Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sally sells sea shells...

This week I was thinking about the beach on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My family and I spent a week on the beach in Corolla last summer. Of course that means that we spent a lot of time walking the sands and looking for treasures. Jim and I strolled along the beach on the packed wet sand while the boys acted more like the ‘runny birds’ that cruise in and out with the surf. They both make the best advantage of short legs and abundant energy. A few essential seashells, sand dollars, or manta ray egg casings just had to come back to the house on each trip. Of course a little sand comes back with them too. I’m guessing they must send bad vacuum cleaners to beach houses for punishment.

So of course you know where this is headed—I need to make an art piece! I’m not sure people know how much my art really reflects my life. I poured out all the jars, bags and boxes of shells and beach things I’ve collected. The inventory also includes lots of beach materials that friends have given me through the years. I tried a few layouts to see what I liked, but ultimately I realized I liked them best just mixed together in a big bowl! I finished a custom frame built for me locally by Tom Bertolacini by creating a sandy beach finish of layered glue and sand. I reinforced the landscape frame with steel strips I found for 75 cents at the Re-Store. This is another great Bloomington resource, located in the old Honda emporium on 11th Street, which sells surplus building supplies and uses it’s profits to fund Habitat for Humanity projects. It’s how I imagine Menards would be if Jimmy Carter ran it. I also picked up a cool low wooden stool with a fabric seat that’s perfect for elevating me a bit while I’m weaving.
This week I was also volunteering at Roger’s school in the Creek-Love classroom. We created a weaving of an ocean out of blue “yarns”, most of which comprises old blue neckties from Opportunity House. I guess all those Father’s day presents finally paid off! The kids and I had a great time weaving. Next trip I’ll bring in a frame and we’ll decorate it with glue and seashells from the collection. It was one of those weeks that it was great to be alive, with warm spring weather and the first white snowdrops and yellow eranthus blooming. There’s even a little patch of purple crocuses coming up through dried oak leaves near the house. It’s just the beginning of Spring, and I can’t wait!

Until next week…

Saturday, February 21, 2009


It’s amazing where art can take you. I was creating an orange slice for my ‘Fruit Salad’ piece (see the 1/31/09 entry) when I was transported 11 years or so back in time to Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was sitting on the rooftop of the Palio restaurant on South Main, near the Real Seafood Company, being wooed by my (now) husband. I kinda miss being wooed. Anyway, it was late afternoon on a hot summer day and we were sharing a pitcher of sangria on the roof looking over the city. I remember the sweating pitcher with the floating ice cubes and slices of fresh oranges—mmmmm! [Note to self—we have to go back there!]. I started singing the reggae song ‘Red, Red Wine’, off in my own little world. That’s when I decided I needed to make ‘Sangria’.

One of the good things about Bloomington is that I can find anything I need. I started off at Bloomingfoods to get a lemon and a lime to slice for artistic accuracy (I never got my license). I slipped the lemon zest into a green bean dish that I make with peanuts that’s really tasty. In fact, it’s the only way I can get my bean-hating husband to eat them. That’s important because Amy and Andy Hamilton at the CSA slip us tons of green beans every summer and I have to do something with them. Sorry, back to finding stuff. Even with the fruit I still needed ice cubes for the piece. I asked my friend and fellow artist Cappi Phillips if she could help, and she was able to pull several varieties out of her artistic freezer! Cappi is a local mosaic artist ( who is a professional packrat by necessity (something near and dear to my heart). She made the colorful shutters on the front of our house if you’re ever driving down Ruby Lane in Bloomington. Spring is a good time if you like flowers.

So anyway, this week I was in my art studio sorting through my red yarns and humming ‘Red, Red Wine’. I had my ice cubes and I made my fruit slices, and my pitcher of Sangria re-appeared! If art isn’t magic it’s the next closest thing.

Until next week…

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cold Coffee made from Brown Crayons

Happy Valentine’s Day! Over the past week I’ve been dreaming less of chocolate hearts and more about the weather, so let’s start there. My art studio sits in the basement of the house, and the heavy Hoosier rains of spring and fall are always a worrisome time. If the power goes out or the sump pumps fail it takes a week to take up the carpets and dry everything out. Something valuable always seems to soak up some water when the water flows. Last week my loving husband installed a battery back-up sump pump that was a gift from Grampa, so even with the heavy rains I was ready for anything! On a brighter note, between the rains there were sunny, warm afternoons, perfect for biking to school. My hand-me-down bike has a big comfy seat and the traditional storage basket in front filled with the boy’s scooters and helmets instead of a small barking dog. We had nice rides home from Rogers and Binford through the puddles.

