figuring out what matters most

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."  


the luxury of cloth .1

Bathroomcurtainnot

Last year around this time I started looking in all the wrong places for this particular friend.  My intention was to create a bathroom curtain for a room I'd say I dislike if it weren't entirely functional and easy to clean - even at the deep detail level. We don't need a curtain there in the green months.  In the winter we don't need more cover than what you find from a single layer of batik such as this.

When I couldn't find it in the places I looked I pinch-hit with a resurrected quilter's cotton curtain (dark green printed with white hyper-basic morning glories sporting incorrect leaves.  They form staggered vertical lines across the green) from J's music room at the old place.  It's serviceable and okay but ... thought I was looking forward to making the switch ASAP until I finally found the above batik yesterday afternoon.  Then I recalled, in slow delicious layers, how the fabric came into my life and specifically why I bought it rather than another satisfying armload of books.

From there I further recalled that throughout my younger adult years I'd put so much stock and blind trust in my largely unimaginable future Old Woman form - as I hazily envisioned her already nestled in what I thought of as a Sleeping Walnut somewhere near the center of my heart.

 Have recently been unpacking, admiring, and re-evaluating aspects of my fabric stash that aren't sitting on open shelving here in the studio. The extra-significant specially treasured stuff in other words.  My efforts don't have much of a plan to them - I've simply been inspired by both Jude and grace - specifically their recent posts about the importance of handling and dreaming over cloth for however long.

My takeaway from both of their shared experiences is that the cloth we make a point of keeping shows us who we are.  who we have perhaps for quite long imagined ourselves to be - be-coming.

and.  what I now realize to be far more relevant -

I have an old white cotton comforter that's the perfect weight for several months of the year.  Everything about it is entirely cotton - as cotton used to be and it's perfectly worn-in, to boot.  Needs patching that's likely to lean closer to total recovering.  Know this but couldn't quite find the incentive to additionally know where to begin.  Since coming into the studio earlier today I've been thinking of cutting this batik apart at the edge of the repeating pattern.  Using that panel length as the centerpiece of the comforter re-covery process.  Keep the top portion as-is and hem with something else I really love too much to actually use - to become a dedicated studio altar cloth.  Don't currently have one.  Whenever I feel the need to move/work in that particular way up here I 'import' cloths from other parts of the house. 

This seems remiss.

[I bought this on my 34th birthday - It was an impulse purchase after I'd dodged into a large glass-fronted store just beyond Coolidge Corner on Beacon Street.   This piece of cloth was the first gasping half-unfocused  thing I saw when I entered a place I'd never been or previously noticed prior to seeking escape from an unexpected lightning and thunder laced summer shower.   The store was full of batik and ikat yardage as well as beautifully understated clothes made from both. 

There were also store-length tables brimming with every imaginable style and price point of beads.  And, I later discovered, frequently these were peopled by a casual handful of women making staggeringly beautiful jewelry from them.  Along the other store length wall were glass shelves full of Day of the Dead shadow boxes, Nicho frames, carved bone pendants and parquet curio cabinets.  These shelves were interspersed with drop-down accessory displays.   Mostly hand woven shawls and belts or braided cord finger-woven versions of same.

There were also wooden/pottery/porcelain bowls and plates and all sorts of other well-off gewgaws such as elaborate hair combs and custom-made miniature brocade couches/wing chairs for a cat or small dog but these things didn't interest me at the time.  Now I'm sure I might have envisioned wall displays of such things.  Not for myself to live with but just as an aesthetic exercise to create a cohesive collection/statement wall.  Along the lines (although clearly QUITE different vibe) of the wall display featured here.  Back then I was mainly concerned with the rain stopping promptly so as to get me back home in time for a carefully planned birthday supper  - that I wasn't supposed to know about - with J. and T. 

I bought the fabric - stopping only briefly to consider its price - because I'd picked it up when I arrived.  Once my eyes did fully focus on the colors and pattern I knew it would mean something of a glad-hearted/hopeful nature to me later on in my life.  Just knew.  And so I spent the money meant to be my yearly solar return Book Binge without a blink of regret.]


