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Forward to 2020

Wow. I can’t even think as far as a new decade. Truthfully, I don’t have a lot of hope of things getting better over the next ten years so I think that I’ll focus on one year at a time. Or a month, week, or day at a time. For the purpose of this post, one year. I don’t expect anyone but me to read all this. It will be a long ramble as I gather my thoughts.

The O’Neills just entered a new era with Sandy’s last day of work ending yesterday at 4 p.m. I was really happy that everyone there gave him a good send-off. He worked there the longest of any place of employment and he loved the people there, but I always felt that they did not appreciate his customer service skills enough. Maybe they did. Customer service is definitely a skill, and I’ve had to remind him of that many times. It’s a skill that I have to fake most of the time. Maybe that’s part of the skill!

Anyway, I sound like a broken record but I am seriously trying to downsize my studio, and that has come down to some hard choices. My Schacht Baby Wolf loom went to live with a friend as a permanent loan. I am selling my Dorothy table loom. Most of my tapestry frame looms have been given away. I gave a lot of yarn to another friend yesterday who makes scarves for charity and is interested in learning to weave tapestry. I’m giving all the papermaking stuff and equipment to Susanne because if I ever want to make paper again I can always go to her studio to do it. Some of it came from her anyway!

I am trying to think carefully again about what it is that I really enjoy versus what I think that I enjoy until I do it. Mostly that comes down to mess. I like the results of painting and glueing but not mess on my hands. And I hate wearing gloves. Does the hatred of the mess outweigh my enjoyment of the process? In the case of ceramics, I decided that it did. I washed my hands so much they were chapped. As far as dyeing…I guess I have to face the fact that I can’t make myself start doing it any more. If I am at a workshop, I am all in. At home, no. Maybe I should get rid of my dyes.

Collage and painting is in my future but I will have to come to terms with liquid or sticky mess. Tape and sewing are better options for my preferences, but glue will be necessary at times. I think that I might be able to get past the OCD on this. I can’t give in to OCD completely! There is some stuff I have (will have to find it) that you can put on your hands and the paint and glue washes off easily. Besides, I have some fabulous plans for 2020 in which these will be necessary components, so in this case the results will be worth it.

When I think about what brings me the most joy, it is always fiber and book arts. Weaving, crocheting, stitching. I had so much fun weaving cloth strips together in Jude’s online classes and sewing together the t-shirt quilt. Bookbinding really puts me into the flow. I need to stop being so scattered and focus on a smaller circle of media, and then maybe I won’t feel so overwhelmed all the time.

Most of my travel will be compressed into seven weeks this year! That will be a long haul of anticipation until June 12, when I will leave for the place of my heart, Ireland, for a little over two weeks. The first week I will spend exploring on my own, in Howth and Dublin for three days, then a train to Galway and one night there, then a train to Westport for three days. Then on June 20, I will go to an weeklong art retreat with Mary Beth Shaw near Westport which will be exciting and beautiful.

Near the end of July, Convergence, the biennial conference organized by the Handweavers Guild of America, will be in Knoxville, Tennessee, about a 5-6 hour drive from home. There I will take two daylong tapestry workshops from Molly Elkind and Tommye Scanlin.
Sandy will go with me on this trip.

Then I will come home for a couple of days, catch up on work, and head east to Topsail Beach for a long weekend book workshop with Leslie Marsh and Dan Essig, two of my favorite book artists.

As you might guess, all of this is costing me a lot of money but the good part is that I have paid for most of it already. I had to pay for the Ireland art retreat upfront with cash and that had to come out of my savings. I am going to be concentrating on replenishing that, but as for the other expenses, I have paid my credit cards off! So I am heading into 2020 debt free except for the solar panel loan, which I hardly think about because the payments go directly out of my paycheck each month. I will be able to take the solar tax credit this year.

