Monday, December 28, 2009

Tomatoes for Christmas!

At least that’s the way it started. Amid all the cookie baking, present wrapping and packing last week I got a phone call from a new patron who wanted a tomato piece for a Christmas gift. This is a bad news/good news scenario. I sold the ‘Homegrown Tomatoes’ piece I made, and last time the piece required 68 needle-felted tomatoes. That’s the bad news part. The good news was that I’d had some holiday wine and I love a challenge. I pulled out some felted wool balls I’d made and my red fleece and set to work. The first challenge is to create the tomato shape and get the ‘shoulders’ right. Then I start blending the reds to match my memory of September tomatoes. I love the fact that each fruit is a little different, not just among varieties but even on the same vine. Each one has its own special little lumps and bumps, a lot like people. The different varieties remind me of families, too. You’ve always got a few green ones that you know are good inside but haven’t quite made it in life.

Tomato construction didn’t stop as we drove to see the Grandparents for Christmas. My sweet husband drove for most of the trip and I poked tomatoes while the boys listened to books on tape. The seven hours seems a lot shorter when you’ve got a good book. I got a nice digital camera for a present and I’m looking forward to some higher quality images. It was just a lovely time with lots of hugs, food and cookies. Kathey and Ben Gibson hosted a Christmas dinner this year and everyone had a good time next door. There was enough snow for a few boogie-board runs down the hill, and some new records for distance were set. The major disappointment was that Alvin and the Chipmunks, the Squeakwel, was sold out when we wanted to see it. Some among the group were more disappointed than others (hee hee hee). The drive back was slightly more interesting, with snow falling and lots of cars off the road. A jackknifed semi blocked traffic around Muncie for a while, but we pulled off for dinner and the whole thing only slowed us down a little. It was still a long day.

Now that I’m back in the art studio I’m going to re-launch into a project I started last week for the Trashionista fashion show. The challenge, and I do love a challenge, is to make something that’s elegant and formal out of things you’d normally throw away. I’ve put together a skirt made from old shirts, scraps of animal print fabric and the lining from an old leather skirt. I’m going to embellish the piece with gold pulltabs from my collection and bits from a black lace bra. Some things you just have less use for after ten years of marriage and two kids. Plus, I can thank my kids for the torso part of my creation, which will likely be the top of a black bathing suit whose bottom was worn thin on the rough bottom of the Limestone Lagoon at Bryan Park Pool. I’m pleased that I have my display mannequin for the whole process because I’m really making up the whole thing as I go along. Kind of like the rest of my life!

Until next week…

Sunday, December 20, 2009

… And the goose is getting fat!

Christmas is approaching, and that means family traditions are in full swing. St. Nicholas has already visited and filled stockings, Jezisek is on track, Santa is approaching, and the Cookie Fairies have been working feverishly to satisfy family and friends. The Cookie Patrol team members are keen to start deliveries on Monday. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The holiday fury really begins after Jim’s birthday on the 11th. The family makes a candy house, which is really a gingerbread house v2.0. Our neighbor Emily persuaded us that gingerbread is over-rated—it’s too stale to eat by the time the holidays are over. Now we both make a cardboard house and cover it with royal icing and transform it into a magical candy house. It’s a little less than romantic on the inside but looks colorful and cool on the outside. We gather all the decadent delectables we can find, including leftover Halloween candy and yellow dye #5-free candy from Bloomingfoods, and put everything in wooden bowls. Each family member picks a side of the house, where the two prime locations include both a side and a roof. The real trick as the project coordinator is to minimize munching on the construction materials—I guess we’re a little like the Fraggles eating the Doozer constructions. After Christmas we rip off whatever hasn’t frozen into the icing over a window of a few days.

