cotton prints.  If I can get that managed I've envisioned painting myself a one of a kind deck - thinking I'd use the prototypes as reference for creating and completing the deck.  I mentally committed to this in the late 90's a/k/a a time when today's calender numbers felt waaaaay in the future.  All the same I've always kept the cards readily to hand as if I might re-commence engaging with the process at any moment. 

About five years ago I unearthed an unrecognized and uncharacteristically small notebook in which I'd written (undated) about the specific types of wisdom I'd gotten old enough to appreciate as a matter of ongoing progress and process -- the tricky business of having more confidence expressing myself in relationship to both painting and successfully creating a viable tarot deck to use for my own readings.  Am now planning to start working-out the concepts as rough graphic mock-ups in my current favorite sketchbook.  Maybe collect and collage a few relevant color stories and also a small glossary of relevant glyphs and similar stripped-down symbols to fit the themes of the cards.

turn something chronically loose and fancy free into something actively structured and officially recognized as a Thing I'm doing with intention to complete it in whatever way providence wills.

Kingofearth Earth Alpha (king)

For the earth cards I'll be embedding the original five pointed star from the traditional assignation of pentacles.

***

In recent times I've been spending 3-5 hours most work week days in fictionland.   Really like what's happening with both the novel's particular story arc and also the way it's had such a positive settling and grounding impact on my daily ebb and flow. 

When I'm out in the garden I tend to think more about non-fiction writing endeavors and goals.  More specifically I think about my planned organization (and far more to the point - congruent elucidation) of subjects related to areas of long term interest.  It's frustrating me how long it's taking that seed of intention to germinate effectively.  Feel like I need to give this level of planning enough form so I understand why I'm drawn to continuing. 

~*~grace's influence.  know why before proceeding. it might change what you bring along with you and also what you choose to leave behind.~*~

Over the past five evenings I've spent something like 1.5-2 hours a night reviewing individual segments of accumulated daily writing sessions.  Bringing both the text and its story-serving context to a stronger voice so as to get this draft beyond the skeletal stage one paragraph at a time.  It is as tedious as it is engaging.   It's also somewhat unnatural or at least well past contrarian (whenever I'm not actively engrossed in writing or thinking about writing, anyway ...) to prize and consistently foster an ability to disconnect from reality simply so one might develop A Story and then persuade others to engross themselves in something that doesn't exist right along with you.  Avoiding distraction - especially those caused by some place/somebody/something real - so that I can commune instead with one or more imaginary people during any given block in time.  I like to keep in mind that's what I'm doing in the final pragmatic analysis.  It keeps me real and consistently demystifies the process as well.

In any event all the imaginary people live in real places so I suppose there's that tenuous connection between hemispheres of cognition.

Bigmedenchantthe deck's first of two sacred pairings bond male and female energies traditionally called the Magician and the High Priestess.  I re-named those archetypes Big Medicine and Enchantment respectively.

Bigmedicine I began making these cards after much encouragement from some UK friends who felt I had the chops to do it even though I did not.  Chose at once to work with a square because I very much liked the idea of geometric grounding/containing the experience of creating and reading these cards.  It also gives my reading interpretation a little more room to grow on both its vertical and horizontal axes.

EnchantmentI've not designed a lot of cards or otherwise come close to justifying how long it's taking me to get immersion-level engaged.  But I do have an excellent reason.  At a certain point I grasped I'd have to start learning to paint one slow step at a time or I'd have no idea how to succeed once I was ready to paint these cards and then tried to learn how.  Learning  to simply handle paint of various kinds is proving to be far more compelling than creating cards to match the vibe and feel of what I started so long ago.  Especially since I set them aside, as one would, after the ongoing burning passion phase of tarot involvement seemed to have left the building.  Until it came back rather suddenly and without preamble.  That occurred maybe 3 months before the collage challenge and Liz sharing ongoing additions to her splendid Texas Tarot project.

It interests me - how things once central to our sense of creative engagement can recede and yet rather than compartmentalizing it off to the side a person could let that medium and methodology stay relevant enough in their ongoing life to return to slow moving projects at other points in time.  Creatively this often brings a level of subliminal cohesion and mapping ability into play at the design level even/especially when an idea is very fresh.  

FertilityAs for the other sacred archetypal pairing within the Major Arcana  - The Empress could only be distilled as Fertility.

VolitionAnd the Emperor as Volition. 

Most of the prototypes I've created are major arcana.  I also created all the aces, an alpha/king and the minor card that dismayed me the most at that point in my life.  At the time the 9 of swords (arrowheads in this deck) showed up so much that I stopped reading for myself and spent that same amount of time and level of effort in routing-out my seemingly endless inner cascades of fear & anxiety.  One thing that helped a lot was articulating how the card felt to me any time I saw it there on the reading cloth.  And then translating that to a prototype:

Acoyotes9ofarrowheadsIn recent times I've been re-considering these cards and the others I created so long ago.  Never actually put them away or otherwise 'cancelled' them.  They've always sat on the long artist's altar in the studio.  One day when I was walking past them I glanced in their direction and asked myself a question:

what if tarot cards are like flower essences in that those that interest you the most - the essences you feel you really need - are those you need to learn from in order to express slow but clear understanding that what you feel beyond words also has the capacity to express itself in spoken and written language? 

It would seem that, for me, "needing to learn from the most" relates quite tangibly to my ongoing creative lessons that all seem to boil down to learning how to complete things to my own satisfaction level.  In the past I've always believed if I put something aside I would pick it up again when I had the chops to complete my original idea in some form.  In this case I don't need to successfully paint a deck of cards that I actually use or share with others.  But I do think I owe it to myself to finish collaging the proto-deck and sketch-level paintings.