I am moving my studio from the dark front room into the room where we now use as a TV room/den and moving the den into the front room. This has been part of the reason for my purge. We have a very small house and to make any major changes, we have no place to shift stuff around. This will take time. We need to repair the plaster in the front room and paint. Right now it is a burgundy color and it has never been painted since before we moved here in 2001. Painting it a lighter color feels like a good change.

Other than that, we will try to do a couple of long weekends at the lake and Sandy is cleaning out the back building to set up a game room. Gardening is on the list of course and I bought myself a grow light to raise my tomato seedlings this year.

Now that I’ve cleaned out my brain, I’m heading back to the studio where MAYBE I will finish the caterpillar tapestry. I want to put it in the unjuried small tapestry show at Convergence.

I still have hope that I might be able to retire at 62 and that gets me through a lot of my days. I got a taste of what it would be like for the past week by staying at home for our winter break. I don’t talk about it much but my outlook is pretty bleak. Thinking about travel and art retreats helps me more than anything else. I hope that I will be able to continue it on a smaller scale, after I retire, even if it means that I take a part-time or temp job or two.

yearly wrap-ups

2019 Wrap-up

2019 – the slowing of the slow. Just as it went last year, I have spent a lot of time in and out of major depression. So some things went to the wayside that I had big plans for, like this blog. I won’t say that they won’t still happen though. I did manage to post at least once a month, so yay, me! Hopefully I will get a laptop soon and won’t have to rely on this Kindle.

Anyway, my aspirations for 2020 will have to wait for tomorrow’s post. Right now I am looking back at 2019 after a wonderful week spent at home, mostly by myself. What an introvert I am. And it was actually a pretty great year.

In January, we fulfilled a life goal and installed 12 solar panels on our roof.


In February, I learned Tunisian crochet and began a weather scarf that used the high temperatures of each day in 2018 to determine the color of each row. It was a lot of fun and I have started a 2019 one. I continued weaving a big twill gamp project on the Macomber loom.

We lost my Aunt DeLaine in March. She was absolutely my favorite aunt and I miss her terribly. Her last year was dreadful, with dementia and failing body, so I prefer to remember the adventuress who traveled the world and went ziplining with us (well, not me, I chickened out) at age 87.

Susanne and I took a wonderful book workshop with Leslie Marsh and Kim Beller at Topsail Beach again, this time with plaster covered books and an amazing array of natural dyepots.

It is good to look back at April posts to see the lovely photos of my gardening. We went to Lake Waccamaw where my sister and brother-in-law had finished the repairs to their house from the hurricane in September 2018.

We traditionally take a big trip in May, and this year we met my cousin Cherie in Denver for a road trip to New Mexico. There are many photos. It was a grand time.

Bernie and Liz, two parakeets who hate us, joined our household in June. They belonged to a family member who was not able to take care of them properly and had them crammed into a little cage. Now they have a cage big enough for them to play and flutter around a bit and they still hate us, but they are Sandy’s birds and I just walk into his man cave and make noises at them now and then.

Susanne and I made our biennial trek to Oregon for the Focus on Book Arts conference in Forest Grove, a town where I would love to live. This time I took two classes from Leighanna Light, who has become one of my favorite art teachers, and we stayed in a lovely AirBNB apartment that we shared with another FOBA friend. We spent a few days in Portland first and I got to see Cat, another person I really miss but we have managed to see each other every few years when I go to the west coast.


In July and August I took a break from traveling and caught up on some online classes and took a day class in sakiori weaving in Durham from a saori weaver, Dawn Hummer. I harvested tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and figs.

Labor Day weekend was the Tapestry Weavers South retreat in Elkin, NC, this time only about an hour’s drive away! Sandy went with me and we stayed in a cabin outside of town. I ended up taking a wedge weave class with Connie Lippert which really opened up my mind to what I might do with all this wool I have in bins in the studio.

September brought the beginning of the Greensboro chapter of the Tiny Pricks Project. It was a lot of fun and I made some new friends. And I got to see BERNIE! Oh how I love Bernie.

I wrote about the Tiny Pricks Project and posted a lot of photos of it in October. My friend Leslie Millsaps passed away in a tragic car crash and many people are still mourning her.