The water theme also seeped into my art last week. Over the past two years I’ve gotten into the world of Christmas ornaments, although a lot of people buy them just as all-year decorations. I set a goal of 100 last year, which I reached by making ten each month with a couple of vacation months built in. This year I’m back at it, and from the picture you can see that I’ve had water on my mind! The lighter blue was created from seven packages of Blue Lemonade mixed with ½ of package of Lime Kool-aid. When the fleece came out of the dye pot I just loved the color (and my heron friend thought it was deceptively water-like). The white fleece is Merino that I bought recently at Sheep Street in Morgantown (always worth the drive to see Nancy and Pat). Maybe after I stop worrying about rising waters I’ll get back to more traditional themes.

On a sadder note, even as the sump pump situation came under control my ancient espresso maker gave a last shudder and dumped out a cup of cold, weak … well, something. I was reminded of when Linus makes hot chocolate out of brown crayons for Lucy. This is a serious problem because my loving spouse makes me a cup of espresso every morning, usually with something tasty to eat. I quickly raced out to support the downtown economy and got a new one, and I can report that it works very nicely. Later that day my trust Kitchen-aid stand mixer decided it didn’t like heavy breads and started to whine. This isn’t good because my kids live on homemade bread (I don’t tell them what I slip in to make it healthy). My trusty neighbor Emily Leite came through with her mixer to finish the job and the bread came out just fine. Heaven forfend that I should have to knead it with my delicate, needle felting hands! Luckily it’s a major holiday, and I’m hoping against hope that loving family will think of a red mixer with lots of power as a Valentine’s Day present! Did I say RED dear?

Until next week…

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Dyeing to be Blue

This week my Great Blue Heron raised his elegant head for a few appearances. I had constructed the body a few weeks back (see the January 24th post) and it was time to start fleshing him out. Well, feathering him out, I suppose. I started off by dyeing a range of blues and grays for the feathers. With little pots of blue water on the stove, my heron had to peek in to see if there were any little fish for lunch. He stared for quite a while before giving it up to chase dust bunnies in the jungle room. As for the dyes, I often use natural materials or Kool-aid for subtle colors. This time I needed more robust RIT dyes, which are relatively non-toxic and the company is located in Indiana (hooray!). The colors weren't exactly right to suit my heron, but I assured him that I could card colors together and make them just so. With a little smoothing, physical and emotional, he was ready for his first public
appearance: an in-progress avian sculpture for Wonderlab's "Science of Sculpture" program.

On Friday evening I carded wool and poked my heron along the path to biological accuracy with a few dozen new friends. I talked to a lot of adults and children about how the barbed needle I used to felt wool combines the fibers into the shapes I want. I also showed how the carders can be used to combine the raw dyed wool into organized fiber bundles of the colors I need. It's hard work but it's fun to try. To get the heron colors right I checked out books from the Children's section of the Monroe County Public Library. They have books with better pictures than can be found the adult section, and they don't charge late fees when I forget that a book is due. More kids need to check out those books, I decided, since many thought my heron was a stork or an ostrich. Knowing the sensitive nature of my long-legged friend I quickly dissuaded them of that notion. Besides, the stork won't be visiting our house any more. My two boys spent the evening climbing, inventing and eating with friends, while the HoA (husband of artist) patrolled the grounds to keep an eye on things. It was nice to have the family together as I worked.
I should also mention the other projects that were ongoing as I poked and chatted. The terrific Wonderlab group ran a wet felting workshop using wool they dyed with Kool-aid. Kids and adults used soapy water and a lot of hand rolling action to make colorful balls that they carried off in little paper towel coverlets for drying. I saw some beautiful color combinations, and I sensed that a lot of people had fun in what was truly a hands-on learning project. I felt right at home with all the fiber work going on. The "Science of Sculpture" exhibit will go on for a few more weeks with projects such as glass blowing and stone carving on display. If you look carefully you can see one of my fish sculptures hanging from the ceiling, and you can also see my "Shh… the trees are sleeping" show on the wall as you go up the stairs. Stop in if you can! And thanks to everyone who participated and made it a fun event for me.

Until next week…