art, Back Forty, Bagstories, coffee pot posts, fiber art, Slow cloth, tapestry, Tapestry Diary 2018, Upcycling, weaving

Saturday morning coffee pot post

I’m sure that most people in the world would rather be doing something else full-time than what they do to earn a paycheck. I am grateful for and appreciate my job very much, not in the least part because I have had some really shitty jobs in the past and worked with some awful people, and my job is wonderful compared to them. I know what a good thing is because I’ve experienced the bad. But I’m going through a period when I ache to be in this studio, weaving or stitching. I alternate between being fearful and anticipatory about my retirement, which, if I’m lucky, is ten years away. I want to leave this country, this state, this city, and then I think that I could be happy here for the rest of my life if I could only ignore politics.

Greensboro is a great small city, really. It’s just that I haven’t lived anywhere else but here and Marietta.

Okay, so this week was very stressful and it wasn’t supposed to be. By the end it all calmed down but only because we all needed to make mind adjustments. Everybody’s stress was rubbing off on everybody else and once we all saw it, we could acknowledge it and work on it. I’m not going to talk any more about work here but I need the artwork more than ever. Stitching on this boro fabric is particularly good for lowering the blood pressure:

Midweek, I stopped on my walk to work to look around when my crow friends were behaving oddly. Sure enough, there was the red-tailed hawk in the tree nearby. The crows were flying around him.

He flew away to the top of the art building, when I noticed his mate was perched nearby. She joined him, and the crows continued to hassle him. I was excited because I had not seen the female before. The male flew away and the crows followed, then he returned and everything seemed peaceful. I put my camera away. Then he hopped on the female and mated! I got to see two hawks getting it on! No photo, it was over quickly when the crows came back to annoy them.

I tried to capture the hawk in my tapestry diary this week. I am a bit frustrated with the limits that I set for this project sometimes, although I think that they are good ones. Using just the cotton and linen thrums on an 8 epi warp and a daily format across the frame for each week is starting to feel a bit oppressive. I think that it is a good exercise, but if it was a closer warp and I used wool, I could weave some beautiful images. This is a bit like weaving emojis from the 90s. However, this is not supposed to be a work of art, it is supposed to keep me weaving on a regular basis, try out a few ideas, and use up these thrums that would otherwise be used for ties or take up space or be thrown in the garbage or compost pile.

One way for me to get through this busy time of the semester at work is to consider all the lovely plans ahead of me. I will be taking online classes from both Jude Hill and India Flint. In May, I’m going to the Tapestry Weavers South retreat on St. Simons Island in Georgia. That’s an area where I’ve never been. It is possible but doubtful that I’ll go to Tommye Scanlin’s tapestry class at John C. Campbell Folk School the week of Memorial Day. The last I checked I was third on the wait list. Susanne and I are going to Leslie Marsh’s Chinese thread book workshop at Topsail Beach one weekend in mid-June. Mid-July, we are spending a week at Lake Waccamaw and my cousin and aunt from Colorado are coming to join us. Then in September, the plan is to take a week to see Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. That’s what the tax return will go to, most likely.

Really, I have such a good life.

Lenten roses are loving the front yard, and the grape hyacinths that I transplanted last year are beginning to peep up. I’ll plant some peas today before the rain begins again.

art, Bagstories, fiber art, Slow cloth, tapestry, Tapestry Diary 2018, Upcycling, weaving

Rebel stitching

Have you seen this new phrase? I like it. Rebel stitching. Not following the rules. It is what brought joy back to my interest in sewing. I’ve been fascinated with sewing all my life. My mother was an excellent seamstress and sewed a lot of my clothes until I reached the age of balking at wearing home-sewn. You know how teenagers are. I appreciated it later in my 20s, but by then I had given up on learning to sew properly. By that time, other than sewing me a dress and my niece’s bridesmaid dress, she turned to quilting.

I inherited a huge amount of fabric from her. Much of it I gave to an art project at Greensboro College and to Reconsidered Goods, but I have a lot stashed away that I can’t bear to part with yet.

I was a theater major my first go-round in college. By my senior year I knew that I didn’t want to be a high school drama teacher. My advisor told me that I was too opinionated to teach high school and should shoot for community college! Seriously! Ha, it was like listening to my mother. “So OPINIONATED!!!” What a word. But I am, and that’s fine.

I realized that it was insane to continue in the education program, and although I might have been a good director, I hated dealing with the egos of my fellow acting students, and I had no chance at all to be an actor or the skills to be a techie. So I set my sights on simply getting that diploma and working in the costume shop.