Marti Reponds to Recent Events

She Rises When Needed

Martiresponds

grace has also posted about this wonderful work this evening.  Please read her post as well as the first comment which contains Marti's detailed heartfelt explanation for her creation.

 


Day 30 - results

Trustyourself

(because that's where and why and how all the creative magic happens)

I'm really glad we all did this together.  I hope you are too.

  EVERYBODY did outstanding work - not just in the scope of their collage creations but also in terms of quickly establishing a challenge-based working style and dedication to their personal process development.  Despite the initial uncertainty any challenge brings it was truly remarkable to see how quickly everyone adapted to their freshly personalized relationship to this expressive medium.  By reviewing each other's efforts the way we'd all look at something together if our virtual situation was happening in the walking-around world - we each insured that every single one of us "got" something about collage that we hadn't quite put together before this time of sharing.

  Everyone - including me -  willingly trusted I'd guide them to a stationary end-point while also digging deeper into their private stashes of emotion and life experience as well as their paper collections.  Now - going forward - there's only one barometer/compass rose to be followed:

trust yourself

keep speaking truth to and FOR power

from the center of your creative soul

and every corner and crevice you discover

where true power resides

*~*~*~*~*

My faves from these days:

Dee

grace

Joanne

Liz

Marti - curendera (make sure to scroll down or click for her response to our final prompt)

Nancy

[For those who like statistics - this blog has averaged 82 unique visitors a day for the challenge time-frame.  Including myself and everyone actively involved - 35 people have let me know they're participating/following along as a somewhat regular part of their creative experience. 

The most unique visits to a single post (328) happened here. oof.  Typepad is going rogue on me right here at the end!

For reasons unknown all the [listed as published] posts aren't appearing on the blog right now.  At least not in what I can see of it here on my laptop or phone.  The post with the most unique visitors was the Day 16 results page for the garden Crone totem.  Quite a skyrocket!  Somebody somewhere linked, obviously, to significant effect.  Perhaps it's fitting that my first studio-based intention once I've scheduled this post is to paint that totem's background layer.  Last things first, as I like to say!

Not at all by design but I'm very grateful it's working out this way - I don't have to be/go anywhere that requires me to be all the way ON until Thursday morning.  Between now and then I'm planning to stay paint smudged and considerably more powered-down than I've been since ... before Thanksgiving, actually.  Yikes.  No wonder I feel so ready to shift from extro to intro mode energetically.

and I still don't have a clue what I might post on this blog going forward.  or why ...]


Day 21 - results

Treasurebox

As a first layer I did create at least the sense of an actual box with a lid that opened in the center to left and right.  Loved the way it looked!  Pictured exactly how I wanted it to look and then instead I crammed the page spread full in a way rather characteristic of my real-life treasure boxes.

The only fragment that remains of my constructed box is the strip of Japanese silk tape.  It's also the last remaining fragment of this wondrous tape but since this was not a material challenge its purpose had been to suggest the sumptuous often stuffed and tufted silk linings to trinket cases I remember some of the Old Nanas keeping when I was a child.  Something mysterious and elaborate from their own girlhoods in most cases.  The inside of the box was described with a piece of icy blue distressed damask patterned paper . I'll start with the tape and go up and around until we're back at the amaryllis bud.

tape representing my love of Japanese design both traditional & modern.  Hollyhocks and hummingbirds.  Summer's early morning sun.  Later spring's first peony.  And the way any rain-battered rescues scent the dining room - opening as beautifully as a pampered show bloom.  below the peony - 60's style pop art!!  My power/waxing crescent moon and favorite number 11 (in nearly all of its permutations) 

Small paper scrap representing silent glistening snow falling from a sky that seems to reflect the snow's sparkle once it's settled on the ground.  Both the stated Advice from A Tree - torn from a seed packet attached to a T-shirt bearing the same design.  A gift to my son for house/cat sitting while Jim and I took in an Orioles-Red Sox Game at Camden yards and spent the next fiendishly hot day exploring my favorite childhood destination:  Longwood Gardens. So I'm actively treasuring the memories of all of that.  As well as the meal we all cooked together once the family was briefly reassembled before T. took off back to the farmhouse with my special Beech in its side yard.

