art retreats, book arts, National Wildlife Refuges, North Carolina, Pocosin Arts School of Fine Craft

Pocosin Arts School of Fine Craft

20220612_194148This week I attended Pocosin Arts School of Fine Craft to study again with Daniel Essig. This class was a second repeat of a class that I’ve taken with him before about wooden covers and mica pages. Every class has been a bit different though, with different tools available. I always learn new information. Too much information!

I’m going to post photos of my works in progress here, but later when the weather is not calling me to go outside (it is a rare cool breezy morning here) I will post photos of the finished books and some of the pages inside. Maybe a video if I can get it set up correctly.

Columbia is a tiny, beautiful little riverside town on the banks of the Scuppornong River, which empties into the nearby Albemarle Sound. If you keep going a little farther east on Highway 64 it will take you to Manteo and then the Outer Banks. It is home to the headquarters of the Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Refuge and a red wolf reintroduction and education center. There were at least two bear sightings while I was there and one was on the boardwalk that I walked on my first evening there on Sunday.

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Monday morning we began class and we were able to use several power tools and hand tools in Pocosin’s wood shop. I pushed myself to get past the fear of the power tools, although I am pretty comfortable with a drill. I was more nervous about getting the diagonal angle on the spine edge of the wooden covers right. Turned out that I was pretty good at it after a little bit of practice. We also had access to some great woodburning tips that Dan brought with him. Dan provided milk paint in ten different colors, and we painted over our distressed and burned covers with layers of milk paint, then sanded and polished them.

Much of the class was spent on preparing the mica covered pages, but I concentrated more on getting some other wood covers that I had bought from Dan in the past beveled on the sander and drilled. My mica covered pages were pretty simple affairs, and I will photograph them best I can later for the blog. They are shiny.

My work area did not stay this neat:

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Pretty papers to choose from:

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Covers before binding, and spine bound before the endbands were added.

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The original idea was that I would nail the mica windows down with tiny nails. It makes a really elegant finish and I was excited about it. However, when I tapped in the last nail at the top of the window, the board cracked. Dan repaired it for me with wood glue, but it meant no more hammering on the cover. So I changed the mica window to a thicker piece at his advice, and anchored it down with double-sided tape and blue Lofta paper. I will probably rework this cover because I have some other ideas now. I did get the end bands on it, although I need more practice.

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The first book we made was paperback with a small concertina fold to sew and glue the pages onto. Later we attached light wooden covers. 20220619_092540

When I had spare moments, I worked on the covers for the next book, which I am pretty excited about. I didn’t really have a plan for it except that I knew that I wanted to sew this piece of dried greenbriar vine to it. On the back in a mica window is half of either a hickory nut or a butternut that I found washed up on the shore of Lake Waccamaw. My plan is to leaf print handmade paper pages for this one, but I’m also tempted to make some mica encased page blocks that are thick enough to hold some of the tiny treasures that I collect at the lake. I could do both.

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North Carolina, North Carolina beaches

Topsail Island, July 29-Aug. 2

Hi ya from rainy North Carolina. I sure wish my super power was being able to control the weather instead of blogging. I’d send a bunch of this water out west.

Here are a few pics from my trip to Topsail Island, where we also experienced a couple of awesome storms. These photos come from last Sunday, when I finally had a chance to walk out to the beach near where we were staying.

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20210801_180815Fortunately I did not walk far, because I looked up from collecting shells to see this behind me. The wind blew my bag open and dumped all my shells in the waves and I skedaddled back to the AirBNB.

There was definite rotation in that cloud and the residents of the house were eyeing it nervously.

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After the storm passed, there was this, which was a huge arch over the island. You could see all of it from the bridge when we crossed to the mainland to eat seafood at Sears Landing.

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I learned that parking under a palmetto tree is not a good idea – hard to wash off the debris! It was nice sitting on the patio when I was able to do it.

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On Monday morning we walked some down on the south end of the island on the sound side of the inlet. I was surprised because the water was clear and cool without waves and the bottom was sandy with no shellfish to step on and there were people swimming, fishing, paddleboarding, and kayaking there. I would like to go back here with an umbrella and a kayak or float. I forgot to take my phone so no photos.

During the weekend, I regret to say that we were not covid-careful. Nobody was wearing a mask anywhere. We went out to eat at five restaurants, all very good! The first night we ate on the patio of Surf City Line and enjoyed a good singer and an older guy who got up and sang “Rocky Raccoon” so you know we all had to sing along.  Daddy Mac’s Beach Grill on the oceanfront had a long wait but Sandy’s baby back ribs and my shrimp gratin were delicious. I don’t usually care for ribs, but YUM. I wasn’t so crazy about Santino’s, but my nerves were shot and I wasn’t hungry. The cheesy Italian bread was good though. Sandy had grilled scallops and I had fried oysters at Sears Landing. They have several good house made sauces that they put out on the table. They are on the Intercoastal Waterway so it has a very nice view and boats can pull up there.