A cancellation in Leslie Marsh’s Nature Bound workshop and a very wise impulse led me back to Topsail Beach for another round with Leslie’s patient and excellent teaching, this time a book with metal covers. I left with one of the most beautiful books I have ever made.

About ten of our Tiny Pricks embroideries were hung at Scuppernong Books for a few weeks around Thanksgiving until Lisa sent them off to join the big exhibition in New York.

We went to Lake Waccamaw for Thanksgiving, where, SURPRISE! we stayed at Fred’s house because Weezer managed to clean it up, fix it, replace the furniture, and make it livable again. Lisa and Tim left their rental house and moved back into their house down the road again, nearly a year after Hurricane Florence’s eye decimated the houses and piers along that shoreline.

And December. Well. I have mostly nested and cocooned but I did spend the past week doing a major purge of my studio. I squeezed a lot of stuff into my little bedroom and the plan is to repair the plaster and paint the front room, then move the living room furniture and TV into there, and my studio will move into what would properly be the dining room in a normal household, an open room next to the kitchen with much better light.

Sandy’s last day at work, ever, is today. A big shift is happening in our lives with the new decade. Good things are happening. I will spend some time writing about this tomorrow. And I will insert links back to posts later this week when I have access to a computer.

Studio talk

Sunday in the studio

So here are the two tasks before me today and through the end of 2019.

I am going to complete “Blackbird” and “Caterpillar.”

I am going to clean up the other side of the front room, which is currently piled up with junk. This is what I have been referring to as purgatory, where stuff goes to wait until it is burned or recycled. This is a big project but I am reaaaaaally done with walking in the front door every day to face this. By the end of the year, these piles and boxes shall be gone.

Plus I have a warm studio, and can even cook on top of this, but the trick is to keep it so that the heat doesn’t run me out of the studio. So no stovetop cooking today.

art, book arts, dyeing, Nature printing, North Carolina beaches

Leslie Marsh’s Nature Bound workshop

I do not have many photos from this workshop, a sign of excellence for me. It means that I was so much in the present moment that I forgot to take photos. It is generally hard to get into one of Leslie’s workshops because they fill quickly, but someone canceled and I took their place. Leslie Marsh has a beautiful home and studio on one of North Carolina’s barrier islands at Topsail Beach.

A trademark of Leslie’s book workshops is natural dyeing. She studied with India Flint and developed her own techniques of eco-printing. I particularly like Leslie’s method because she skips the mordanting step and puts everything in the dye pot. When we wrap our papers and fabrics with leaves around copper pipes, all we need to do is wet them and bind them tightly to the pipes. Then she pops them into her potion and they come out transformed. I have found that I do not like the mess of natural dyeing and so this is like heaven for me – the magic without the prep and clean-up. I am not fussy and precise. I enjoy the surprise.

This particular workshop was special because it definitely took me out of my comfort zone. We learned Leslie’s method for her metal book covers, which involves liquidified solder! Leslie is a wonderful, patient teacher and gave each of us individual help as we used these tools and methods for the first time.

We spent a cold Saturday preparing the dyed and leaf printed papers and wool felt, and metal covers for our books. Then we spent Sunday binding the books with coptic stitch, which I do so seldom anymore that I always need a refresher. The second photo of the finished book was taken by Leslie.

I took a little while during the lunch break on Sunday to visit the beach and collect some shells. I love the old worn out ones with holes in them. Sandy mostly stayed in our room at the Jolly Roger because he was sick on Saturday, but he revived on Sunday and drove around exploring while I finished my book. Our room was oceanfront, and I was really impressed with these surf fishers who were out there even late at night. Because he was sick we didn’t eat out Saturday night but we had appetizers and dessert at the Beach Shop Grill on Friday night. Their crab balls are exquisite. Expensive restaurant though. We couldn’t afford to eat there often if we lived nearby.

Anyway, I would take every workshop from Leslie Marsh that she offered if I could.