The full moon closest to my birthday and all the memories of the many times I've been fortunate enough to wander in its particular light among nature - unafraid and feeling deeply blessed.  The way the tree energy rises by slow inexorable degrees during early spring here in new england

(forgot that up at the top there's a strip of brown velvetish leaves on a golden background.  To representing dying-back plant matter in later fall. And also a golden/deep space purple reminder of the mayan prophecy that humanity shall be saved by a flower.)

  Our planet's oldest flower - the magnolia.  Her flower essence aids in all aspects of re-birth as well as labor and delivery/fresh new birth-growth of a creative endeavor or gaia-loving mission.

Happy thriving honeybees living in cooperation with our species.  My favorite comfort go-to meditative color range of dioxine purple, vivid coral, red-violet and clear bright lilac.  Ease:  physical, mental, emotional, and organically shared at community level. 

Just about the easiest and most dare-you-to-look-away lovely indoor flower to grow - the amaryllis.  The image also gives a strong shot of clear vibrant first chakra/red energy to stabilize and root all valuable memory and meaning.  This flower essence has always seemed very androgynous in its vibrational signature.  The remedy's effectiveness spans all levels of physical comfort and confidence actively felt as a vibrant mind-body connection.

Sprinkled throughout the treasured items - my favorite 'happiness' color of bold yellow streaked with orange.  Sometimes as snippets of no meaning to signify my fondness for using EVERY scrap of paper and also some free-cut stars to represent my love of spontaneous joy-filled unassuming craft time.

This was a very enjoyable and profoundly stabilizing prompt for me personally.  For a little while in the beginning I got shaky the way some of you did with the care package.  But then I focused on my intention for everybody else - to decelerate and come into a more rooted sense of creative mojo/essential Self despite the chaos and accompanying noise.   Dried my eyes, took a deep breathe and gently prodded my soul enough to finds seeds of joy ready to sprout and make flowers.

(big deep long exhale)

isn't it GREAT that we're all doing this together???


Day 21 - morning post

We're now two-thirds through the challenge.   The energy's been incredibly kinetic and abundant creative flow has been moving whoosh - all around our virtual table.   Let's slow the revs enough to take active stock of how you've grown deeper aware of the expressive possibilities collage offers.   Consider also how working in the challenge framework may have encouraged a sense of personal collage style that could be different from how you've approached this expressive medium in the past.   The questions I've encouraged you to ask and then visually answer have undoubtedly sparked questions of your own that you'll be moved to further explore.  Maybe you'll do that through the remaining prompts and maybe you're ready to downshift. 

Either way -

Prompt #21

Create an open treasure box of experiences

and creative devotion/whimsy

rather than material objects


Day 20 - results

Silencesreality(

Not sure I would have had the guts to make either the collage or the post that follows if I hadn't been so moved and inspired by Joanne's collage right here.

Originally I didn't plan to engage with this prompt because I figured I'd evoked all the Empress of Everything energy I could reasonably expect myself to express during the Care Package prompt.  But then I realized I was also avoiding something really important that I didn't want to deal with in an active way until after this challenge was complete.   Felt it wasn't "necessary" or "proper" for me to include what I wound up creating as part of my personal responses to the prompts.  Nonetheless here we are. 

My collage for today is in large part a delayed reaction follow-up to the real-life results of a collage I made the summer before last as part of year-long art journaling project.  Within that context the image spoke to my ongoing experience(s) being silenced by white culture in general and within my specific family of origin.  I allowed myself to visually specify what this felt like for the first time:  to be enmeshed within a solely white upbringing in a 90% white town (all Others neatly collected in slim enclaves with protestations that the Others wanted it that way ....) while being bi-racial and utterly estranged from my other half. 

