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November 2019

October 2019

and then there's stitching

AsaboveblgThis very much unfinished fabric art journal project's been in the mix for about a dozen years.  It lives in a largish tote box full of sewing/fiber arts supplies I keep close to hand for spontaneous stitching sessions.  It's a comprehensive cloth and thread based cache I'd feel myself lucky to salvage in a state of emergency.  That said, I'm thinking it might be time to drop that ride or die criteria as the underlying structure of what I post here. 

I first started this project in the mid-aughts.  Back then I had both my former/undamaged brain and a lot more fluidity in my fingers' joints and tendons.   In part this means I didn't consider ease of stitching in my cloth choices nearly as much as I'm obliged to consider it now.  All the same I'd like to think, if I dedicate myself, I can have this project fully complete by this same time next year.  At the moment every single page is in progress.  So is my tenuous understanding of how it will ultimately be sewn together.  My old brain had a plan.  I found mention of that in a fiber arts idea log book but not a word about the plan itself. InsidecoverThe inside cover features a yukata sample that was stitched to the back of the third-hand army jacket I wore in the woods for a dozen or more years.  This spread offers tribute to the paper bookmaking detail of a gauze/parchment overlay that flips to reveal the book's title page.  Eventually every page will house an embroidered word or two.  Each detail of pattern, specific cloths and threads, and how they came to be assembled as a final project holds layers of personal meaning for me.  This is something I make with my future in mind:  at some point maybe I will no longer remember Enough but I might still remember some things I can look at and touch such as this soft and extremely tactile vessel of meaning and memory.  Now that I know what it feels like to be missing parts of established mind patterns I also know what it's like to encounter ballast through self-recognition at unlikely moments.  Thus I've returned to this project with a sense it holds personal meaning and value that merits showing up to work on it in a regular [timeframe] way. Auspiciousdreamsoverlay

MorninggloryprintblogI made the bold morning glory leaf print years ago at my former home.  Wisteria has been a major healing and illumination touchstone/ally for me since early childhood.  The page on the right is a very well worn fragment of a homemade pillowcase.  The equally worn batik strip running across comes from a comforter that was originally a wedding gift.  In the later 90's I recovered it by hand, one handsewn piece at a time. Each page is constructed from personally meaningful cloth that has multiple layers of significance for me. DonkeysspreadblgThis spread contains another paper-based bookmaking feature.  The "page" on the right is actually a tip-in.  Its substrate used to be one of my all time favorite gardening shirts.  This bit contains the shirt's buttonhole placket to hold the tip-in securely in place. CenterfoldThe book's centerfold is already fully complete in my head.  Had been saving it for the very last thing to be finished before binding but now am thinking I'll give myself the treat of working on it the next time I pick up a needle. Backcoverblg The inside back cover is one part of the book that's close to completion. FajbackcoverblgThe back cover is not.

The Persephone Codex


This is an art journal in progress that's usually so close to wherever I am that I'd probably grab it before I grabbed the go bag itself.   Simply as a structural object it represents a culminated inner vision of making a special book dedicated to cataloging and exploring personal symbols. I went into the active bookmaking process knowing that I wished to use an assortment of original surface design papers as well as unadorned paper/mailing bags with a texture I felt to be crying out for drawing & painting.  Most of these papers pre-existed anything but the basic notion as described above.  For 4 or maybe even 5 years they held space in a roughly gathered heap on my paper shelf.  I knew what I wanted but I didn't know why.  Consequently nothing really came together until I filled in that blank space.


This is a book filled with all manner of symbolic glyphs and images that mean something important to me.   I started gathering an inner download file of such things as a young girl and have also collected both objects and information related to this lifelong interest.  Thus I created three signatures that have 12-14 folios.  It was interesting to set up a design for the page order (and then physically put it together) with more than twice as many folios as I've used in all the other books I've made.  But the paper is much thinner.  Above is part of a mailing envelope.  I wanted the title page to be sturdy specifically because I tend to prefer something lighter and looser and have often regretted it from a construction level straight through to matters of ultimate durability as both substrate and the page that's going to be handled and turned more than any other.


I assigned one of the three classic female stages of life to each signature.   Most of the hand decorated papers are 70# printer's bond or 40# drafting vellum.  The vellum is spray painted/stencilled with a variety of water-based and walnut inks.  Once I had the signatures sewn into place I began working in collage and calligraphy as a way of familiarizing myself with the feel of the physical book.