Have also been journaling of late about my seeming disconnect to collage more generally.  This led to an awareness that this unwelcome development first bloomed right around the time my style and construction objectives became some other previously unknown thing the more my rational mind imploded many times a day.  For all the same reasons so many other peoples' minds have been similarly imploding plus my kid being so ill.  The point is that the shifts in style are actually perfect for digging into the nuts and bolts of creating more collaged tarot card mock-ups.  Not to mention getting my desk set up for more  sketch and paint exploration. 

I seem to be coming back around to where I'd originally hoped to be by the end of February in terms of how I'm using studio space as well as my time within it.   Maximizing my creative output is the most reliable way I know to keep an effective counter-balance to the mayhem and escalating sense that all of life is becoming one harsh dividing line after the next. 

JusticeJustice


merging hemispheres/summer studio .1

Canopy252620

Back on a later May morning when the freshly unfurling spring canopy of hardwoods looked like the image above  J and I took a gorgeous drive to pick up our last bread order of the winter share season.  As we drove I noticed something with the eagle eye of one who was raised to see and swiftly respond to certain visual cues.   High on that list would be:

a cardboard box nestled just off the road very conspicuously labelled FREE. 

I made happy noises and talked to myself for a good 15 seconds during which J kept driving.  My internal joy stemmed from having not very successfully resigned myself to a summer season devoid of treasure hunting due to the [potentially permanent] closing of our town's freecycle shack at the dump.  I rapidly understood that, deprived of seasonal yard sale clutter busting options, any box by the road might contain more interesting pickin's than the usual sad college era mugs and commensurate coasters.

Somebody, I swiftly concluded, had gotten hunker-buggy and been unable to stop themselves from getting rid of stuff they never use/really don't like once and for all.  My first peek in the closest corner of box seemed to confirm my hunch:

Thekeys

I don't know what these keys were meant to decorate but as soon as I saw them I imagined them hanging right as they do above - on the southern corner of an enclosed space within the evolving sanctuary garden.  J really enjoys them.   We agree we wouldn't like them anywhere in the house.  But hanging from a post on a wire fence in the yard seems pretty close to perfect.

the wide shallow bowl below is (I think) 18 inches.  

Outsideofbowl But ... 'way before I got as far as seeing the keys or the above bowl I had the previous conglomeration of thoughts while J continued to drive until I suddenly found a collection of relatively cogent words. Hey!   There's stuff back there that I want!  Didn't you see it? I didn't actually know I wanted any of whatever was in the box but by this time strongly intuited it was likely.  My level of what he called 'imperious certainty' led J to conclude (and this was somewhat disconcerting for me to process after the fact) that we'd just passed a plant nursery of some kind.  What else [apparently. per my husband.] could possibly rouse me so?

I explained as briefly as possible.  Then he turned the car around while sharing the assumption I'd seen a nursery and couldn't just let us move on without stopping.   Is that what I'm normally like when we're out driving around in the non-pandemic reality??!?  To the point he'd think I'd also be that way withIN this reality????  The questions distracted me in a way that allowed me to keep the tightest lid possible on the ingrained Pearl-indoctrination that once you saw something FREE you had to be lightning fast before somebody else got to it first.  

Insideofbowl
  The first thing I saw beyond the keys was the bowl pictured inside and out above.  I thought, since I only touched it through gloves, and it was profoundly shiny in the bright morning sun, that it was metal rather than glass.  And my eye's mind saw holes drilled into parts of the edge and then attaching it somehow to the front of the potting shed.  Putting directly beneath it a birdbath and letting the blackberry canes I'd been planning to pull grow unchallenged all around it.  Hoping/intuiting this would keep the jays away from my tomatoes.

Alas it's undrillable.  This fact led to an awareness I intend to write about in more depth.  And from there  - all during the extended decontamination period we agreed mandatory because how do we know What Went On - I've had a series of increasingly impractical ideas of how to give this object a second life/designated purpose.  Followed by how to give it a single finite (but entirely appealing) purpose in another few days.

BrushmugAlso in the box - assorted glassware and the mug above.  Intuited it would be just right for holding my brushes here in the summer studio a/k/a our dining room.

  Didn't forget about attaining this stuff but got put-off and overwhelmed when I realized the big metallic disc was actually a glass bowl so shallow only a set-dresser (or possibly the exact right kind of instagram influencer) could love it. We had so many other things going on, after all!  so I left the box lurking in our garage until J started making noises about everyone doing their part to clear away some of the [admittedly out of control] clutter out there.  Earlier this week I washed everything dishwasher safe on the extended sanitizing function.  And then considered my pandemic-induced free stuff with a greater measure of focus earlier today.  

Newvignettedish
Understood straight along I'd use the not-my-style dish of some sort (at first I thought it was the lid of a particularly obnoxious butter dish) to hold stones and shells and crystals.  Had forgotten the simple enjoyment of arranging such display bowls.   And dallying among things brought to life by the addition of previously unknown things. This tableau will need some editing and additions but for today we're in prototype-land.

SandysglassesBecause I have zero clue what was in style last year-  or five or six or eighteen years ago - I did not understand at first that these shot glasses have bubbles trapped in the glass. Prior to going through the washing machine  I thought the bubbles and blurs were evidence of a DIY event gone bad.  Think their actuality is somewhat appealing and almost magical in nature.  Because. Soon after I set them out to consider how I might transform them into miniature containers filled with even smaller things I began to spontaneously narrate deep in my brain.  Just looking at the glasses there on the windowsill gave me a viable section of new skeleton territory for The Novel. The specific scene I envisioned in a whole cloth way gave me a much deeper way-in to a character who has always existed among this crew but she was never previously given her own narrative voice or even a shimmer of POV status.