The latter fact was routinely dismissed as  a mere detail which shouldn't be encouraged "to fester" because my inherently insufficient* environment was supposed to render me too grateful by my good fortune to be able to "pass" if I just applied myself to the goal with true will to succeed at it.

*I'm defining insufficiency in terms of knowing who I really was at a basic genetic level since it was glaringly apparent to me I was indeed half Other.  And consistently feeling myself as lacking any viable guidance towards developing life skills that were relational to my ongoing experience both at home and in the larger world.

*~*~*~*~*

  As a direct result of making that collage I subsequently ripped the metaphorical tape away from my very literal mouth and began expressing what felt the safest within an inherently troublesome aspect of my life :  the white-centric way in which my small but mighty family has lived since we moved away from a diverse urban hub of great meaning and empowerment to me.  And what that experience has led me to conclude without a shade of doubt:

Hypocrisy is a crippling by-product of all human nature, no doubt.  But the specifically white version of it insures nobody anywhere ever really gets very far with race relations.

entirely true for me without doubt.  But I went about expressing it in the dogmatic emotionally charged manner of somebody who's been honing their rage as well as their ability to sit quietly with a thing I cannot fix by myself or by summoning my own white mojo intent to have it be otherwise.   And I regret that very much.  THAT isn't just something I can fix - it's something I must fix because nobody else can do it for me. 

Empress of everything

To illustrate my re-considered intentions moving forward - I began with a healthy dose of self-accountability that focused on an ability I actively hold here in the everyday world that I can apply within experiences involving my linear human landscape - starting with a photocopy of the lede collage.  I pasted in a dedicated journal I'll probably wind up sharing a bit on this blog once this challenge is in the past tense long enough to have reclaimed one or two planned winter learning projects first.

 I also photocopied two other elements of the same art journal where I made the original collage - tracings of my left and right hand decorated with off-world tatoos what have been re-configured so they might attend to my silenced past-tense self.  In this collage they embody the wise and seasoned touch of my highest self  and all her cumulative experiences and observations.  Thus the hands work slowly and with gentle patience to loosen the powerful adhesive that's kept me 95% quiet about this pivotal aspects of my ongoing life experience for more than half a century. 

- notice they are using flower medicine to loosen the adhesive and heal the wounds it caused -

My right hand takes command of the evolved objective - to liberate by way of accrued finesse and empathy My other - receptive and empathetic - hand cradles my forehead to steady me for the shock and abrupt shift that will come when the tape's finally removed and I now hold sole responsibility for whatever I elect to say or not.  In acknowledgement of this - through the process of making the collage - I've given myself a sovereign power - the power of gentleness - I already had without knowing how to claim or implement it.

This collage that I almost didn't think it was 'necessary' to let myself make at this time and in this specific venue is probably the most personally meaningful and healing response I've had in the process.  It's a visual pact with myself as a writer and activist.  

AND

far more importantly -  from now on making the commitment to deliver myself from the idea there's only one way to get a thing done.   Or that there's a BEST way and for some reason I'm the one who knows it.   And that if I'm not heard or remotely 'accepted' in that one-way's cadence and tone then I have failed The Cause and myself.

failed to grow, maybe.

but I'm pretty much done with that too.

(tomorrow begins the final third of the challenge.  We'll be downshifting the intensity of the prompts' self-exploration curve in order to discover what might want to grow in all the fresh inner space we've made through better understanding who we are creatively and what we're making of and for ourSelves through making art of whatever form.)


a post from Marti

Prompt 15: attachment, Style over substance, substance over style:

I've shared of how my home is decorated very simply with my dyed cloths, weeds, pine cones, bird feathers, at times, bird nests, ornamental corn, dried chili peppers in baskets, etc.  In fact, my kitchen now contains a large chili ristra, a surprise gift from our kids when they were here for Christmas. The ristra hung outside the front door but heavy winds knocked it down, tore off some chiles which were soaked and ground into a chili paste and now  the ristra now hangs in our kitchen.  All the things that are "ornamental" in my home contain and mean the world to me.

