color stories

odds & ends

JudeheartblogLife has become a new thing.  I'm glad I'm able to say that even though this particular new thing is unknown to a large degree.  In some ways it's defined by the old things I'm inclined to keep.  Or in this case, complete and then keep.  I know exactly what I want to do with this.  Made in a Jude class that had hearts in the title.   I also made this in the same class:

Georgeglassesthese psychedelic sunnies were inspired by this:

Beatle George Harrison tours the Haight, 1992 ...

and now that J works from home and keeps misplacing his special working mode spectacles, I'm going to to use the motif as can't-miss-it-embellishment on the case I'm going to make for those glasses.

GaiacuInstead of overdosing on news articles I've been spending the heat wave experimenting with getting more detail shots from some of my art quilts.  This is a detail from Gaia Heals Herself.  Considering gift giving in the coming season(s).  What will it look like?  I thought about printing postcards to bundle with other little trinkets that are useful and fun to share.  Really like the idea of generosity large enough to spread bits and pieces of our special personal treasures here and there.  Placed into new context and sparking unknown creatives to make something new of their own.

Gaiaheals
 As current events give us an opportunity to consider female power and potentiality I've been looking at a book that's new to me.  And I really love it.

Psychedlicmysteries

Sacredfeminine Artwork2 Artwork3
Wish there was more artwork.  The essays I've looked at so far have been nourishing and thought provoking. 

The plentitude of electrical storms have put a huge crimp in my stitching plans.  There's only so many times I can stab myself with a needle or drop a really sharp scissors on my bare foot before it starts to feel like a losing proposition altogether.  I want to be near cloth and thread, though, so I've been going through stuff, again, to see what might be bundled and re-distributed somehow.

The other day I wrote on my main blog about how much trouble I had not going to garden centers and greenhouse throughout the spring and early summer as I normally would have.  Have also had a lot of trouble not redistributing books, clothes, creative supplies, and so forth.  It isn't, for me, about de-cluttering it's about the redistribution of energy.  Something wishing to re-create its own relationship to sharing.  Not to mention discernment.

Gardenia71320


still feeling disjointed

ShiboriscrapsOne day over the weekend I chose scraps to use in making nine-patches for my Spiritcloth tribute.  During the heatwave I lurked in my summer studio.  Aside from the basement it's the coolest place in the house.  Marked the scraps for cutting and sewing lines and got the individual squares cut.

Littlesquares72820I followed grace's advice the other evening and listened to the 1619 podcast she recommended on her blog.   It took me a day and a half to get that kind of quiet time within myself.  As I listened I stitched a couple of four patches.  Three and a half, to be exact.  One was stitched badly because I was saddened and increasingly focused on the podcast's narrative.  I really wasn't paying attention to the stitching at all but simply doing it because that's what I planned in advance.   Have since taken it apart to restitch later today or this evening.  But leaving the image of it as part of this ongoing creative record.  It shows how I felt while listening to the podcast and everything else we take some measure to absorb in an ongoing way: out of whack and consequently vulnerable.

SquaresMost of my free time - including that in which I'd normally write emails and get my packages packed up and ready for mailing - has been feeding my need for a reliable fulcrum.  Something I can turn to for the beginning and ending every day as a reliable place to stay focused beyond all the things we're all doing in whatever ways we can to absorb or reject just what we need to have/not have too close to our fractured minds and hearts.

coyote medicine says:  when you get to the end of reality make another one.

so that's what I've been doing.  and lo and behold -

Writing more diligently and carefully has begun to result in also writing more fluently.

To that end I've opened a password protected blog on which to share a few of the first-round results.   At the moment I've got one block of writing posted with the intention of posting two more that are very much inter-relational.  It's a contemporary narrative that strays a good bit farther afield than I stray here on my two blogs.

closer to heart in many ways.  and in others most definitely a word on the street/beach book kinda thing.

Leave a comment or email me if you'd like to take a look and I'll send you the keys you need.