CandlestickcomparisonI thought to compare and contrast the flower-shaped candle holder (there was a pair in the box) with a different glass holder that actively reflects my personal taste and style preference.    I thought I could use one of the pair as a marking tool on my gelli plate.  While taking the pic I realized I could fill the other with sand/dirt/very small pebbles and use it as an incense holder. 

Gravyboat

Have always loved gravy boats and if I were a completely different person I would have spent some period of time heretofore tra-la-la-ing my way around flea markets scooping up an entire lifetime in the making collection.  But I'm me and in that capacity have only three - each with strong family significance.    And now i have this one, too.  I like the lines of it a lot and am fully cognizant it may be a vase.  In which case for me it will always be thought of as the gravy boat vase.

Today I studied it just as it appears.  And asked it aloud what it might like to become.  And then actively imagined it replying

think of me as a vessel of cosmic good will.

I mean, sure.  Why not?  And I can't think of anything that personifies 'cosmic goodwill' more eloquently than a cluster of amethyst crystal clusters.   What comes next for this combo remains unclear.

Amesthystclusterwet

Oldnanadish

The blue dish above has a peak old Nana vibe for me.  I mean that in terms of Pearl and her friends and my adoption of Emrie's name for grace as a collective name for them.  Between now and the autumn season of ancestors I'm going to collect small notations concerning details I recall from the women who set the tone as I grew into my teenage years.  Then some type of ceremony I might be right on the brink of visualizing somewhat cogently.

who knows.

guess this is just my as upbeat as possible way of welcoming myself to our collective new third world summertime. think we already know it's gonna be a challenge of noise and happenstance.

Buttonuncertainty


first studio day since last post!

Chrysochollawetfrombowl

Since then I've been spending most of my waking time outside in the sun-struck gardens.   Temps have been high enough to make this space largely uninhabitable even in the productive phases of early and middle evening.   I've brought painting and stitching supplies downstairs to the dining room and more or less found storage space that's functional.  

As I sit here and compartmentalize how I've been using my energy I see that not a lot of active "official" creativity is in evidence.  But there's been a lot of gestation time related to both writing and Pearl's log cabin deconstruction.

FirstglimpseinsideThe day after my last post I followed through on removing the log cabin borders.  Cut solidly through all layers and then carefully looked inside.  Saw just enough to need to see more.  To know Pearl's life in the cloth trail of, well, threadcrumbs.

Stood in front of the studios big front window with a candle burning on the cleared coffee table workspace.  The work of literally cutting ties with what the object of quilt used to be was as energizing as it was meditative.  I was moved through and through with a sense of my grandmother's spirit urging me forward:  Know me.  Understand the larger context of what you recall being told of my life's history.

I cut each tie with mindful care.   A couple of times I heard myself saying aloud "I believe this belongs to neither of us".  There was a lot of sadness being released.  I suppose from me but mainly, as the doer, I was conscious of confirmation concerning my original hunch that Pearl made this quilt in large part to stay constructively occupied while she healed more subtle layers from her despair to suffer two miscarriages after moving to the house where I was raised.

 I told the floating sense of dissipating sadness that I understood.   And me too'd what remained as drifting residue until it too had dissipated.  By then all the physical thread ties were cut and I'd gently pulled them free.  I peeled aside the cotten sateen then flipped the quilt face-up and did the same for the piecework.  What remained as a batting was a layer of brown flannel that Pearl had pieced to size. 

FlannelbattingStaring at that line of double-threaded running stitches I saw how honestly I come by all the things that I do - and yet.  When it came to needlework Pearl hoped to turn me into the second coming of her husband's sister, for whom I'd been named.  Thus she stressed methodology and a layer of excellent execution she didn't ask of herself - at least under the duress of what I presume is an accurate interpretation of where her head and heart were at during the time of construction.

The quilt is entirely handpieced.  She sat with the comfort of cloth wherever she could find it and moved steadily forward one strip of self-made life at a time.   And I came to realize how my ongoing yearning to know more of her as a woman who survived a great deal and never failed to go to bat to me until she was too sick to bat for herself was being fulfilled in an unexpected and entirely tactile way.  I smiled and imagined gently washing the pieced layer of living soul's comfort.  Became focused on rinsing it after washing and then doing a second ceremonial renewal clearing with rosewater added to the rinse bowl. 

As groundcloths for the individually constructed 3.5 inch blocks Pearl used serviceable scraps from old clothes.  This was a whole ongoing category maintained by the two sisters.  When handmade cloths were too threadbare for other purposes they were still given due respect because parts could still be salvaged for their serviceable scraps bundle(s).   In this case the scrap groundcloths (here and there I found some pieced examples) were sometimes oversized and in other instances barely serviceable.  All of the backgrounds appear to have been scavenged from old clothes representing her youngest married life.  It's as far as I'm going to deconstruct her efforts. Am not going to attempt a cleaning of the top's outer layer but I'm going to continue clearing the entire be-ing of it of sadness and other energies for as long into this calendar year as the windows are consistently open to keep residue moving out and away.

BlockbackingsectionSome portions of the inner quilt are quilt clean, as directly above, and then uncomfortably soiled in others.  Am beginning to wonder if at least some of the most corrosive looking damage is actually accidental water spillage (or deliberately spewn florida water) damage from times over the years when I employed this quilt as an Ancestor altar cloth.  

I am still immensely surprised by how poorly her joined seam lines are worked.  It was another tangible clue that she was keeping her hands moving without a lot of mental and emotional hook-ups firing as they did in my years of knowing her. 