Yesterday was supposed to be blog day, but it turned into cookie baking day. The annual cookie fest is Tommie’s favorite part of the holidays, since he’s a big baking fan. Yesterday we made five different kinds of cookies: Zebra cookies, even better than the Scholar’s Inn (and smaller); Vanilkove rohliky (you probably know them as Russian tea cakes, but we Czechs don’t); a thin sandwich cookie with cherry plum filling and rum and almond icing (they’re delicious!); chocolate sugar cookies that we iced and decorated; and my traditional favorite, medvedovy tlapky (bear paws). We mixed and rolled and baked and iced and decorated like crazy all day long. I also made marzipan from scratch and marinated some fruit to put into the Stollen we’ll bake today, plus we’re planning to make some date pinwheels and thumbprint cookies today. Eleven tins are filled and placed out of reach in the pantry.

It’s been a good art week too! Most importantly, I finished my Autumn Aspens commission piece. It has more variation in depth and I’m pleased with how it has turned out. I spent an afternoon with in the Creek-Love Classroom, aka the multiage schoolroom that is the home to my second grader Jacob. This week we worked on a wet felting project using Merino noils. The coveted fibers from combing are the long fibers, or top, and the shorter fibers are called noils. They’re not useful for needle felting, but it turns out they’re great for wet felting. I got these from my friends Nancy and Pat at Sheep Street in Morgantown, where I’ll return later today for more goodies. The kids have been making felt balls that we’re going to use to embellish gourds in a project we’ll do when the weather warms up a little. The kids love to do projects like this, and they enjoy teaching their friends how to do it. It’s cool to them because it’s new, even though a couple of them are from sheep-raising families, and they’ve seen me working on felted ornaments in class. Even some of the parents in the classroom wanted to make one.

But now I have to run! There are presents to wrap, cookies to bake, plans to make and kids to keep half an eye on. If you have kids you know why this season is so full of energy and special. I hope you all have a terrific holiday season!

Until next week…

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Keeping warm…

What a cold snap we had this week! If you have kids, you know that winter signals a whole new level of complexity in life. You’ve got to break out the warm boots and get them to take their shoes in their backpack for gym class. Or, as we did on Thursday, you have to drop the shoes off at the office to the ever-friendly Binford secretary. Pairs of gloves become singles with maddening frequency, and the cycle of drying them is constant. But the most maddening thing for us is…drum roll please…we have another raccoon in the attic! We thought we had pounded down every entry point, but this guest broke through a different soffit. We know it’s a chunker, because we can hear how hard he has to work to squeeze in. And with the cold weather, this fellow has been up all night, every cold night, rearranging the insulation. Scratch, scratch, scratch. Arrrrgggghhhh! Must. get. more. sleep!

On the brighter side of things, my mannequin arrived this week. I want this for shows, but I also need to document my scarves with high quality pictures before they’re all sold. Just as I was opening the box, my photographer Tom Bertolacini called. I had just finished making two more commissioned scarves and the buyer was coming that afternoon to pick them up, so I asked if Tom was coming into town. He was, so I raced out to my local venues and picked up a selection of scarves to photograph. I stopped in at the Bloomington Bagel Company first, then off to the Wandering Turtle, where I also borrowed my latest turtle piece (Among the Ferns). Tom came with his fancy lights, stands and his camera (mine stayed in its case and whimpered). He makes everything ‘just so’, AND he brought me two dozen eggs. The chickens, either oblivious to the cold snap or lacking anything better to do, have been laying eggs like crazy. Maybe the raccoons just stopped bothering them. Tom also is also a wood worker and builds all the frames for my weavings. His latest venture is making wooden weaving equipment—shuttles, batons and maybe even looms. It will be nice to have them made locally, although I don’t mind shipping a little cash to Canada, the vast and beautiful country of my youth. They know about cold snaps.