Patchesinarow


Sympathetic Evolution (tm jude)

Creatorstone My response to recent community truth tellings and the resultant supportive growth tendrils pushed me all the way beyond words.   Obviously where-ever I was going expressively would be cloth driven.  Somewhere around 2 a.m. on Thursday I understood I wanted to make a tribute/protection quilt for the community jude created and has tended in much the same style I tend to my gardens. 

I've never wanted to do this before.  For one thing - precision and math.  Planning that's focused rather than a rough suggestion.   For another - I learn best when I incorporate rather than emulating.  But for this purpose it doesn't feel like my expressive style serves the purposes.  So what's coming to life is a bit sympathetic magic and a little evolutionary cloth/work approach and whole bunches of sympathetic evolution.    I don't remember when it was that jude put her stamp on that phrase and its brilliant articulation recurring throughout her work and teaching development.

Wheelassquarebegin She sent me this I don't even know how many years ago.  It was last resurrected for ongoing contemplation shortly before the shit hit the fan COVID-wise here on the east coast.  I thought I would like to make it the center of something bigger and somehow aquamarine-ish. 

Wheel transferIn this busy multi-plexic portion of the growing season yesterday afternoon was sending me to the big bad tizzy place.  I realized cloth work would help slow the revs as well as elevating my perspective of the moment.  I sat down with my intentions to just go in the sympathetic evolutionary magic sense - having earlier stolen 10-15 minutes to anchor stitch the green and blue/turquoise fabric to the under-side of jude's corduroy base. 

 once this was done I sensed the soft collaboration I was seeking.  And remain pleased that I gained the most beautifully moody moon circle to dream over.

Next will come a border of small four patches.  To adept lovers of small piecework the size will probably feel overblown (1" finished) but for me this level of literally scaling down is an exercise in trust that time and providence can hold the care I'm taking. Last night after I got this far I adjourned to fictionland but not before I located my embroidery hoops with today's stitching time in mind.

***

Appliqueing the stone into position was so gratifying at a stitch level.  Was a little worried I'd cut too scant a turn to prevent the corduroy unraveling but there was no such problem.  Later today  I may stick it in a hoop and do a little noodling but that could well be a plan to procrastinate marking and cutting the little squares. 

slowly but surely I'm coming around to the understanding that neurological abrasions shouldn't keep me from stitching just because I can no longer manage a fine seam.  I probably could if I spent more time with it but that's the Catch-22 that this endeavor may help me mend a lot more effectively.

Backsideofstone


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


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?


piece by piece .1

Crazylimpetcrystalnest

I'm still having trouble making friends with my radically altered attention span.  As in:  I don't know what in the hell I'm supposed to do/accomplish without one.   And since that symbiosis has always been one of my defining characteristics I'm forcing myself to think farther out of the box.  To apply lateral right brain un-logic as a way of making each day consistent within some type of ongoing theme here in the studio.  I figure if I string enough seemingly disjointed actions per day into an ongoing chain I will eventually see there's been cohesion even in seed form.  Such is my plan any way.

  The two piles of complete and incomplete hand stitching output that I brought over from the house are guiding me closer to some new form of process.  Simply by being grouped as they were at whatever time I left them in the room they give my consideration of them a structure.  That means I'm currently organizing and evaluating my stitched-based creations in layers of time as well as technique.  And that's allowing me to also discover themes that jump the track of their specific linear timelines.

*** 

Embroidery and I have a long and entirely happy history.  About fifteen years ago I began to understand I was doing the work I did each day as an ongoing sense of forever-inadequate penance borne of very deep rooted survivor's guilt.  Something so glaringly apparent also came as a shock to my self-perceptions.  Once I more fully understood how profoundly guilty I felt to have survived a series of things that many people do not - I questioned the reason, wisdom and purpose of that survival. And in the absence of clear-cut answers treated myself impatiently and without due compassionate consideration for a good long number of years.  Understanding this part of the healing process was non-negotiable I focused on finding ways to gentle-down at least the edges of what proved to be relatively successful sub-basement psycho-logical excavation.  

As an outgrowth of finding some semblance of imbalanced-balance I started exploring the what-if of early retirement and all that implies.  What else might I do with my time that was a lot gentler and mindful of the fact I had virtually nothing left to prove about what I could "take" without total collapse? I mind-mapped what that question evoked for me in the form of a colored pencil freehand mandala.  I drew the mandala as if it was composed of embroidery stitches.