***

Concurrently I'm going to consider making low-loft patches I plan to apply to the surface of piecework. Have decided I do want to have this quilt contain elements of my direct matrilineage but I don't want to use the worn gauze of a garment I took-over from my mother after her death.  At which time I inherited unused yardage of the gauze.  Sold most of it to my friends and other friends of theirs in three yard lengths.  Then had to deal with the unanticipated dissonance of going through a few summer seasons of seeing various people I knew using it for summer wear of their own style. 

JoycegauzeI have two pieces of roughly the same size.  Ripped in half at two in the morning a few nights back because I realized I wanted a curtain in our front kitchen window that wasn't thrown together from an ancient sheet until I came up with something better.   And then belatedly realized this cloth was less than useless in filling the need at hand. Sure would have been quicker than what I'm very simply and slowly stitching by hand but this is a lot more satisfying. Every time I start to over-graze the not unrelated territories of civil unrest and bottomless corruption I put it down until my head's in a better place.

obviously enough that's why the time it's taking to complete the straight forward endeavor is way overdue even by super slow standards.  Didn't quite put that together until this moment.


one of Pearl's log cabin quilts

Pearlslogcabin

Hand pieced and tied baby quilt made by my grandmother Pearl during her reversal of fortunes/young mother/diligently frugal wife stage of life during the 30's.  She does not appear to have pre-sorted her scraps or limited the scraps' color/design nature or type of fabric.

Jude's focus on baby quilts and quilts still in their infant stage(s) has slowly pushed my mind into a state of active inspiration related to what's on hand and already of strong interest to me.  To the point where yesterday I planned to start deconstructing the quilt above.  Have been previously inclined to work with the blocks just as they are but separated from the heavy cotton sateen borders and backing.  The sateen used to be a not entirely unpleasant acid green that made the somewhat subdued color range of the quilt sing more prettily.   

Pearl had a knack for clashes that work.  I didn't realize that was something I came by honestly until this past weekend when I sat with this quilt on my lap and carefully studied each individual block.  I chose to spend the better part of an afternoon that way in honor of the many hundreds of afternoons I did not have a chance to spend with Pearl.   Despite all the more pressing and seemingly non-negotiable things that needed doing I did this instead.

zero regrets.  A much stronger and radiant heart center.

Over decades of me hanging this particular quilt on one indirectly lit wall or another the color has faded considerably and is now completely unpalatable to me.  I think because, before it faded, it used to hang on a wall where it should have looked smashing but it didn't.  At the time I thought that was the fault of the wallpaper in that particular apartment hallway.  But now I think it was the fault of non-existent light sources beyond recessed fluorescent light bars.   Since moving to mid-state places I've hung it in spots with enough light to properly showcase the way the bright green enlivened the smatterings of bright strips in the primarily muted tones of her scraps to hand.

I loved and admired my grandmother passionately for (a) making palatable and effective creative resolutions with whatever was right there in front of her.  and (b) the wisdom to understand the profound satisfaction (as well as self-sustainability) of wasting-not.

Quiltcu4

Unless she was making something special and tailored to specific tastes Pearl worked at making patches from the ubiquitous paper grocery bag not quite hidden beside her place at the dining room table.  By the time I came along she wasn't sewing as she once had.  The grocery bags were vintage scraps she hadn't gotten around to using.   She was very un-precious about her piece work.  She'd pick up one thing and then another and sew them together.  

In my youth I thought this was an example of how girls raised "in the old days" were taught domestic skills as a form of robotic conformity.  But now I see what's obvious and far-more likely.  She was selling hand pieced and tied quilts made from wool scraps by the time she was 11.  Undoubtedly she kept an ingrained eye on the clock to insure maximum return on her time and skill investment.

It's obvious to me this top was made from quilt blocks pieced in the moment and without a lot of pre-amble.  in terms of her go to underlying traditional pattern structuring - she focused a great deal the dark/light contrast design staple of successful patchwork quilts that are timeless in nature.  She also took care (AL. WAYS.) to space the red scraps evenly throughout the piecing.  That was one of her Things:  Red scraps were highly prized and a mandatory inclusion whenever possible -  but also she felt the color to be inherently tricky and thus subject to innumerable rules/taboos of her own device. 

The immediate present tense source of construction/design inspiration also comes from jude and her working methods that are equal parts construction and subtraction.  I don't generally have compulsions to stitch through layers that are barely existent but having spent some quality time with the Summer Bitch in my hands as I prepare for the coming season - I can definitely understand the appeal of such working.  So I got it in my head I would liberate the pieced blocks from the borders and backing - then tell some kind of relevant (appliqued and stitched) story upon them.

Thought I would indulge in a super-soft collaboration and stitch-in cuttings from a scrap jude sent a staggeringly long time ago.  a scrap from her grandmother's silk kimono.  I want to tell some kind of story to Pearl in these choices and what I make of them.  I guess it's kind of the inverse of what grace does with her blog - as a chronicle of self for Emrie to keep as providence wills.  I want to bypass time and sequencing all together.  Just showing my grandmother's spirit who I am and how much of her I carry within me.

Blockscu1

All these ideas and frames/spheres of influence & inspiration has been a nice thing to consider slowly as the weeks move closer to the season of life force's rapid growth.  In that time I've grown accustomed to handling this quilt as Pearl herself probably handled it.  Previously I've been careful with its heirloom nature.  In the past twenty years I've often kept it rolled within the top layer of a cedar chest full of family linens and needlework.  But now I've been carrying it around so that I can arrange it in different ways in different places.  Trying to learn what it wishes to become.

For starters I decided it wished to become two distinctly different things.  I envisioned working with the ground of pieced blocks.  Assumed the cut-off sections of the border would be repurposed.  Perhaps as a book cover for an album of family photos I'm amassing.  Thought it seemed like a summer project so I put it aside until last week.

