Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina

Lake Waccamaw Spring 2019

Here’s a quickie post of our Easter weekend at Lake Waccamaw. It was very stormy on Friday with a couple of tornado warnings nearby. Of course the weather cleared up on the day we left. As usual, the birds amused me and I saw a pileated woodpecker. You can see some of the damage on the piers from Hurricane Florence last September. My sister’s house is repaired and livable again. As they began doing the repairs, they found less that needed to be done. That’s pretty unusual. The fact that the house is uninsulated helped – no moisture sitting in the walls to grow mold in. Still, it was a big repair job and much of the furniture was ruined. Now it is nice again.

My cousin’s house is still standing, but it needs to be torn down.

Lake Waccamaw

Lake Waccamaw

Lake Waccamaw

Lake Waccamaw

art retreats, book arts, dyeing, Mixed media art, North Carolina, North Carolina beaches

Ancient Wisdom


A couple of weekends ago, Susanne, Sandy, and I went to Topsail Beach for a long weekend. Sandy hung out by himself mostly while Susanne and I took a workshop with Leslie Marsh and Kim Beller called Ancient Wisdom. We stayed at the Jolly Roger Inn and Pier. The weather was a bit chilly and cloudy and it rained really hard one night but we got out on the beach a little. We had oceanfront rooms and that was nice.

We drove down on Thursday evening and ate dinner at the Beach Shop and Grill. With that name we expected hamburgers and hot dogs but it was a very expensive and wonderful restaurant. Sandy saved us by picking up the check. He had crab cakes that were divine. I am not sure that there was any bread in them at all. Susanne and I had shrimp and grits and I think that they might now be number one on my list of favorite shrimp and grits places.

In the morning, we indulged in doughnuts from the Fractured Prune. At this point I knew that there was no hope for my diet. When we went back to the hotel room, Susanne and I walked on the beach and picked up stuff, as you do, and after we went up to our rooms this guy showed up drawing fabulous runes on the beach in front of our hotel. Our own personal installation artist.

Friday afternoon was spent cutting our windows into bookboard and wrapping the covers with plaster gauze. They had to cure overnight.

When we got back to the hotel, the artist had finished.

Then we drove to Wilmington and ate dinner at one of our favorite places: Indochine. The rumors of its demise during Hurricane Florence are not true, thankfully.

The next day was dyeing day! Leslie had eight different natural dye pots going in her backyard and we spent most of the day dipping our book pages in them. What a great opportunity for overdyeing! I have never had access to so many colors at one time so I went nuts. I could not tell you the combinations on a lot of my pages, but I used indigo on most of them. Turmeric, avocado pits and skins, black walnut, and turmeric made good combinations too. Other dyepots held madder, yellow onion skins, red cabbage (which fades to light gray) and blueberries (also light-sensitive and fugitive). Honestly, I never guessed that you could get such beautiful natural dye results on paper.

We forced ourselves to stop and paint our plaster covers so that they would be dry by the time we bound our books the last day. I cut my mica too close to the edge because I was thinking that the plaster would be covering it. Stitching it that close to the edge ripped out through the sides so i improvised. Those sea oats were picked up off the road after the hurricane, by the way; no illegal picking of sea oats happened here. I scratched and stamped circles into the plaster to honor the art work I had seen on the beach – this is still a work in progress.

That night we ate at Sears Landing in Surf City near the bridge on the Intracoastal Waterway. This is a place where I will definitely return. All the weight I lost and more came back by the end of the night.

After dinner we went to Quarter Moon Books and Wine Bar  where the three of us and Pam, a friend we met at the workshops down here, had drinks and listened to some great acoustic music by The Doug McFarland One. (He is a hoot.)

On Sunday we bound our beautiful colorful signatures with longstitch (for using as warp for weaving later) and then put the whole shebang together with coptic stitch.

We didn’t have time to do the woven binding but I drilled holes in the back cover and I am working on embellishing this book further now.

Thanks, Leslie Marsh and Kim Beller for another exquisite workshop experience! Also to Bee Shay for spending her lunch teaching a few of us to wrap stones with macrame stitching for hanging. What a sweet weekend it was.

augggghhhh, Back Forty, coffee pot posts, depression/anxiety, Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina

Saturday morning coffee pot post

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Because we all need cute kitty photos right now.