Butterflypansy

This activity prompted led me to explore/research contemporary embroidery classes being offered here online.  I had some killer books on the subject but such is not always sufficient for those of us who need to ask questions that are answered in order to fully learn so it sticks.  I chose Sharon Boggon's Creating a Personal Library of Stitches.   Subsequently took a heavenly texture-oriented embroidery design class with her as well  - and a studio workhorse journal that's been pivotal in how I keep track of my creative surges and burn-outs.  To this day I am off-and-on obsessed with her blog and following the links she posts.   The details featured in this post are from a crazy quilt block I made specifically so I could refine my understanding of certain stitches that I really came to love during her embroidery classes.  In the linear timeline sense this piece is an outgrowth of the initial Library class.

 I chafed against (and swiftly abandoned) the first Recipe Rule of contemporary crazy quilting: first we cover all the seam lines.  The fact that I wandered off that course soon into things, and that the foundation block itself was machine sewn, means I can conceivably cut it up in ways that preserve both the hand stitching and good structural support.  I can work with just parts of it arranged either vertically on birch board or more horizontally within a book.  Am on the verge of thinking I may have realized at least the cutting apart option in the past but didn't have a concrete plan or spark of vision.

The other alternative I've kicked around over the years we've lived here is to simply join ALL my elaborately embellished fiber arts pieces in a continuous horizontal strip.  Cut that into workable sections for our wall spaces and then rotate in different places /stored resting time as mood and situation require.

Twoshellseque

The palette and feeling tone of the piece is so relentlessly purple because it was born when my son reached an early teen phase of noticing things about me that he would sometimes speak of if he thought his observations would be helpful.  And they often were.  In this case he'd noticed that although I loved the color purple and often got a little delirious if we visited somebody with a purple themed flower garden he'd never seen me sew anything containing much purple.  I said it was because some - in fact a lot - of people don't like purple at all.  He waited until I looked up into his silence and our eyes met.  We said in unison but I/you am/are not one of those people

Sunandmoon

In response I began this piece which vexes me in the disparate arrangement of darks appearing in hulking clumps and tone-deaf application of the underlying crazy/scrap quilt principle the Old Nanas of my older childhood lived by:  don't pre-sort.  life's more exciting that way.   At the same time this working evokes a sense of love.  It continues to inspires me because so many successful what-if's are involved.   And I really do like how it came to exist and the memory of our son-to-mother conversation.

Crazyworld

I will cut it apart for sure.  Maybe.  Perhaps just cut apart the bits I'm most drawn to working with in a different way.  Hmmm. Bulletins as and when ...


resiliency .2

Heartcenter

Am sitting on the couch watching snow flurries through the big front window.  Above is a close-up of the flaming heart I recently unearthed.  I hadn't done more than in the ditch foundational quilting so I devised a learning challenge for myself.  On the right hand side of the heart I stitched patterns that followed hints of ripple in the silk gauze taffeta and dupioni .  On the right I picked an organic shape of moving water cooling the flames of the heart's receptive side and then quilted around it.  I see now that any stitching pattern at all will produce the overall rippling call and response of the fabrics.  Have always in the past assumed the nature of the fabric dictated the rippling rather than the ongoing tension of the stitch.  Seems so obvious but all the same that's my enlightening moment from yesterday.

StitchingheartIP

I'm going to finish this center portion of the quilt by sewing gold beads to the orange center of the yellow starbursts above.  Am very grateful my bead stash remains sensibly stored and sorted by color with a fw "special" mixed bags of equally special beads made of stone, clay and wood.  Have been collecting them - with sporadic devotion to using vast quantities - since my early thirties.

J. just called from his office in the house to tell me our state governor has issued stay at home orders effective tomorrow.  He's going out to fill the tanks in his truck and my car in case they close or severely limit gas purchase for non-essential vehicles.  Am relieved to have the question of when answered at this level.


finding & receiving

Graceandpearl

On Tuesday I started slowly breaking down a narrow six foot long artist's altar here in the studio.  It was 6 or 7 years in the making - stacked solid with layers of mementos, gifts, talismans, and artifacts of all kinds.  Was inspired initially by a truly massive stacked altar glimpsed in the background of many talking head segments of a documentary about Wavy Gravy.