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Then for lunch on Monday, we ate inside at Cora’s Deli in Topsail Beach, where my classmates had ordered lunch for takeout all weekend. Sandy had an Italian panini and I had the turkey, brie, and balsamic strawberry jam panini – what a great combo! I highly recommend going inside to see all the posters, many of which have Cora’s head (the namesake of the deli) substituted for one of the heads in the poster.

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art, collage, North Carolina

Looking back at the TWS retreat and class

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 ^^^Signpost in downtown Elkin, North Carolina

During the TWS retreat I was so anxious that I babbled for the first two days, then started calming down by Tommye’s class on the 3rd and 4th days, a class that I’ve been trying to take in one form or another for a couple of years.. But I was still anxious and burst into tears twice, once from hurtful behavior that I overreacted to, and the second time from sheer kindness that was showed to me. (I was probably a bit cranked up on steroids too.) I got some good ideas for design work though. The design exercises weren’t new to me, but getting Tommye’s perspective of what works in tapestry was valuable. And it was fun to just play with pieces of paper. Maybe once I finish the lake tapestry I will do some of these at a larger sett with larger yarns.

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I really enjoyed having a meal at Southern on Main and at the Angry Troll Brewery on Main St., and I even considered renting a studio space in the Chatham Mill that Foothills Art Center is renovating, right there next to the Yadkin Valley Fiber Center on the second floor. It was so tempting, but I know that I won’t have the time or energy to drive a little over an hour to Elkin even once a week. If I lived 30 minutes away, I would be all over it. Elkin is a cool little town near Stone Mountain State Park, and it is drawing more artists and foodies and nature loving types. In Mayberry land, from the Andy Griffith Show (note the sign that points to Pilot Mountain in the top photo).

critters, Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina, Wilmington

Lake Waccamaw, June 2021

This time, Sandy came with me and friends visited for a few days. The weather could not have been more perfect – low humidity and in the low 80s most of the time. We turned off the air conditioning after the first two nights and didn’t turn it on again until the day we left. It felt like the old days with fans whirring all over the house.

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As usual, the lake provided us with a few stunning sunsets and lots of gator sightings. All gators were well behaved and stayed in the canal on the other side of the road.

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One day Susanne and Susan and I played with fibery things on the back porch while Joseph played the dulcimer on the old glider. I didn’t get much done on my tapestry because of my eyesight problems and the super close sett on this weaving. We went to Pierce Hardware and Dale’s Seafood, so they got the local flavor of the place.

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After Susanne and Joseph left, my sister and brother-in-law and Susan went with us to Indochine in Wilmington. It’s a bit of a drive, but oh so worth it.

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I didn’t do much walking, but I did go for a swim one day and Susan kayaked. Tim picked us all up on the pontoon boat one afternoon and that is always a treat. Susan is laughing because she just retired as a big rig truck driver and we made her drive the boat.

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Even though there was the threat of Tropical Storm Claudette, it was mostly a lot of wind by the time it got to us. The lake is way down because of drought, so we had hoped for more rain. We spent a quiet weekend with naps on the gliders and zombie TV and ate with my family, then packed and drove home on Monday. It was a much needed mental and physical rest for both of us.

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dyeing, Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina, tapestry, weaving

Lake Waccamaw, April 2021

20210426_150338I spent a few days and nights down at the lake house with my sister last week. Lisa spent most of her time with me since she was having her bathroom remodeled at her house, which is within walking distance. It was the first time we have seen each other since July, and it was a good time.

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Other than to ride with Lisa to get takeout meals from a couple of places and to walk down to her house, I didn’t leave the house. The weather was a bit cold the first couple of nights and we discovered that the heat is not working. Lisa brought out her electric fireplace from storage and it made the place very cozy. Then the weather turned perfect, although still too cool to get in the water. By Wednesday afternoon when I left, it was getting hot.

Happily, my weaving muse came back finally came back and I starting weaving on this tapestry that I began three years ago at a Tapestry Weavers South retreat. It is an abstract interpretation of a photo I took of a calm reflection on the lake when it was just barely raining and a little bit of blue sky was reflected on the tea colored water.

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All but a little bit of the darkest color are silk threads that I have dyed with natural dyes at various times. Sometimes I threw them in with a bundle of fabric or paper or tied them around a bundle, so those are variegated. The blue is from indigo, and the warm brown coppery colors from black walnut. The other browns and grays – I don’t know. I’ve enjoyed designed from the perspective of the threads, and adjusting the design as I go. Not my normal process, and maybe this was why I had a hard time getting going again on it. Decision fatigue! I am very happy with it, but it won’t be finished in time for the TWS show, I’m afraid. My eyesight gets too blurry to work on it very long. Guess I need to make an optometrist appointment.

Coronavirus Chronicles, North Carolina, North Carolina Historic Sites

Town Creek Indian Mound

Yesterday Sandy and I drove south to Town Creek Indian Mound, a state historic site in Montgomery County, North Carolina. I had never been there, and Sandy had gone many years ago. Unfortunately, the visitor center with the museum and gift shop was closed, but we could walk around the reconstructed mound and buildings and a prairie had been re-established in the once groomed picnic grounds around the site.