Hey y’all. I fully intend to work on finishing the travelogue during the next few days. I need to do it because many of my memory cells for details left with my estrogen a few years ago, and that’s one of the reasons I love to document my trips – to revisit them later.

Right now, I am, as most women are in this nation, gobsmacked over the proceedings in Washington, D.C. This one hit so much more personally than other sexual assault or harassment accounts because of the age of Dr. Ford and most of all, the fear factor. I’m repeatedly revisiting an episode in my life that I do not want to think about at all. So many of us are.

The other MAJOR thing that shell-shocked my sister and me this week was somewhat expected, but it is a little like when you have an elderly loved one that has arthritis and other health issues but has powered through many difficulties, and then that loved one meets with an accident and dies. My sister’s home and the house that my grandfather built at Lake Waccamaw are going to be demolished due to the flooding from Hurricane Florence.

Therefore, I am processing grief about my sister and brother-in-law’s loss and I am processing grief about losing the place where I go to process grief. I don’t know yet whether houses will be rebuilt on the sites. My sister had good flood insurance and the FEMA agent was very encouraging about them recovering their financial loss. The other house has never had insurance. We are all reeling.

I haven’t heard from my brother in Lumberton. I haven’t heard from Weezer. I’m not sure that I can talk about it with her yet now that my tears have started. I have always been a place person. I’m not even over selling Mama’s house yet. I will write further about Lake Waccamaw later when I have more information. I, I, I. Yes, I’m aware of all the I’s I am using. I’m aware of the other suffering in the world that is greater than mine.

In addition, there is hypocrisy and drama and devious game playing at my workplace again, despite the efforts of some to bring a unified consensus about who might be our next department head. I’m just praying that it won’t be the same kind of shitshow that happened almost four years ago. My workplace used to have a really great collegial atmosphere except for the usual couple of irredeemable curmudgeons found in every organization, but I have seen a side of people that makes me disgusted and puzzled and exhausted and unsure of what people think of me. I don’t have any faith in the higher administrators. Thank God I can close my office door, play some music and get my work done, and dream about retirement.

So there you have it. My venting is done.

There is a pumpkin in the Back Forty that I’m going to go cut off the vine and bring in. Pablocito is purring on this table – he would be directly behind the laptop if my sewing machine wasn’t there. Diego showed some spunk this morning and raced back and forth through the house and out to the porch and back. There are butterbeans to be shelled and tomatoes to be cooked into sauce.

I’m going to research small RVs and RV camping for beginners. I was planning to buy a cheap camper van from a neighbor when I got back from our big trip but I don’t think that I will now.

Solar panel installation financing has been approved but I have to find some paperwork and it may take longer to get done that I anticipated. There will have to be some rewiring in the attic, and I hope to get this done at the same time.

Next weekend I am going to the Talk Story retreat in Stamford, Connecticut to take a 2-day class with Sharon Payne Bolton and that will be a very welcome stress reliever! I took a class with her several years ago in California and it was a wonderful experience. If you ever have a chance to go to one of these events, I highly recommend it. It is a great choice for a first art retreat, although it may addict you. (This retreat was known as Art is You, but they are reorganizing and renaming it.)

Back to the travelogue, which I will backdate once I finish the series.

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

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

This past weekend, Susanne and I went to a wonderful Zhen Xian Bao book class at Topsail Beach, NC, taught by Leslie Marsh and Kim Beller. The first day we spent natural dyeing with plant materials and indigo on paper and fabric. The next day was spent constructing the book, which is made with glue, scissors, and folding. The book structure is a traditional Chinese thread book made for the purpose of holding embroidery threads, needles, and the odd bits that might be kept for different projects. Ruth Smith researched this extensively and published books about it, and it is being taught by artists in the United States now. I took a class on this structure at Focus on Book Arts last summer, which I absolutely loved. Kim and Leslie put their own spin on it by adding more layers and the natural dye/shibori element. Of course, Leslie acknowledged the instruction of India Flint in her teaching of eco-printing techniques.