Above is a picture of my aunt Grace and my grandmother Pearl.  The sisters stand wreathed in prolific plant life within their back yard in Bethlehem PA.  Grace is on tip-toes so she can stand while bending her knees to simulate riding a horse or donkey.  Her smile shows real affection for the handsome well-spoken outsider Charlie who her younger sister's engaged to marry. 

Beneath her Pearl, at 19, is doing this whole thing strictly for her man.  He's sweet talked her into it - is undoubtedly sweet talking her even as she acquiesces - kneeling there in her good skirt and favorite blouse.  Because clearly her sister, the eldest, isn't going to do that.

********************

More than likely  Charlie promised Pearl a trip to mountains and a lake.  Grace went too, of course.  The couple won't be left alone until their wedding night save occasional Sunday mornings when Charlie manages to convince Pearl's entire family that his sister Alice was meeting them directly at their family's church.

(who reading this believes they went anywhere near a church or the lady for whom I'm named?)

I found the picture during the final clearance phases of my altar.  Knew it was there and was looking forward to sharing it here.

Fadedheartblg

Have managed to find another Thing I need with me.   It's a heart my son made in kindergarten Valentine's crafts.  In this picture it looks roughly half as bright as it was when he first brought it home in all its dayglo fluorescent glory.  In actuality it had faded to a very anemic pastel.  The heart is one of the last things I removed from the altar.  Earlier this morning I brought it back to life. From now on it's going to live in the drawer of my nightstand within a small grab-and-go clutch.  Just realized while typing that almost everything in that clutch was a gift from T. at various points in his life.

Inkedupheart

Also found upon the altar - this wayback treasure from jude

Judewheel

This patch has always reminded me of a medicine wheel.  But on the altar it represented solely what it is:  a talisman from a very unique and authentic friend who once said to me "i think we already knew about each other."

Electricbluesilk

Yesterday afternoon I put my hand in the pocket of a jacket I'd washed and machine dried the night before.  Apparently I didn't check it before I banished evidence of a very unpleasant yogurt container mishap.  The results of habotai silk self-sculpturing are pretty phenomenal.  am not going to iron it.  Will keep it 'around' so I can touch and gaze.  Eventually I'll want the silk for something else but that's off in the future.

Linenshibori

Also this week:  for absolutely no defined purpose and even less relationship to anything that could legitimately be defined as 'need' - I treated myself to a pack of six indigo dyed linen scraps from Cape Cod Shibori.  Above is my favorite.

Linenshibori2

Shibori3

What's yours?

Ccshiborimoon

Shiborilinnen4

Narcissus22820

We've had a lot of sun (although not at the moment) and the narcissus are doing quite well.  Sure is a lift to see fresh-life green in strong sunlight.   It's been very chilly outside and the bare ground is frozen again.   Hard to believe just day before yesterday I was optimistically envisioning myself planting garlic after the next full moon.

Definitely time to stop procrastinating my seed order though.
 


my Aunt Grace quilt LOC.3

Bowandarrow21420
My life-long love of super scrappy bed quilts began as a tiny child.  As a fifth generation quilter I grew up studying any number of hand sewn quilts on the beds at my grandmother's house where I was raised - and also in the upstairs bedrooms at her older sister Grace's place.  All these quilts bore the generational mark of frugal DIY ladies born at the starting line of the 20th century.  They'd been raised to make good practical use of every scrap of cloth they had to hand.  Not all at once, certainly, but eked-out slowly over time so that the various fabric patterns recurred like a narrative theme covering time, space, and an ongoing roll call of the past's play suits and pajamas and special birthday party dresses/boy's dress shirts for Good/church.

Upon immediate reflection - what I just described is what I grasp(ed) of Aunt Grace's methodology.  Her quilts were to my eye joyous and freewheeling - impeccably sewn but otherwise completely off the How It's Done rails - brought to heel only by the implicit structure and rhythm of one patch/bold graphic classic quilt patterns.