Then, once I had it out and had solidified the practical steps of initial transmogrification something happened that's happened before.  I have never liked the green sateen finished treatment because it wasn't the right green to harmonize in my eye's mind. I think it would sing a lot more convincingly if she'd gone with a rich dark jade.  Think how the BLUE would have popped then - as well as the darker rusty reds and browns. Not to mention the glimmering radiance it would lend the whites and light pastels.

Indeed I have come to this moment of truth four or five times now.  I get exactly this far (my goal used to be to get one of those glass-topped table display cases for displaying and contemplating the deteriorating pieced blocks) and then I see the places with visible stitching lines and marvel at the knots of cording - all chosen and placed with my grandmother's hands.  And I just can't bring myself to undo the work.  So I thought I'd do what I can and in the process approach much bigger work.

Cabinblocks

I'm not going to undo all the ties and thus create sight-based cutting lines.  I'm going to cut away the sateen in strips just shy of the seam lines.  Will pick out those stitches and then see how much I can or cannot de-layer.  And I think questions to myself over and over such as:

Will I repair anything?  Or just let it be with some kind of very delicate binding and then whatever I make on the 'other side' If I decide to go all in on the symbolic family lineage I may use as a ground cloth a very well worn cotton gauze nightgown of my mother's.  It was floor length but after she died I cut it down to a short swingy sort of lounge top or a mini dress.  On the other hand - I'd just as soon keep her out of this.  So I could use some of the same fabric but crisp and new rather than worn thin.  There'd be more strength and body to it.  Hmmmmm.

 The blocks themselves are a trove of fabrics my grandmother used to outfit herself, my mother, and all the windows, tables, etc.  She also made men's dressing gowns and camp shirts for hunting excursions arranged and guided by my godfather.   I spent a bit of time really studying the blocks and touching all the fabrics.  Letting the sensitive edges of my finger tips linger over the confident knots she made without a single one slipping over time.   
Logcabincu2

For the center chimney squares Pearl used a shiny silky gold fabric.  I love the places that are worn-away.  I thought of here and there very lightly needleweaving.   I thought I might ask her questions I've so wished I could ask over the years.  stitch them here and there.  Or maybe I will just think the questions as a rolling mantra while I work on this in whatever capacity.

have wanted to do something of this sort for 46 years.

and in doing so grieve her death as I did not have the ability, on any level, to grieve at the time when she died.

So I am going to cut-away the faded green panels, leave the ties in place and dye the pieces in a mourning color - either deep purple or grey.  Perhaps a bit of both.  Have a strong hankering to do this with ink rather than dye.  Then I will piece them back together and include fabrics I have that I would like to be able to share with her.  To see what she might create from the scraps. 

And also I really need to speak a quiet language of sorrow that's gone unexpressed until now - that she didn't live long enough to see my ways of embracing the things she taught me that have become the most significant cornerstones of my life.

it's finally do-able.  this particular release & goodbye...

Things that fit.  One step at a time. 


the studio is morphing in its basic purpose/need equation

Studiowindow60920

Nearly everything plant related is out of the studio for the summer season.  This always opens up the space creatively as well as spatially.  I anticipate this yearly marker with a lot of building/gathering energy making itself known from mid-winter forward.  Never knowing for sure what form it's going to take but understanding it's always something meaningful creatively.

  What's happening in this particular season's iteration involves word-slinging in a capacity I've not seriously attempted in I don't even know how many years.  Every day for almost two weeks now I've spent the bulk of my studio time writing.  It seems the closest I can come to sorting out my own thoughts, feelings, and opinions about life as it's changed and continues to put everything plutonic and massively uncomfortable right in our faces is to run deep into the wild and wacky hills of fictionland.

it wasn't a decision - or even a reflex- so much as an inevitability.  The experience has been a collaborative effort (or so it seems) because I've been living with this imaginary group of people for a very long time.  Dee Mallon somewhat recently encouraged me to talk about this/them which I did after inwardly scoffing that I didn't 'need' such talking.  Then I scoffed while writing out some - not exactly pointless but ultimately known by me to be irrelevant - plot point noodlings in a couple warm up/character voice reconnection files. 

true story:  right at this point, of which she knew no details, Dee remarked that it seemed my characters might be getting restless.  and in response I had a sense of them  (the non-existent people in my head) collectively experiencing gratitude and relief to be understood.   I actively imagined the patriarch of this clan saying I've always liked that Dee.  She sees what's there.  Nutty af but totally run of the mill fiction writer stuff. 

considered - albeit belatedly -  what's involved with writing a novel.  Realized first and foremost I'd have to get and remain diligent about committing to words ONLY what I actively saw and felt to be truly The Story.  In relation to what I knew inside my head, sure, but also what I understood/saw/felt at the heart and gut level.

this development dovetailed with:

me reaching a specific but now indeterminate mentally & emotionally unacceptable point in the past 10 or 11 days when I abruptly opened my laptop and checked all the way out because by then I was as restless as my characters. 

So there's that and all it entails going on.  Have been also considering ways I might develop a sustainable system of organizing/clarifying my thoughts on a few key non-fictional/spiritual topics of interest to me.  With the ultimate goal being a series of essays or as I'm thinking of them relatable modular units.  At the moment most manifestation of said units is at a mind-map stage with the details on that level growing a lot more focused and coherent. The main point where non-fiction writing is concerned is that I'm thinking like a communicator.  Wasn't sure if I could (or wanted to) do that anymore.  But now I am - both sure and able.  am not at all sure why but it's what is happening.