The real highlight of the week, though, was our trip to Cirque Dreams: Illuminations at the IU auditorium. The day was hectic enough as it was, since it was my loving spouse’s birthday. That meant baking birthday pizza and making a chocolate cake. Men named ‘Jim’ are so easy to please (yes, he had a beer, too). I must say that the rich butter cream frosting that flowed in thick glaciers down the sides was the best part. I even got cake and espresso for breakfast this morning—wow, can my life get any better! Back to the Cirque—you can’t really call it theatre, ballet, or comedy, but it was all of those together. It’s the creative combination of constant movement and color on the stage that really brings a whole new perspective on the acrobatic techniques. In my own work I try to combine techniques to come up with something new, and at art fairs I get a lot of comments like: ‘what do you call those things you make’? It’s weaving, but a whole lot more. Anyway, we saw things like an amazing trapeze piece where the artist was repeatedly lowered into a large wooden tube of water. As he was lifted out into his gyrations, water flew everywhere. It was like a dance in the air where the light reflected off the arcs of water flying and curling through the air. In the background, people in colorful costumes walked by with umbrellas. The overall effect was just magic. At the end, the trapeze artist was handed an umbrella with the panels removed, which somehow seemed to fit. The show was a dramatic climax to a great, if very cold, week.

Until next week…

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The end of one season...

As soon as I finished writing the blog last week I started zipping around town, with art, to see all my local gallery-world friends. I stopped in at the Wandering Turtle to see Jamie and left some scarves with her. They are featured in her cool web feature called, fittingly, ‘New Stuff’. I’m so honored! My friend Amy Brier has some really interesting new work there too. I think of her as an excellent ‘big piece’ limestone carver and artist, but she has some new relief bowls at the Turtle. She also has elaborate carved limestone balls that leave impressions in sand when you roll them. Or in soft chocolate, as my husband suggests. I next popped in at the John Waldron with more scarves and cards for the season, but it’s always fun to chitty-chatty with the folks there and see the latest art. Marcy Neiditz, a local potter, has some really interesting bowls on display. She used to work primarily in black and white, but now she’s introducing some color and they look great. It’s not like Dorothy entering Oz, but it really captures your eye. My next stop was the By Hand Gallery, which is now the last bastion of ‘Shhh… the trees are sleeping’ pieces in Indiana. I’ve stopped making these and they’re slowly finding homes. My last stop was at Bloomingfoods with my holiday cards. I got to see my friend Tom, one of many Toms in my life. He used to be the manager at Pygmalions until he moved to Elletsville. He’s a wonderful artist and a really good person and it made my day. Tom is the one who persuaded me to order a lifetime supply of alligator clips (and I’m glad I did). He was a supporter and advice-giver as I got started in the art world a few years back.

And then on to the Holiday Art Fair at the Unitarian Universalist Church! Thursday night was set-up, which went smoothly, and Friday and Saturday were relaxing days at the show. I really like the ‘UU’ show for a lot of reasons. It’s slower paced than most with smaller crowds, which makes it more comfortable for the artists. The UU organizers go out of their way to make it comfortable for the artists. It’s hard to keep artists nailed in their booths, and I got the chance to walk around and see what else was going on. I also really like my spot, since I get bathed in sunlight from the big windows, and the sun passes through my friend Jacques’ glass art from across the aisle. Cappi and Bud Phillips were kind enough to loan me their mannequin to display my scarves, which really made a big difference for displaying the 3D shape of my newest scarves. But the best part was getting to have Bonnie Gordon-Lucas in the booth next door. She’s a sweet person with a mischievous streak—one minute she’s patiently explaining how to set up my booth, and the next minute she’s armed with an elastic that she’s about to shoot at someone across the building! I think all artists have a crazy streak in there somewhere. Bonnie did give me some excellent ideas about mixing colors, though, which I really appreciated. She pointed out something that I’d heard before but didn’t fully appreciate, which is never to use jet black in an art piece, since it ends up looking flat. Her trick is to use an undercoat of blue and paint the black thinly on top to give depth. She also recommends layering red under gold and blue under silver. I’m definitely going to try some experiments with those ideas in my next round of scarves by layering wool colors.