Both Maiden and Mother substrates are less than stellar papers I made during a day-long and deeply cherished paste paper workshop here in town.  The dark green smudges on the page above are my finger-tip prints.  I consider the Mother phase of life to be about output and outpouring.  Some of us also have children and, through them, we have an Identity that's about as fraught and deep and wide and love-soaked as a thing can be.  I find it challenging to parse all that within the confines of sentences made of words.  As I add symbolic glyphs and visual representations I work in a deliberative yet relaxed and fairly playful way.  I decide what to add based on whatever crosses my path there in the studio.  Any time I open the book for this kind of quality alone time I sense myself giving form to invisible smoke signals I've been sending myself all along. 


This pastepaper above is not a disappointment to me.  It wasn't made at the workshop, either.  It was made a few weeks earlier at a studio open house.  There, working in the amazing creative space of a woman I knew through the library book club, I created two sheets of paper that came out so well I knew I was hooked enough to create a broader range of self-made art paper.  My favorite of the pair is featured above.  What's interesting to me is that I 'mistakenly' put this on the third rather than the second page in the signature as I'd done with the other two.   I guess because this phase of life is still in progress I felt the need to add an extra gate to open before this leap into brilliant sunset rose over ripe peach orange. 


The cover page of the Mother signature is St. Theresa curling her toes in esctasy level of gorgeous - thickly crinkled light pistachio colored Momi paper embedded with tiny mica chips.  They sparkle as mothers do and must.   The cover paper for the Crone section is equally worthy of delirium for me.  It's packing paper of a crisp-snapping nature that's pretty much my idea of the perfect lake beach sand brown.  One side is very lightly waxed.  The other has just the right icing of texture to catch pencil work nicely.

You can see the spine has a gap between these two signatures. It isn't really noticeable in the book's structure because there are so many pages in each group.  But that exposed spine has caused the sads from time to time when I come upon it.  I've felt in these moments that something belonged there and I didn't know what it was.  Today something arrived and literally fell right into the space pictured above.  Sympathetic magic at its finest.  I don't know if this is a permanent inclusion or what but for now I'm going to take it as a sign that I know how to keep myself tall and strong within my own truth and its many symbols.

This is how a new (r)evolution of healing is born ...

invaluable companion


This is the single filled sketchbook I keep in my studio go-bag.  At least that's where it lives when I don't have it out as a reference source for whatever reason.  It's my favorite size of 8 x 8.   I made it using a super-simplified bookmaking technique taught by Mary Ann Moss in her Sketchbookery class.  The method works so well for me that I've been using it ever since. 


For about a week this journal was meant to be a colorist exploration of the designer gouache I received as a holiday gift.  But then I heard about Wendy Brightbill's 30 day creative challenge that ran as a free offering of her creative spirit throughout January of this year.  I've taken a number of online painting and collage classes with Wendy and find her to be a very inspiring teacher.   Each day of the challenge she presented participants with a pair of videos.  One featured her speaking in an inspiring way.  Throughout the month she covered a variety of themes integral to maintaining a daily creative practice.  The second video contained process/technique details to match the prompt of the day.

While watching the very first video I impulsively grabbed this volume and repurposed it.  On crisp New Year's instinct I knew this was going to be a process I'd want to preserve in a cohesive and structurally sound way.  Indeed, by the end of the challenge I'd amassed a cohesively strong collection of seed-stage ideas that can be expanded whenever and however I'm moved to explore ... whatever.  By assigning a full spread to each prompt I created a working field  of 16 x 8.  I quickly found I like working on this scale just as much as I like working within 8 x 8 parameters.  I also appreciated that the book signatures were made from high quality water color paper scraps and leftovers.  The quality allowed me a reliable substrate that didn't bleed. The scrap status allowed me to feel creatively resourceful and unrestrained for an average time investment of 20 minutes a day.  This book holds a valuable record of what happens when I show up for myself - on several days, for even half that amount of time  - in order to create in a purely joyful and spontaneous manner.