***

 have also accessed another piece of automatic grief moon writing.  This grouping pertains to both my recently observed and internally experienced forms of white fragility.  It's fairly unusual for me to let myself sit in the parts I embody without reflexively working to shade, shape, and otherwise alter the overwhelming sense I'm being swallowed alive by ideas and certainties, expectations and unresolved needs that are not authentically my own.

and yet they are quite thickly pooled within the matrix of how that authenticity has learned to recognize and define its other-ness.  not just trigger but also cause.  that's a huge perceptual shift.  Not just trigger.  Also cause.  Puts a whole new spin on acts of self-sabotage and why/how they may occur specifically when and as they do.

***

moons of realizing we are nothing like we imagined.

moons of cherished narrative and our very best

myths of origin crashing with elegant finality.

moons of disavowed emotions squirming like snakes.

slithering throughout what we thought

we knew. believed in.

and felt to be of value within ourselves.

moons of clarity we never sought

and may never learn how to embrace.

moons that laugh shrilly

at the moments when we

most need peace shrieking

youfoolyoufoolyoufool


beyond words (plus words)

Graceinclusion

Longcloth6220

Moonmadness6220

*****

wrote these words spontaneously after re-working the Lunar Annal title page background and creating some equally spontaneous collage pieces.  less than a day before shit got real in the most effed-up way yet.  bearing witness to our country literally going up in flames has given the implications of what I wrote a much deeper collective context.

*****

dark black elliptical shattered

broken scary moons.

moons to haunt the dreams of the dying

as well as the merely alive

amidst unending disconsolation.

 


mending & growing

Mendingheart

Think the title of this post might be the name of the long cloth I'm making.  As is my usual process with jude-related classes I seem to be riffing on her stated themes and what they evoke in me more than I'm following along in a more direct kind of way.    Yet this is the most direct interpretation I've attempted so far as well as soft collaboration - jude created the lovely silk pink moon with just the right size of waxing crescent to represent my birth moon.  Also Glennis created the heart and those two combined energies are one of the most natural pairings I can imagine.  The heart didn't have a tip so I patched one from the cutaway scraps.  Not sure if I'll fill in the little 'nick' on the left or if I'll embroider a rootlet/something else.

Originally I had put together the layout below.   Ultimately the silk kimono scrap wasn't working for me at a structural level.  I like to have a whole cloth ground as my base  for multi-technique sewing.  But in this case felt that defeated the purpose of piecing something directly on top of it.   So I decided to eliminate the silk section and further decided how it might be included in a different form.

Longcloth1stidea

Day before yesterday I sewed the two indigo pieces on either end of the brighter fabric.  Pieced small borders on the top two pieces to make them the same size as the bottom scrap.  Moved the indigo 'seed' down into the root section.  Will add two small seeds on the opposite side of that section and stitch their life force rising to the surface. 

The heart migrated of its own accord from one side of the image to the other.  I have ideas for how to finish this piece with an additional panel at both the top and bottom.  If I follow through in a faithful manner that part will be as time consuming as this one was simple and quick to piece once I finally got that far.  Maybe I will modify my current plan so it's less labor intensive but these days I find I really want to make exactly what I want to make a lot more than I care to be expedient. 

Longcloth51420

This morning when I took a picture of the the basted heart I had to move it around to prevent distracting light and shadow patterns made by the woodworking of my studio's front window.  But the shadows did successfully distract me all the same with their potential suggestion of leaves and stems that would be made with subtle stitch work or something more overtly embroidered.  Design options are good so long as I don't flood my mind and its eye with too many at a time.  In theory I could mark a design over the whole top using the window's larger pattern of light and shadow ...

Shadowgrowth

(also I am enjoying the fact that the hole in the heart is letting the MOONlight through.  Feels more true to my life experience than Leonard Cohen's cracks letting the light in which I always picture as something more directly solar and sharp edged than the same illumination reflected through a lunar window of glowing diffusion.


Altering the Dark-Dreaming of Grief Today

Dreamingspines

Yesterday I focused my studio time on the Lunar Annal I've committed to documenting and sharing in a step by step way.  But the resulting 'steps' were largely a matter of walking into various walls of my own making.  Need to synthesize how and why that happened before I can explain it coherently to anyone not-me.  Also my significant results were largely internalized in nature.  More needs to actually occur in an outward manner before there's any point in sharing with a dedicated post.  At the very least I need to reach a couple of firm conclusions rather than opening more and more doors of possibility.

***

Above is a picture I took this morning of my first altered book project which I began back in the mid-aughts.  Its thematic nature leaves it perpetually incomplete but I'm honing in on a shrinking number of blank pages.   Sooner than later the book will be filled even if the topic remains a work in progress to me.   Back when I started I was following through on the curiosity and interest raised by studying blogs that were devoted to various forms of master-class level collage as well as altered books.  It was clear to me that I would not be able to truly embrace such a project by choosing a theme and then finding a book and everything I felt needed to put in it. 

Such a format didn't interest me long enough to gather basic art supplies I already had on hand let alone ring my chimes enough to consider doing something with them.    Recall, if it's relevant, the kind of projects "everybody" was doing during that window of time. I had/have zero tolerance for even thinking about flea markets let alone 'haunting' them in search of the perfect vintage this and that.  And back then there seemed no way OUT of - let alone around - the rigorously exalted Vintage Fixation. 

Still - my hands and mind itched to alter a book my own way.  So I readily forgot what I knew about altered books that was based on what I'd been reading.  What did I actually want to do?  Landscapeofculture

For starters I needed to select something that was personally meaningful from my own bookshelf.  It would need to be a book that held great meaning for me - something I'd read more than once with sustained interest but felt certain I wouldn't have a need to read again.  Time after time I came back to my copy of Dreaming The Dark.  It had a glued rather than a sewn spine - which absolutely everybody on the internet strongly advised.   After a week of cogitation I decided to ignore the looming shapeless form(s) of Everybody saying (and then making ...) the same thing.  The first picture in the post illustrates why people stress the importance of a sewn spine and removing at least one folio per sewn signature.  It's because creative choices - just like elections - have consequences.