The big dilemma in making this book is that you have to sacrifice some images that you might love to be on the side that is glued down. The biggest one for me was the big box that makes the base and the cover. Both sides had their charms, but I had to pick one. The other can be seen on the bottom of the lowest box when the book is opened. I thought about embellishing the cover further, but I think that I will leave it alone other than brushing some Dorland’s wax medium on it to make it a little stronger and more weatherproof.

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

above: unbundling, trying out cover sides and the finished cover

I added the 70% silk/30% cotton thread to every bundle. I now have some dark and bright indigo threads to add to my tapestry, once I get them untangled. One groups of the threads I laid inside a bundle made a portrait of two humans. Fortunately I was able to preserve this image in the bottom of one of the boxes near the top.

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

More photos of the dyeing/bundling process:

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

Update: I don’t do Pinterest too much – too overwhelming and I don’t need another rabbit hole. If you are into it, here’s a great board on the Zhen Xian Bao book structure.

Alchemist's Apron, art, dyeing, fiber art, Lake Waccamaw, Nature printing, North Carolina, Slow cloth, Upcycling

Alchemist’s Apron project

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Last weekend Sandy and I went to Lake Waccamaw and I gathered materials to dye my project for India Flint’s online class, “The Alchemist’s Apron.” I’ve experimented with natural dyes down there before without a whole lot of luck. This time, using a good mordant and bundling the plant materials directly in contact with the cloth did the trick.

In this project we cut apart a shirt in a particular way to make an apron. This is a lightweight denim shirt that Sandy discarded a long time ago. I saved it, paint stains and all. I have a few other white thrift store shirts that I could use, but I wanted to experiment on this one first. Blue is my favorite color, unless you bring up any of my other favorite colors, like orange, purple, yellow, brown, black, red, and green.

I made a mordant from iron scraps, white vinegar and water in a pickle bucket that is safe to use but turned out to be almost scary powerful. The chemical reaction creates a billowing orange foam much like the toupee on Dear Leader’s head. I have a lifetime supply of iron mordant now because I have to dilute it so much. This mordant developed over about eight days.

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Even after diluting it with rain water it had a weird metallic sheen on top which cracked when touched. I ended up straining it through a piece of thick cloth to get out most of the rust, poured in hot tap water to dilute it more, and even then I got a lot of brown/orange color on the shirt. I soaked the shirt for two days and a half in this mordant solution.

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Then I bundled it tightly with swamp bay leaves, common privet leaves, red tip photinia leaves, dried live oak leaves, dried bald cypress needles, dried sweet gum leaves and balls, and some dark blue berries that could have been from the swamp bay or Chinese privet. They were growing beside each other and I identified the Chinese privet after dyeing, which was a no-no. The leaves and berries of Chinese privet are toxic to ingest. My guess is that they are not dangerous to the skin since I saw nothing that mentioned it and this will be going on over other clothes. I cleaned up all the berries and washed the apron well. Also, I could be wrong on the ID.

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The swamp bay leaves smelled heavenly in the dye bath. Some leaves didn’t leave a print but made a negative print where they blocked the dye from the leaves on top on them (a resist) and had a black edge around them. Looking at it today, I wonder if the black leaf prints are actually the dried live oak leaves and the leaf prints with the black edges are the swamp bay leaves. Unwrapping these bundles is such a joy – you just don’t know what you will get. I knew that it would be mostly black prints because of the mordant and the tannins, but that was about it.

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Here it is after rinsing it in the bathtub. It has since been washed and dried and lost none of its color. I’m pleased,, because early spring is not the best season to do natural dyeing.

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The next step in the class is to dye threads for stitching and sewing on pockets. Many pockets. I needed some more thread dyed with broom sedge to finish an old project anyway and I saw some down the street on the old train tracks, so I’m going down there to gather it now. It makes a lovely yellow.

I also stuffed a garbage bag full of Spanish moss that covered some tree branches piled on the side of the road for pickup. That will be mulch for my container garden. The birdies love to line their nests with it too. I’m sure that conservative crowd living at the lake thinks I’m bananas walking along the canal road, plucking up Spanish moss and leaves and branches from their yard trash piles, wild graying hair, braless, and no make-up, with my Bernie 2016 bumper sticker on my car in the yard. Ha!

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