Above a shaman "older than dirt" awakes from a nightmare in which he finds himself unable to Save The World.  This is the lower left hand corner of the Layers prompt spread. It's an example of the handful of occasions when I had the luxury of moving slowly and with a leisurely sense of time management.  I worked on this one off and on throughout a sunny January day in which I was studio-puttering.  Greatly enjoyed the experience of grounding my time alone & away from family/domestic responsibilities via periodically returning to the work desk to add a new layer of paint or ink.


Above two dogs seek shelter and comfort from each other during the Camp fire.  The prompt of the day was color background.  I had a newly purchased tube of rose madder acrylic paint.  Thought it would be a far darker/more oxidized color based on paint chips.  When I saw this much lighter and intensely red color my brain went straight to those dogs.  I imagined a fragment of their story through inky line drawings with a dip pen; sometimes feathering or widening the lines with a 1/4" one stroke brush.


Above a recurring dream motif from last winter was detailed within the mark making prompt spread.  Used another new tube of paint but this color was a dependable old favorite rather than a startling surprise. 

the Alchemical Rituals project (intro)


This is one of my favorite art journals. I introduced the project  here.  Writing that post inspired me to begin bringing this blog into focus in a somewhat different way than I originally imagined I might.  Instead of focusing on daily accountability in relation to my ongoing creative practice, I thought about the projects that most matter to me in specific terms of taking them with me if I had to leave where I live under emergency circumstances.  Grace recently posted on the subject of her refined bug-out readiness plan there in NoCali's fire belt.  She's already had to evacuate with the goats once this season and has since devised a means of readying her fabric collection for swift travel with no moment to spare.

It got a lot of us thinking.  And irrespective of pragmatic what-iffing I love Alchemical Rituals intensely.  Perhaps the most significant learning/personal growth that emerged from a year spent allowing somebody else - literally half a world away - to guide me in a venture that was deeply personal relates to how much I came to understand and appreciate the ways my mind and heart instinctively braid things together via collage and a few other thematic/supply-based touchstones of this project. Each month we watched inspiring and crystal clear process videos related to a carefully chosen theme and pre-selected mediums/artistic techniques to explore. The journal holds 24 spreads; 2 per month.  The first of each pair is a solar spread and the second is a lunar spread.  As a general rule Vanessa broke down her topical themes in a light/shadow format. 


Above is a detail from the lunar spread for April.   It was a month in which we delved into the subject of Fertility using collage. For the solar spread V. asked us to create a secret garden devoted to carefully cultivated sacred space.  For the lunar spread we were asked to depict what happens when we neglect such a space and allow the weeds to take over. I'd introduced my intrinsic sense of connection to the archetypal goddess of perpetual duality, Persephone, within the month's solar spread where she appears as a maturing form of her Queen of the Flowers guise.  On the next page I depicted her making her yearly return to what lies Below, through earthly gates that quickly fade to black. 

The overall scene I created for the lunar spread nudged me to consider my life's kind of ... almost touristy aspect of relationship to this part of myself.  I mean that in terms of how much it can take out of me to be familiar and calm with dark stuff many people I know work extremely hard and consciously to avoid. And so I thought about what a brutal (and culturally undervalued) form of returning it can be and how sometimes I actively step back from acknowledging the difficulty level in order to dispassionately observe myself "handling" things like a no-contest pro if not a saint or a hero.  That's ... pretty much Persephone's gig in the Underworld kingdom:  managing the unmanageable yet inevitable switch between being and not-being in the human life span. 

 I was surprised and inspired to realize this new awareness could with time and mindfulness allow me to just be in the process (instead of focusing primarily on performance checklists) of guiding and being guided through dark times and deep water.


Here's a detail from January's solar spread.  The theme for the month is New and the technique is stitching - with the centerpiece effort being a dream catcher. I decided to construct the two spreads as thematically joined by the open web between them.  V. encouraged us to add some sequins to our web.   Some have bent over time due to inadvertently smashing them while flattening other pages beneath a few heavy books.


This is a detail from the final spread in the journal.  December's theme was Closure and the technique was color blocking paint colors to harmonize with pre-selected collage pieces to fit our chosen representations.  The month's Lunar spread was designed around those aspects of our immediate and ongoing future we needed to integrate but found personally challenging.  I elected to further clarify the issues I placed in this category as works in progress I was committed to shifting as mindfully and gently as possible in order to move forward into a new cycle of deepened/more conscious self-relationship.