For scrap work my grandmother favored impeccably aligned log cabin/dresden plate variations that were by and large unobtrusive or painterly in their color range and its distribution.  Her choices often suggest she pre-sorted her scraps as she accrued them in order to work efficiently in a far more color coordinated/visually restrained style.

(Oh come on Pearl, the Grace of my memory would sometimes goad.  Live a little why dontcha)

As with so many other things about how she presented herself and her home I feel pretty clear that my grandmother's self-expressive style consciously hewed to the specific and implicit dictates of the fairly dour Lutheran sect in which she and I were both raised as the backbone and mental/psychic wardrobe of not just our lives but Life itself.  She was not a showy woman in any way.  But she understood some people were colorful without being prideful.   Quite early on she saw the way I was breaking, so to speak, in the aesthetic sense and had no trouble asking her friends to supply more colorful scraps for me to learn - and practice until perfect - a variety of piecing techniques.

Her sister was a lot more layered in how she lived and created.  She had an ongoing willingness - from which I actively inferred enjoyment - to use all the scrap happy colors and patterns all at once.  She mixed decades worth of fabric to create ingrained family myths of origin.  The kids in our family who were her grandchildren slept in her upstairs rooms full of handsewn quilts all the time.  They knew at least some of the stories connected to each of the fabrics.  Stories about things that happened while their parents and uncles were wearing clothes made from specific scraps in yardage form.  In the timeframe of my memories the quilts were growing worn at the edges.  They held the aura of fading scrolls documenting family life when our own parents were young or mere babies.  The upstairs rooms in our time weren't needed save for sleep overs and dedicated kidspace while the adults talked downstairs.  We could crawl around and sprawl together laughing helplessly much as we later would on living room floor based Twister game mats.

  Every once in awhile one of Grace's masterpieces would require seam mending and patching.  This would be a big deal for the sisters.   In addition to brown paper bags overflowing with scraps at both their feet they were also inundated by young enthusiastic children.  We flocked around them in a minimum of 4 and an average of 6 in number  It was a sunlit offhandedly nurturing environment suddenly awash in Pearl's far from muted alarm concerning all that could go wrong - particularly with so many children and the sisters' combined collection(s) of the very most necessary sharp Things that outnumbered the kids three to one.

I loved being able to watch close at hand.  Adults in my life often granted me a front row seat to their activities because they knew I'd be quiet and more or less motionless. I fully realized this as well as the fact that my freeze frame hyper-focus on what they were doing formed a kind of hedge/buffer zone between their workspace and more overtly excitable kids inclined to shout, grab suddenly for things they shouldn't touch let alone run with, or jump around and around and around the adult who was trying to Get Something Done despite the ongoing distraction. 

When the sisters' stitching time turned surgical I was outright called to Assist by simply being there between them and the other grandchildren.  Immobilized with fascination and Need To See.  I loved the moment when split (homemade and much patched, naturally...) bias binding was pulled free and I could see within Aunt Grace's generous seam allowances the true scope of how colorific the unfaded fabrics were.  My eyes gravitated to the excessively excessive somebody-stop-this-woman factor like a very happy bee in a mile-wide clover field.  In such visual mayhem I instinctively found permission to rest and quiet my ever-spinning child's mind.  And isn't rest what a handmade scrap quilt is most meant to Hold?

Bowandarrow215

At the beginning of last Friday the super scrappy hand pieced bow and arrow quilt top featured in this post existed in a state of un-joined but individually pieced/hand sewn 24-inch squares.   Near the middle of the afternoon it looked like the lede image.  I just ... had to do this.  I needed to put together this quilt top - to spend a few day's worth of Workday time sitting quietly in the sun and stitching while I thought things through as much as one can in today's hall of mirrors.  A later point in life ambition became quite tangible in the impulsive form of last Friday morning.   I simply picked up the rolled bundle of blocks and brought them to the studio with me.  It was mid-afternoon before I zeroed in on the nice detail that I finally got my act together* in this specific way - featuring a Bow and Arrow pattern - on Valentine's Day.