I guess I should write about the show too. The big thing for me was a red and black scarf with undulating edges. I sold it before the show even started to a local artist whose identity I’ll protect, but she’s a really classy person so I knew I’d done well. She let me leave it on display and I ended up with commissions to make several more like it! I had visualized a red center with a color gradient out to black edges, connected by a squiggly runged pattern arranged randomly. After a couple of rolls in the felting process I pulled on the outside edges, and that created a wonderful ruffled edge texture. I just love the dimensionality of the piece—imagine that! When the dust cleared I’d had another great show and got home in time for a cool but not cold Pilsner Urquel with my sandwich and salty chips for dinner. It couldn’t match the tasty Imam Bayildi my husband brought me for dinner from Anatolia’s on Friday night, but was good. Tonight we celebrate another successful art fair just the way families all over America celebrate, with vegetarian hot dogs roasted over the fire in the living room fireplace, followed by freshly baked blueberry pie. Only a little bit bubbled out of the pie during the baking process and burned in the oven, but the pie itself looks beautiful. And, did I say, my loving husband baked it just for me?

Until next week…

Monday, November 30, 2009

Potato peels in Grandpa’s chair…

Last week started calmly enough. The boys and I visited the Bloomington Bagel Company on the east side to check out my ‘Scarf Art’ display. It’s an easy sell to get them to go to a place that sells food they like, especially after their Tae Kwon Do class with Mr. Scott. They snurfed down a couple of bagels, which we consider to be travel tax to art destinations. This coming Friday and Saturday is the holiday art show at the Unitarian Universalist church on the bypass, and you can bet that there will be some serious art show taxation at the cookie walk when my support crew brings me lunches. I always look forward to this show because it marks the end of the art show calendar for the year. That’s when I burrow into my studio and weave until May and the Broadripple Art Fair. If I come out with some nice weavings it means six more months of traveling to art shows. Anyway, the ‘UU’ show is a great chance for me to do some Christmas shopping, plus I get to chitty chat with my fourth street buds and the regular attenders. I’m also hoping to say goodbye to the last of my ornaments, since I’m not going to make any more. As you might have guessed from the last few posts I’ve been exploring scarf making (three-dimensional wet felting) with a newfound passion.

The big news of the week, though, was the trip to the GPUs (grandparental units) for Thanksgiving and hugs-all-around. Of course there was a big dinner with the extended family. There was lots of chitty chatting around the kitchen table, and every evening there was a happy hour around the bonfire. It may have looked like candle at the start of happy hour, but it was a bonfire by the end, just like on all the old family camping trips. Of course that was Jim’s family, but I know a thing or two about bonfires. For fun we traveled to Frank’s big outdoor store to pick up a few fishing supplies for the cold-hardy fishermen, and I got to pick up a few treasures for weavings. Frank’s sells feathers for fly tying, but I just mumbled ‘hackles’ and ‘secret brookie stream’ and bought all their deep green and jewel tone feathers for my weavings. Will they ever be in for a surprise! On the way back I discovered a little used bookstore just down the road. I told the owner my criteria for books: no violence, no blood and gore, no mushy love stuff. I ended up with six new books in the queue and I set off reading the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It’s a story told through a collection of letters, which is great because it’s full of stopping points to pause and emotionally regroup when things get too intense. It bought me a couple of afternoons in Grandpa’s big comfy armchair with the sun streaming in. I almost finished it on the drive back home as the boys created monster cards in the back seat for three straight hours. I hardly missed traveling without my faithful needle felting needles, poking away at ornaments!

So now I’m back home, gearing up to create more scarves. I’ve got a little unpacking ahead of me, plus a little cleanup to recover from the whirlwind of preparing to travel. The boys are bathed and ready for school today, with only lunches to make and a little fire to light under them to get them out the door on time. They still don’t seem to get that bare feet and crocs for shoes doesn’t work any more. And who needs jackets?

Until next week…

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A very busy week…

Hooray, a Saturday at home! The last two weekends have been taken over by shows, first in Columbus and last week in Bloomington. This week was devoted to getting the rest of my life back under control. Monday I zipped all over town on errands, went to a BEAD meeting, bought some red velvet muffins from the Bakehouse for the boys and ferried them between school and their clay class at the John Waldron Arts Center. I also stopped in at the Bloomington Bagel Company and thought, hmmm, wouldn’t it look nice to have some of my new scarves hanging on the wall! They are great about hanging the work of local artist so I thought I’d ask. I spoke with Dawn, who’s in charge of the art displays, and she set me up with an immediate show at the Eastside location in The Shoppes on College Mall Road. I hung fifteen scarves on a clothesline, secured by wooden clothes pegs—stop in and check them out if you can. If that goes well I’ll be showing downtown soon as well.