Some of you may know this story: when we got  ready to sell our home in CA, the first real estate agent that we spoke to admonished me to get rid of my rocks, birds nests, bird feathers, etc. because they held no "style" and would be off putting to potential buyers...you can guess where this is going.  She didn't get our listing.  The agent who did asked us to keep things just as  they were for they spoke of w ho lived in this home and she felt that was important.

This brings me to the what I have chosen to put in this collage in response to prompt 15:  I noticed that some have painted their backdrops, used  gesso, other materials so instinctively I chose  one of my dyed cloths as the backdrop for this collage. It was chosen for many reasons; for the joy of bringing old cloth to life by dyeing with the gifts of the land, for the image that presented when the cloth was unbundled, the image of a meadow,  the leaf imprints coming from my dearly loved  Chinese Pistache trees in front of our house; a tree  that I had not known until we came to New Mexico. The leaves of these trees yield varying shades of green, etc depending on the mordant used on the recycled cotton cloth.  This backdrop cloth reminds me of a meadow, a meadow where sheep frolic and that is important to me..  My father came to America as a contract shepherd, loving his flock of sheep and I loved him dearly.  He was my touchstone and although it has been over 42 years since he died, we still speak to each other and I see him now and  then.  The image that I have chosen has to do with him but also myself for when you hold to the things you love, even though it may set you apart, your heart leads the way and substance over style, wins out every time.

Thank you all for being here so I could share this with you:

Marti15


Day 13 - results

Frogpond

I could have gotten all the narrative bases covered for this spread if I'd put a fragment of Italian paper covered with various frog species in the place where I thought I put it after I cut a lot of it apart - creating individual motifs to include in Grace's special collage kit/supplies.  Alas I did not and must now locate and clip from the remainder which is "filed" within my paper stash storage shelf. And it's at the very bottom of my deceptively compact/dutifully color sorted recycled/gift/designer/self-made art papers.  Because it's an older piece from older-old days when retail sheets were significantly larger.  Thus it's under everything else including my stash of watercolor and drawing paper destined for future sketchbooks.  If I want to preserve the space-conscious system, I'll have to remove things one careful layer at a time.  In other words - not today. 

My personal self-assessment for the first third of this challenge is that I've not been stretching either myself or my pre-set Rules for this experience nearly enough. Instead I've been feeling my way into a comfortable fit with the leadership role.  And staying on top of these twice-daily/set time postings as a non-negotiable part of how I set up my days' structure and to-do lists.  THAT'S how I've stretched.  The results are all well and good (not to mention considerable) for my personal growth curve but it hasn't helped me tighten-up and deepen my collage-based skill set(s).  To that end I'm resolved to actively stretch in some measurable way for each day of the challenge's duration.  See what happens.

My biggest intentional stretch for today's prompt involved allowing myself to cover up the busy scrapbook paper. Normally (meaning with-in my non-challenge creative life) I'd cover up whatever I please but part of picking the paper was pushing myself to work around the significant challenge/obstacle it presented.  Sometime in the later afternoon yesterday I decided working with one half of the sheet's pattern was sufficient challenge and I could let myself off the hook with this half.  I 'allowed' myself to make this choice so I'd have a lot more uninterrupted (and far higher contrast) space to articulate things that are especially dear to me about this anchor-point in the property's original landscape design and its enduring execution.  Used white gesso laced with a tiny amount of beachy green craft paint and scraped a few careless wet-on-wet layers to get some texture and hints of the dark colors underneath.

~*~*~

The rather celestial paper flower was cut in half to represent the two dominant tree medicine spirits (hemlock and maple) that stand tall over the pond.  Had planned to play with visual resolution a bit by allowing the alchemical sun transparency on the adjacent page to serve as the third star.  But now that piece is simply holding space until I can get what I've decided to use instead appropriately sized, printed out and affixed.  Have added a second small holographic star reflected in the pond water.