There is a large creek running on one side and a nature trail through the woods that is easy and flat, although this time of year it was muggy and buggy. Still, it was good to go some place different and get outside. I was able to get some nice photos.

I wore a mask outside most of the time because my allergies are kicking butt.

Also, I was surprised to see that Troy and Mt. Gilead had some interesting shops in their downtown areas. I hope that they are still there post-pandemic because I’m not shopping for anything but essentials inside stores until things get much safer.

Morrow Mountain State Park is nearby and one thing that I would like to do during this time is to visit as many state parks and historic sites within a day’s drive as possible to force myself out of the house. We used to go to nearby Lake Tillery and Badin Lake about 20-25 years ago when we had an operating jet ski and friends that had places down there. There was a Revolutionary War reenactment that we participated in a couple of times in the area. That area is where the Henley side of my family settled in the 18-19th century. So I wouldn’t mind going back.

Another family connection, although not by blood, is that my grand nephew is the direct descendant and namesake of the archaeologist who directed the reconstruction at Town Creek.

Critters: I have never seen this kind of ant before.

Look out, spider!

Fungi and textures:

And us:

Coronavirus Chronicles, Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina

Lake Waccamaw, Part V

One evening we were invited to sit on the pier of some friends on the bluff side of the lake for some socially distanced drinks. This is the side of the lake that didn’t get flooded, but most of the piers were ruined. My sister and brother-in-law rented a house up here while they repaired their house from Hurricane Florence, and they almost sold the house on the water and bought a house on this side, where the bluff protects the houses. It is nerve wracking to worry about every big storm that comes in off the coast.

The whole lake is part of Lake Waccamaw State Park. The marsh grasses moving with the waves were lovely.

Sandy had supposed to return for jury duty, but the state postponed jury trials again due to the pandemic. So we stayed another day.

My plan is to come back for a week or so in late July during the time that we had planned to go to Knoxville for Convergence and to Topsail Beach. The wifi is actually better at the lake house than it is here, so I could work from there if I wanted. Late July can be really hot down there if there is no breeze, and I prefer to keep the windows open instead of turning on the air conditioning, so I might play it by ear.

So today is the last day of my two week vacation. It’s been good to be able to turn off the work email, although I did weigh in a couple of times. If I had not taken this time off, I probably would have been tied to this laptop all day every day, because of all the preparations for returning the students to campus for fall semester. Of course, the administration came up with an incredibly complicated way to deal with it, and my personal feeling was that it would have been less confusing to leave it the way it was and let the faculty members handle dividing up the class lectures. Fortunately, my department head told them that I was off for two weeks and that someone in the registrar’s office would need to handle the schedule changes. I need a mental health break and he knew it. As I’ve said many times, I work with an incredible group of people.

Tomorrow I am going to go back to my office for at least a few hours a day, isolated. I need to get back into a routine. Luckily my home is a 15 minute walk away, so I think I can manage this without having to use the public spaces much, such as bathrooms. If I needed to, I could easily do my whole job from home, really. I hope that it doesn’t come to that.

Coronavirus Chronicles, critters, Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina

Lake Waccamaw 2020, Part IV

My sister and I took a few walks beside the canal across the road from the houses on Canal Cove Rd. There are a lot of alligators in the canal these days, but I didn’t see any on the banks beside the road and none of them were huge. The lake residents don’t really think twice about them.

Lisa loves birds. There are many bird feeders around her house, and the variety of birds at Lake Waccamaw is astounding. At night you get to hear all kinds of sounds that I never hear anywhere else.

And my sister absolutely loves cats. Her two cats are like children to her, and they have great personalities, both very, very different. She can take Rascal outside and hold him, and he doesn’t try to get away. He will try to slip out the door, though, so you have to watch out for him. When you pick him up, he melts into your shoulder. Sissy, on the other hand, is tiny and shy. It takes a few days for her to accept you.

She, along with a few others, takes care of a feral cat colony down the road at a cabin that is seldom occupied. It used to host Friday night potlucks on the pier for the community, and a gardener continues to keep the plants blooming all over the pier. Now there are three mother cats and four kittens that we know of. Lisa found a home for one kitten that didn’t seem to belong to the colony, but the others are too wild.

There really is nothing like gaining the trust and friendship of a feral cat.

Coronavirus Chronicles, Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina

Lake Waccamaw 2020, Part III

My sister’s house is a short walk or swim away. They have a beautiful place with their two adorable cats and a pier and a pontoon boat. One morning they pulled up in front of our house to take us for a ride. It was the first time that all thoughts of the pandemic left my mind for a long time.

It rained almost every evening and one storm produced two rainbows. We could see the end of each rainbow. One faintly ended on top of the pier and it is hard to see here but I tried to capture it. It was so close!

The other developed a few minutes later and spanned the sky, ending in the lake past the piers. You could actually see the colors reflected on top of the water. I wonder what is down there?

I thought that the texture of the hard rain hitting the lake was striking, also.