Tuesday brought the celebratory dinner for the Fourth Street Art Fair committee. This year it was a potluck and it was organized by Robin Halpin. It was great to sit around and bask in the glow of another successful show. My personal basking took the form of chatting with my friends while sipping a nice Shiraz that David Goodrum brought. I really enjoyed the kale dish that Dawn Adams made with sesame and ginger, and Robin’s brownies from the original Joy of Cooking were a real treat with the wine. My boys really liked the testing the individual recipes on the dessert table. My husband (as usual) ate all the treats they selected but decided were unworthy of their young palates.

On Wednesday my crew went with other parents from Binford to the IU women’s college basketball game. IU edged out the Cincinnati Bearcats in a close game, three boxes of M&M’s were consumed, the boys got on the court as part of the festivities, and much screaming occurred.

By late in the week I was back in scarf-making mode. I stopped in at Yarns Unlimited and picked up some beautiful cranberry merino roving, as well as two really wonderful rich blues that will work wonderfully in scarves. I went to Opportunity House and I picked up a big bag of novelty yarns that will make their way into scarves. Even now I still have a bunch of ideas for scarf layout, colors and materials dancing around in my head. That’s good, because the Unitarian Universalist Art Fair and Bazaar is coming up on December 4th and 5th. The art is great, but even if you just want to buy Christmas cookies by the pound it’s worth coming. As for the scarves, I’m still having a blast making them because they allow me to develop techniques that will eventually be incorporated into weavings. On a similar but sadder note, I’ve given up making ornaments. I feel like I’ve taken that craft as far as I can, and I learned a lot about patterns and color combinations that translate into scarf making strategies. If you had your eye on an ornament, the “UU” show might be one of the last opportunities to find one.

Anyway, I hope you had half as much fun as I did this week. I have a great job! Thank you so much for all the support over the year, and I wish you all a quiet Thanksgiving break with family, friends and good food.

And a pre-PS: Here’s a shout out to the person who wanted me to make the white scarf with red dots and black squiggles—I’m really sorry, but I’ve lost your contact information! If you read this, or you know who this was, please help me close the circle.

Until next week…

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The November Whirlwind

The last two weeks have been an amazing blur of shows, scarves and weaving. I had dropped into one of those wonderful life patterns where I was discovering and developing my own wet felting style by making scarves. It’s really an exploration of a new technique for me that I’ll use in future weaving projects. ‘Creating my own canvas’ has always been a major feature of my work, and I feel like I’m enhancing my repertoire of skills that will make their way into my dimensional weavings. Bluebell (the family car) was packed with 19 new scarves, twelve new wreaths for the season, and all the new ornaments I made over the year. I made the early morning trek over to Columbus Indiana last Saturday to show everything at the Déjà vu recycled art fair. It’s always a little stressful when you put your heart and soul into some technique, then put it on display for everyone to see. Fortunately, I came home with a lighter load and a warm feeling inside. I can do this!

Success, of course, breeds new problems. I didn’t have enough scarves to show at the Spinner’s and Weaver’s guild show this weekend. So I re-converted the dining room table to Scarf Central and geared up to make some more. I had one scarf that was a whole bunch of ribbons and strings and just enough just enough felted wool to hold it all together. It reminded me of my youthful days in a bikini, but that’s another story. It was a glorious week because I got to sift through my thirty or so 20-gallon plastic tubs of yarns and pull out the most delightful colors and textures to incorporate into the scarves. I also had to scamper over to Sheep Street in Morgantown to pick up several more pounds of merino. Of course I couldn’t resist picking up a bunch of new yarns to use, including some delicious jewel tones that I knew I wanted to work with. I especially worked on layering different colors of roving to achieve the depth and color gradients I wanted. The only downside is that my shoulder and arm muscles haven’t quite forgiven me for all the rolling I did to felt the materials.