When I had to cut my original eyeball freehand oval into a smaller shape I was left with an elongated sliver of a crescent moon.  Was born during the waxing sliver so this particular image - frequently oversized as it is here - appears in a lot of my autobiographical collage projects.  I have been to the frog pond late at night in this lunar phase.  It's a good sync for Frog medicine and other historical & mythological associations frequently ascribed to these wonderful little creatures.  Not sure how widespread this is but here on the east coast many native frog colonies are losing ground to a fungus very similar to athlete's foot.  This year our own colony was healthy but somewhat elusive.

On a later spring morning, en route to the pond, I suddenly noticed a portion of an adjacent landscaping rock move very slow-quickly.  Didn't have my distance glasses to sharpen the precise details but grew up in South Jersey.  Can thus recognize at a fair pace the unique lower rear shell of a snapping turtle.  It is always the same - even on very small/young offspring. The one at our pond was barely four inches long at that first siting.  I was initially - childhood reptile geek that I was - enchanted.  Then fearful for the frogs. 

Somewhat less pressingly but no less pragmatic was my fear T's special kitty could easily lose a paw or even part of her face.  Had no idea how fast these turtles grew.  Multiple online info sources confirmed their growth rate would be commensurate with the scope of their food supply.  At this stage of their lives these turtles are largely carnivorous. This particular turtle had chosen to live in and at the edge of a (relative to its current size HUGE) water source loaded with a few hundred pollywogs.

Eventually my concern for other creatures was eclipsed with worry for our newest reptilian neighbor.   The turtle had crested 6.5 - 7 inches (estimate) by the time it was clear the frogs hadn't been able to save more than a small percentage of their young but they'd otherwise seamlessly adopted a far more low-profile way of thriving rather than being driven-off.  In later September I noticed the turtle's upper carapace was saturated with some kind of parasite or fungus.  It wasn't going in the water anymore but simply lurking between the pond and a thriving juniper bush.  The problem with its carapace looked like the beginning of a lichen colony on a rock.  I spent a few days calling around to MA-based people who might either know something about what I was seeing or could put me in touch with somebody who did.  In those 2-3 days' time the turtle appeared to vanish.  It never re-appeared and on the second day of my noticing it gone the frogs were once again scattered all over the flat landscaping rocks that ring the pond.  As if the disturbance in their routine had never occurred.

(The little snapping turtle is remembered and wondered-about in the form of the oversized star swimming in the pool.)

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Since I was in the mood to fill more space and (re)solve some additional problems I returned to the inside front cover of my booklet.  Got another vertical tree column in place.  Recognized that the only true value I saw to any of the remaining imagery from the original art paper was the wood tree a bird was turning into its home. 

Additionally I very much liked what Dee extrapolated of the chair's symbolic meaning placed there among living relatives.  Wanted to keep that potentiality active and emphasized.  So I added flowers to cover the eggs (which I originally thought could be a callout to the innumerable hens and at least 7 roosters who live at the farm across the road.  but that didn't work.).  They don't represent what grows there so much as the color signifies the number of hummingbird-friendly plants I've cultivated in an area where these beautiful Tiny Giants of the bird world now return to nest and thrive year after year.  It's also the very first 3-season fueling site in the bee-centric food highway that winds its way throughout our property.

Used rolled up washi tape to stick-down a fragment of brayer cleaning paper.  This will remind me to keep an eye peeled for similar options in the narrow but electrified green color range - to evoke a certain greenish haze that epitomizes late spring through high summer here.  It's great to feel on far greater track with my envisioned progress rate.  BUT ...

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This is what my work desk looks like right now.  Sometime by the end of next weekend I hope to have everything dialed-back and cleared to the edge of the cups full of pencils, brushes, and small "other" tools I find indespensible