What I stitched is primarily a valentine to the woman I grew up calling Aunt Grace even though she was my grandmother's sister.  Her grandchildren in turn called my grandmother Aunt Pearl.   The sisters were very close.  They shared weekend phone calls of fair length during a time when long distance charges usually kept my grandmother's sharp eyes fixed on the clock and her phone call/egg timer. 

Although they did exchange fabric scraps these were kept as a kind of sisterly contemplation - the scraps wrapped small to large within themselves.  They were, at least on my grandmother's end, kept in her nightstand's drawer in a charmingly warped wooden box their younger brother had made.  Grace's scraps were kept there solely to be arranged in various ways on the plain white sheet of Pearl's unmade bed.  Carefully put away for the sheer pleasure of bringing them out again at a later time.  That was in a whole other category from how they worked and with what.  Their quilt and clothes making aesthetics differed enough that unless they were in clear agreement over specific pattern and color choices they worked primarily from stashes as separate (and impressively huge...) as passing ocean liners.

[*It should be said that I first began cutting out the individual scrap pieces on July 4th, 1992.  The occasion marked my first authentically crippling migraine headache.  Had I had an inkling of how many I'd have over the course of the next 20 years I would have curled up on the bed and wept.  But I did not and thus I tried to make some constructive use of young mother alone time while J. and T. watched the fireworks from the old Lechmere parking lot in Cambridge.   I began making my lateral longview way towards a hazy future when I'd have time and inclination to begin putting together a whole new generation of hand sewn bed quilts.]

Each fabric used comprises a single six inch block's worth of pieces:  two quarter circles and the curved bow-tie looking piece in the center.  A number of fabrics I used weren't large enough for the center portion so I cut extra pairs of quarter circles for a wider choice range.  Once I got to the point of beginning to stitch (roughly 15 years ago ...) I used the same fabric on each block's opposing quarter circle because - in a quilt this loud and random the ongoing repetitive duets of the same fabric provides points of discernible focus  if not outright resting space.  The fact that the twin pieces appear in different circles keeps your eye moving.  After a few stumbles as to where or why it's moving your brain registers the repetitive code and starts seeking it out.   It's the pattern within the distortion of "pattern" that my - and Aunt Grace's - seemingly off-the-wall pairing choices create. 

Aunt Grace did this all the time and quite deliberately.  I'd watch her stitching while my grandmother also worked amidst gentle chiding (oh Grace!) that showed deference to their birth order.  It's my inner child's sweet spot/intuitive design point I learned from my loving perusal of the childhood era quilts that most drew my eye and gladdened my heart.  By the end of Saturday I'd stitched together the above.  And my ongoing studio companion was extremely quick to lay claim to my accomplishment.

Mamaonquilt21620

Mama takes her studio kitty duties very seriously.  Haven't stitched anything big like this since her arrival but she seemed to have an instinctive grasp of how to most effectively participate.  meanwhile on my end - due to my extended hiatus from working big and strictly by hand I'd forgotten how freely the mind wanders through reflection, problem solving, and just plain wiping a grimy media saturated brain's slate as close to clean and blank as it gets these days.

I forgot about the way I connect to the spirited history of stitchers fairly immediately once I've found my personal needle rocking rhythm and smooth pull of the thread.   And the ongoing almost simian grooming of stray threads that proliferate the more you handle and shift the fabrics.  My grandmother - who could be super impatient and exacting - had quite tenderly and slowly taught me how to stitch well.  Our religion didn't encourage pridefulness and yet she made it clear that she expected to be able to be proud of me in terms of both my stitching manner and rhythm and also the ongoing quality of my workwomanship.

216bowarrow

This is how the quilt looked once I got it away from the cat and took it up to the bedroom.  Had to spread it out on my bed in order to gauge how many of the remaining blocks would need to be added. 

219quilttopfinished

By mid-afternoon on Sunday I had finished sewing together this loving tribute to my Aunt Grace  It's something that's still making me shake my head in surprise since the accomplishment was not on the books.  It was more a case of "this is what I'm doing now.  I won't ask why I'll just do it with single-minded creative focus until it's done."