I did launch into another project on a whim recently. I had collected a bunch of wool sweaters, including some in delightful greens that I knew weren’t going to fit into the color schemes I was using in the scarves. I decided to cut them up to make Christmassy fir trees. Of course it isn’t a tree until it is trimmed, so I used the tiny red felted balls that I had created using the new secret technique I learned. I trimmed them with gold rickrack and set the whole thing on beige fabrics with different textures. I glued them on to a pretty mottled beige card stock and inserted into each a piece of white cotton rag with the texture of vellum. I think they’re fun and perfect for the holidays—check them out at the Wandering Turtle gallery in Bloomington, or stop in and see them at the Unitarian Universalist show this December.

Finally, I put away my scarf-making materials and reclaimed my basement art studio. I picked up all the yellow yarns I had out for making my Autumn Aspens commission piece. I also had to clear away the remnants of my boys’ giant art project. I can’t really describe it except to say that it involves small pieces of electronics, popsicle sticks, fabric scraps and a glue gun. I’m so proud of my creative boys! Anyway, I herded their project into a corner and blocked it off visually with a tower of easels and tools. Out came the vacuum cleaner and once again I had a functional workspace. It’s really great to be back in my weaving space, and this week I’ll finish the autumn aspens piece. After I get some sleep. I’m still recovering from two shows in two weeks. Tonight I sleep; tomorrow I weave!

Until next week…

Friday, November 6, 2009

It’s Déjà Vu all over again!

Saturday is the big Déjà Vu show in Columbus Indiana. It celebrates recycled materials in art and features area artists that use reclaimed and recycled materials. You’ll find me there from 10-4 at the Yes Cinema at the corner of Fourth and Jackson. I even worked up the courage to call in to ‘Ask the Mayor’ on WFIU and invite Columbus Mayor Fred Armstrong to visit the show—it’s about ten minutes in on this recording. The show’s organizer, Marilyn Brackney, has done a bunch to promote the show so it should be a fun and busy event. Buy local and recycled, I say. And it’s a good excuse to come and see my new scarves and wreaths for the season!

Speaking of scarves, last December I participated in a workshop organized by Pam Kinnaman of Wee Sheep and run by Patti Hodge. They’re both winners in the 2009 Hoosier Hills Fiber arts contest and good people to know. Patti taught me to make lattice felted scarves, and of course I got into the wet felting process—it’s fun. I made a bright red scarf with black silk and hand dyed nylon fibers that I bought at the Fiber Event in Greencastle. It’s really soft and pretty and happy, and I ended up wearing it all last winter. I decided I’d like to try to make my own scarves, but sometimes it takes a while to get started on a project. I carry it around in my head and eventually it comes out! Last summer, on one of my treks to Sheep Street in Morgantown, I bought several pounds of merino wool roving in black, white, red and periwinkle. I tucked it away, but I’ve been collecting funky remnant yarns for the project, which is waaaay different than my usual yarn collection for weavings. OK, not so much. But I still have fun doing it! I finally decided that this week was the time to launch my scarf project. I got my hands on an old pool noodle and cut it to wrap the wet roving. Don’t tell my kids I cut it! Last spring I ordered a bunch of mosquito netting on-line, and even though I didn’t know I’d need it for scarves I knew I’d need it. I installed both extra leaves into the dining room table and made it the design and wet felting area. I cleared off the kitchen island and that became my wet felting studio. Then I laid out some complicated designs, applied my wet-felting knowledge from last year (and added a few tricks and shortcuts of my own, and started rolling. And rolled and rolled and rolled! I used this wonderful olive oil glycerin soap so the skin on my hands is soft and smooth. Oh, and it worked beautifully on the wool too.