Crystalsstars

When my book began to fall apart I took it in stride once the initial reality check hit home.  It honestly didn't bother me and still doesn't - although for the record I've altered a number of books since then and they've ALL had sewn bindings.  When the spine split for the first time it broke my favorite spread in the book in half.    My fondness for the spread centered on the fact that it's the point in the book where I chose to begin the active alteration process in a "fun" way.  Prior to that I'd been focused on prepping all the pages by gluing three together with Yes paste and then pressing the results under a stack of books with the glued pages separated from the rest of the text block with sheets of wax paper. 

Now I'd start a lot differently but I'd undoubtedly make other mistakes because that's how I learn best and most quickly in the creative sense.   It's also the way I'm happiest learning.  And that's something I didn't know until this particular project fell apart right there in my hands.  Now I know why a sewn binding is important in a way I'm unlikely to forget.

Matrix spread

All told it's been a far easier lesson in releasing attachment to outcome than most others have been.   A book I was changing into some new thing fell apart and that's pretty much all that happened.  Then it fell apart again and yet a third time.  

but before any of that occurred

I picked a theme:  The Sisterhood.   I envisioned filling the pages with various impressions and conclusions I've reached about primarily positive and empowering female relationships.  It didn't occur to me at first to actively include things from women who had that kind of bond with me but I quickly caught on how invaluable it would be to make that shift.

Completingthespectrum

The page above is a good example of such incorporation.  There's a laconic note from Jude and two tiny rune cards from a deck I received from a friend in the UK.  The Tibetan Wishing tree is a photocopy of a postcard I received from a friend in Berkeley.   The batik fabric is from a friend who, for a time, lived close enough that we regularly exchanged fabric and paper scraps as well as plants and seed packets.

Turtlebirch

Some pages, like the one above, are tributes to women who shaped the woman I've become.  This particular page relates to my Grandmother - Pearl Margaret.  When I was young I used to spin out a lot when things were overwhelming and impossible for my mind and body to process gracefully.  I've written before about her practice of reading aloud to me from Walden Pond until I was calm.   When I was still too young for that to work - she used to put us both in the car and drive me to a certain rocky river bank a few miles from our home.  It was nearly always crowded with a large colony of snapping turtles.  She'd read Guidepost magazines while I observed the turtles.  Quietly because those were the rules.  After a certain vacillating known-only-to-Pearl block of time she'd announce that if I could that for the turtles I could do it for her and myself back at the house.  

(if whatever made me spin out involved my mother we wouldn't go right home.  We'd go to a fast food hamburger place pre-dating one of the big chains that now dominate.  I would be ordered a plain hamburger which I ate in dainty bites while Pearl inhaled most of a large order a fries with a few here and there doled out to me because there I was, after all, stuck with my mother and her many terrifying guises.  This is how I learned it was possible to leverage dysfunction and unhappiness - and more to the point, that others would willingly do that for you in ways that gave you access to things normally denied or outright forbidden.

When we eventually got home from the kind of thing I to this day mentally visualize when somebody says the words pity party - I'd be allowed to look through Pearl's curated clippings of sales throughout the region.  Depending on what level of awful my mother had been, I might be awarded a pair of shoes that were never as cute as anything full price, a new hat I didn't (ever) want, or some type of educational book on a subject important to me.  This, unfortunately, is how I learned that if somebody causes you disturbance or emotional pain you could always bribe yourself past it with Something New yet sensibly priced)

Also when I was super young Pearl and her sister Grace used to construct booklets out of birch bark.  one of my older cousins tried to "help" them one time and it turned into the kind of fracas that to my mind should have piled us all in the car to view the turtles for a good long while.  I smile as I type all these things.  I smile a lot any time I look through this book.  

Nocirc

I also add to it any time I see something I feel belongs to The Sisterhood as I've experienced it.  Above a photocopy of some gifts I received from a French friend who traveled to India.  We've lost touch but I always hope she might find her way to my main blog or this one.   I included a sticker that was further embellished with a different sticker by Jeannine Parvati Baker.   Many years after her death, the first time I saw a selection of Social Justice Kitten postcards, I thought of her with great longing.  I wanted so badly to send her the version I wound up including in this spread.  Any time I look at it I think about how deep and wide-ranging our friendship became BANG! just like that once I introduced myself to her in an email.

Emilydimnobody

And of course there are also pages dedicated to other people who are "gone" whom I never actually knew but feel deeply connected to nonetheless.   Emily Dickinson is right at the head of that list for all kinds of reasons.  Once I was describing my kinda unusual relationship to my written output in terms of how little I cared if I ever became 'known' for any of it. I happened to be talking to Jeannine who kept making appalled and disbelieving noises the more I warmed to my theme.  Finally she interjected in a scandalized voice.

"You - You're - You're just some sort of Emily Dickinson aren't you.  You probably have a WHOLE TRUNK (actually at the time I had two but there's been a lot of burning and other forms of shedding since then...) full of writing that nobody's ever SEEN! -" and when I said yeah maybe she positively exploded with a specific type of frustration that wasn't new to me.  Various people have gone through the but think of the recognition!!  Don't you want it?  Or at least feel you deserve it?? shtick with me many times but nobody's ever come close to saying what she said.  So that I wound up feeling seen and heard and understood - if only through a back door way In to that - rather than alienated and lonely and very much wishing to scream why doesn't anybody ever accept a person who has a whole different orientation towards Meaning and Success?  Why is it assumed we have some kind of 'problem' that must be fixed in the same way everybody else imagines it ought to be fixed or else an individual's life will have no true meaning or value?