To summarize my weeklong adventure, some of my designs turned out really well (come to the show!), while others were just part of the learning process. Some of the materials I experimented with didn’t felt well. I tried incorporating my felted balls (link), which didn’t stick very well, and various fabric scraps, which sometimes really enhanced the design. All in all I have nineteen new scarves. I was a little concerned about whether or not I could show them at the recycled art show, since some of the wool was new. So I asked the sheep, who assured me it was recycled.

Until next week…

Oh and one more big event coming up next weekend...the Fiber Art Show...Nov 13, 5pm - 9pm & Nov 14, 10am - 5 pm at the First United Church, 2420 E. 3rd Street Bloomington, IN. If you don't make it to Columbus, I hope to see you in Bloomington. I'm sure Mayor Kruzan will be there!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween, Trees and Treats!

As anyone who lives in southern Indiana knows, this is a beautiful time of year. The reds, yellows, and oranges compete for our attention with the holdover greens of summer and the coming browns of winter. As every artist knows, no matter what the medium, you really have to become one with the part you’re playing to make it real. Since I’m working on an Autumn Aspens piece, among other fall projects, I decided that I had to become an autumn goddess, or perhaps a lesser wood nymph or sprite. You just don’t know until you get out your box of felt, which I did. I solicited the aid of my family to cut out leaves of every shape and color. They helped, but I ended up doing most of the cutting. Out came my old brown oversized mock turtleneck, two glue guns, and enthusiastic gluers. The felt leaves ranged from plums through reds and oranges to some yellows and even a few tasteful browns. I couldn’t have done a better job if I’d rolled in some Elmer’s glue and then rolled in the backyard carpet of leaves. For my crown I got out my straw sun hat and glued on the branches my son collected from the backyard. A few leaves went on the hat too, plus the acorns that Tommie decided should be on there too. I let the glue set, pulled on some old brown pants, and voila! I’m a formidable tree creature from the forest!

Tonight is Halloween, and I’m really looking forward to the festivities. My boys, at ages 7 and 9, are at the prime trick-or-treating ages. I have one red ninja and one fearsome phantom with a featureless face. Don’t be frightened if they come to your house! They’re polite, and they’re good at heart. I’m sending them out with the HoA (husband of artist) to keep them on the sidewalk and away from the curmudgeon’s house. Now he can be scary. I’ll be home in my leafy costume handing out the treeeets. Sorry! I couldn’t resist.

On other fronts, I’ve been diligently working in the art studio to finish my ‘Autumn Aspens’ commission. I had brought out all the grays, browns and purple yarns to create the background gradient. There are hints of green and yellow throughout to give the piece depth and continuity with the foreground trees, but the darker colors create the sense of the forest mystery under the bright yellow canopy. I then topped the weaving with some dense yellow foliage, mostly because I couldn’t resist getting out my bright yellows for some color at the top. I stretched out the piece in an oak frame that I stained to have a hint of yellow. I stitched the piece onto the frame using reeled silk, which I love to work with because it just kind of glides along your fingers when you work with it. It glides along your toes, too, if you don’t have enough hands for the job. The next step is to start embroidering the piece with all my different yellow yarns. My art studio will be glowing this week, and so will I. Plus, there should be enough leftover Halloween candy to keep everyone in the family buzzing all week long.

Until next week…

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fall Fun with Fibers

I had some great treasure hunts this week that took me all over the county. I started out driving my son Jacob to his doctor in Bedford to get a flu shot, which took me through some beautiful fall foliage in southern Indiana. To be out in the warm fall weather early in the week after being cooped up last week was terrific. Closer to home, a little internet sleuthing turned up a clever artist with a proprietary process for creating felt balls without a lot of effort. This really appealed to me since I’ve been making small fiber balls by wrapping threads, which is pretty tedious. I spent the money to learn the secret—if you’re interested, check out her work here. Knowledge is power, and I set off to scour Bloomington for the secret ingredients I needed. After a little bit of experimenting I’ve learned to create wonderful felt balls in a range of sizes. The little ones are really cute, especially the red ones!