For once I was not inclined towards such inward screaming.  In a very back-of-the-mind kind of way it occurred to me that perhaps we were having our own unique version of an argument.  Should that concern me?  Before I could answer the inner question Jeannine brought out her really BIG guns.

I mean you might as well be Emily's direct reincarNAtion!!!

Despite how affronted and rebuking this very unique and irreplaceable friend clearly felt - I fell over sideways on my bed in pure delight.  There was no higher compliment/soul recognition a person could have offered me.  When I told her that she made a final noise of complete vexation and informed me she hoped this would be the very closest she'd ever have to come to feeling she had no choice but to hang up on me.  This ... was revelatory on a whole other level.   Levels of levels because that's how she was and how I am and damn do I ever miss her still to this day.

The Sisterhood is eternal and never-ending.  Grief only feels that way.  Addressing the conclusion of something that doesn't ever end while beginning something that sometimes doesn't know how to begin let alone finish feels - and I'm gonna say this sincerely rather than cynically as I usually do - very much on brand for me..  I hope the combination and juxtapositions will inspire you somehow.

Who's your Emily?   What friendship lives eternally within a longing to have it last just a few more hours or days?   If you had to pick one book from your shelves that you loved and learned from in more ways than you can even remember - what book would it be?

What way(s) are you happiest working?  Were you taught to work that way or did you cobble it together for yourself over time?


birthing a slow-to-hatch art journal

Lede

Was starting to wonder if I saw a true purpose for continuing this blog.  The past month of time as I've spent it in this studio has felt a lot like the the image above.  I have felt swaddled and overly 'contained' by layers and layers of information overload that's both highly mental and deeply emotional in nature.  Sometimes I get up and take a tour of all my creative options to hand. Then I settle back with the ongoing comfort and steadiness of working on the large quilt I'm determined to finish for myself - with this year's harvest season serving as a my target completion date. 

******

The relentless disintegration of anything in the outer world feeling sane let alone safe let alone true on any level has taken a toll I've been intellectually compelled to monitor with unusual precision in my writing journal.   I've also cut out scads of wonderful collage images but the idea of making enough sense of them - fitting them back together again - is 'way beyond my skill set concentration-wise. 

Booksforthenextcycle

the above is a description of my restless uncomfortable energy flow of late but it seems to have been de-crystallized by way of profound healing and focus the Scorpio moon brought.  It was one of those silently graceful cosmic gifts you never see coming and are unlikely to forget. Went to sleep in her light and woke to suddenly knowing what to do to re-boot myself.  The moon gifted knowledge and self awareness and - most blessed of all - passionately rooted motivation.  Will be spot re-reading (via random book opening) the above books for the next little while.   Both were highly influential and inspiring for me -as well as deeply validating - right around the Y2K mark and moving forward into the mid-aughts.

Goldencrusted

Yesterday, just after lunch, I came up intent to manifest a little more motivational Result.   And from there I spent the evening's earliest hour pulling together a concrete plan for the second volume of a dystopian illuminated manuscript trilogy I've been carrying around in my head since January '18.  This volume has been very slow to germinate but I do know it's to be called A Lunar Annal of Grief.    At first my idea was just to fill every single page with some form of grief or another and subsequently was much too overwhelmed to think anything through in a way that caught spark.   About a month ago I realized it was Too Much and I wasn't up for it (though in my 30's I'd tend to imagine I would have been all over it) and so it sat until my next breakthrough what-if moment

Notesevolving

What if I expressed just twelve moon cycles that were coordinated and coalesced through the twelve astrological signs and their associated alchemical element?    Sat with that I don't know how long before the Scorp moon rose.  In its wake I grabbed a notebook and spontaneously started mind mapping something tangible to work with.  In the meantime I'd gotten out the designated empty sketchbook, cracked its spine just a little, and gone through the book to make sure I had enough pages for 24 spreads.  The count-off left me two additional spreads on either end which I quite liked. 

While I was making my map I figured out how the cycle part of the spreads would work.  The water signs were full moons.  The earth signs were the waning crescent/quarter.  The fire signs were the waxing crescent/quarter and the air signs were dark & new.

The first volume of this trilogy is based on an over-arching solar/lunar theme in which the Shadow side of each Solar spread holds lunar space.  In this volume it's the Lunar Light-reflection and energy that leads.  The solar spreads that follow are the 'fixes' for the grief's impact.  This expression would all told give a pretty fair representation of each astrological sign's elevated Form. - perhaps expressed in more of what is happening above ground in the natural world and intentional human co-creators.

don't know for sure much of anything except

Lunarannalofgrief1st

I have begun.  On this spread I'll create a full lunar cycle in the style used in all things Luna Press.  Am planning to further besmirch J's old drafting templates in the effort.  Had a thought - to keep it manageable and something I actively engage with right along with the other doings of this season - I'll make just one representation a day.  Get the curve and general spacing set and then just begin with the actual moon's placement at the time.   Secondary ideas are pushing closer to cogent visualization but it's really all a feeling thing for the most part.  Thought I might pin up a large piece of white flannel I used as an audition board for bed-size quilts.   This time I'll use it for paper/collage imagery I find inspiring/relevant/provocative in a way that feels significant to explore.

and to think I was a tiny bit anxious this might be one of those jackboot sorta Scorpio moons.  Instead it just opened the door for my 8th house Saturn to step on up and take the wheel. 

It all feels very very Holy.

Namaste