One of the joys of any treasure hunt is finding kindred spirits in secret places. They’re not always on the same quest, but the goal is the same. At Opportunity House I ran into Lisa, the owner of LolaRue and Company , a place to create crafts. She said she often stops in at Opp House to poke around a little before opening her shop in the morning. We both get inspiration there, and Lisa calls it her therapy before she starts work in the morning. I also had a nice stop at the Thrift Shop, a consignment shop run by the Zeta Chapter of Psi Iota Xi sorority. Part of the fun for me is interacting with the people who run the stores—I get to chitty chatty with them, and they always seem interested to know what I’m going to do with my basket of mismatched yarns and odd treasures. What I get isn’t always what I see, like the beige sweater I found that ended up converted to felt balls in a happy leaf green color. And of course once the dye pots came out, watch out yarns! I didn’t have much green boucle left, which I use to make crocheted leaf clumps. I had some textured turquoise, but the color was all done. When the fiber stopped flying I had 7 skeins of green yarn, plus the white wool I dyed to exhaust the dye pot. The exact final color isn’t too important to me, as long as it’s green.

The rest of my week was less of a treasure hunt, but I did some prospecting for treasure. I worked on the demographic analysis, show summaries and the final report for the Fourth Street Festival. I used some of that information to write a grant proposal to expand the advertising reach for the festival next year—I guess that’s treasure hunting too. I’m gearing up for the Déjà Vu art show coming up in Columbus, Indiana on Saturday, November 7. Keep your eyes open for the posters around town sporting my sunflowers and Cappi Phillip’s heavy metal chicken, which I think is a very cool piece. Then you can drive to Columbus for a great day of classic Indiana Architecture and modern Indiana art!

Until next week…

Saturday, October 17, 2009

How artists recover from illnesses.

I’ve had a miserable week fighting pneumonia. My allies were friends, antibiotics and breathing treatments, and slowly I’m winning the battle. My friend Cappi Phillips brought me homemade macaroni and cheese, made with whole-wheat noodles with flax in them—what terrific comfort food! Thanks Cappi! Today I left the house for the first time in a week and I even had a salad with my family at Buccetto’s. Look out world, I’m on the mend.

To re-engage myself in the art world, and use weaving as part of my recovery, I decided to break out my yellow yarns. Yellow is such a happy color, and I decided to start a commission piece to make a variation on my ‘Autumn Aspens’ theme. I first pulled out my big box of cord, strings and shoelaces to form the core of the tree trunks. Then I got out my variegated taupe yarns. You probably know that ‘taupe’ started out to mean the average color of a French mole—until the artists got their hands on the word. I started with my beige and brown taupes (take that, you linguists!) and started wrapping the aspen tree trunks. My strategy was to create the foreground variegations with light to medium color yarns first. Then I moved on to medium to dark yarns and finally the darkest yarns. The goal was to create a sense of depth based partly on the color of the tree trunks, with the darkest shades in the back.

Then came the big moment in my recovery—I pulled out my big box of yellow yarns, which was like opening up a box of sunshine! If you live in central Indiana you know it’s been an awful week weather-wise, with cold, overcast rainy skies dominating the weather (and lots of people have been sick). But my yellows brought a smile to my face—how can you not be happy looking into a sea of yellow! Right about then was when I had my flashback to the genesis of the first ‘Autumn Aspens piece—a trip with my father one October many years ago. I had just defended my Ph.D. thesis at the University of Western Ontario, and to celebrate we traveled to Utah and Colorado for a vacation. I was stunned by the endless yellows of fall in the American West, with all the subtle differences in color. Yellow is just too flat a word to use to describe the tints and shades of yellows, with hints of oranges and greens, all spread out over miles of open landscapes. It was just amazing!

Then I landed back in Bloomington Indiana, thinking how I have to get my family out there some autumn. With kids in school and everyone fighting to stay healthy that’s going to be a tall order, but someday we’ll make it. I hope that where ever you are in the world when you read this that you’re healthy and happy. But if you’re struggling with something, my advice is to bring out the yellows. It worked for me!

Until next week…