We had sewing lessons in costume shop and it was graded for credit. Soon I was relegated to the simplest tasks for the shows, such as simple hems and ironing muslin. Boy, did I iron a lot of muslin. I have always hated ironing. I worked backstage with the costume changes and the laundry. But I loved the costume shop supervisor, Ella, who was gentle and kind.

I loved gleaning the scraps from the trashcans and stitching them together by hand at home. There were so many different textures and brilliant colors. I sewed them together in patchwork squares, not paying much attention to whether they “went together” or were of the same weight or stretchiness. It was a kind of therapy for me, I guess. Many years later I dug those squares out and they were quite hideous! Most of them ended up going inside and cut up on the top of my Magic Cloth piece, “The Flag of Me”, that I did in one of Jude Hill’s classes. Funny that I can’t find a photo of the finished flag. I’ll do that soon.

Near the end of my last semester, the costume designer professor handed me a bolt of fabric and told me to cut it into three-foot lengths. I thought this was odd and asked her to repeat herself, and she did. She left, and I cut the entire bolt into three-foot lengths. She came back and had a meltdown in the middle of the room full of my classmates. “I said three-yard lengths! How could you be so stupid!” and out she stormed. I gathered my things and slithered out the door, and did not return until after the final test when I caught Ella alone in the costume shop. She treated me with warm sympathy, allowed me to take the written test, and passed me with an A. God, I love her still. I’m sure that she has passed from this world by now and if there is a heaven she is there.

Anyway, that “How could you be so stupid!” rang in my ears for decades. It still does when I see this professor on campus.

But I don’t feel stupid about sewing any more. I revel in it. If I mess up, I might get a little frustrated, but that is toward the sewing machine, not myself. I love to hand stitch whenever I am able to do it.

Who broke me out of that mind-fuck? It was Jude Hill. And a little later, India Flint, who I am doing the Bagstories online group with, and the next project, which is to sew a piece of boro fabric with the little pieces left over from my Wanderbeutel bag. Really, I cannot express enough how much joy these two teachers released when they gave me permission to follow my instincts with stitch. I saw that I was the one that had denied myself this “permission” all these years, and now I am free.

It spilled over into my tapestry work, too. Here’s the end of the tapestry diary for the week.

I like using things that would be thrown away. That’s why I chose the leftover cotton and linen thrums to weave this diary. Next year, I’ll probably use wool.

book arts, coffee pot posts, tapestry, Tapestry Diary 2018, Upcycling, weaving

Sunday morning coffee pot post

This time, with a full pot of coffee! Who knows where this might go?

Yesterday I made a sudden decision to get my hair cut. Nothing drastic, just what Mr. Robert at Leon’s Beauty School describes as “my annual shearing.” I love Mr. Robert. Anyway, it looks healthier and bouncier and it will probably get curlier again because the weight is off. However, when I looked in the mirror this morning my first thought was of Snape looking back at me.

Since I adore Alan Rickman, I suppose that is not altogether bad. I won’t dye it black, though. Maybe this summer I’ll do a wild color rinse. I’ve wanted to do that for a while.

I need to lay off the electronics late at night. This is an addiction that has to be addressed immediately. Even melatonin is not working for me. Last night around 1 a.m. I gave up and finished “The Loving Cup” by Winston Graham, the tenth in the Poldark series. Then I went to my bookshelf with the intention of choosing something less fluffy, and picked up “Tropic of Cancer” by Henry Miller. I bought it because I knew it had been banned for decades and it was the number one bestseller the year I was born. But after the first dozen pages, I realized that I am not wasting time on it. I hated it. I flipped through it for another thirty minutes, reading excerpts here and there. It will go into the stack to sell to the used book store.

The antidote to this is that I am also reading “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert, but small bits at a time. All right, I’ll confess – it is my bathroom book. I want to keep a novel in the currently reading list, so taking a cue from “Big Magic” I’m going to read Ann Patchett’s “Run” next. As I finish novels, they are going to the used book store or the Little Free Library down the street. There are a few that I will always hang on to, like my Lee Smith, Joseph Mitchell, and Wendell Berry books. And any autographed books. But the book purge is going to happen and happen big. I already donated eight books on book and paper arts to the Triangle Book Arts member library.

I caught up on my tapestry diary for the week, weaving most of it yesterday. I thought that the rough brown yarn in the middle would be interesting to weave with, but it ended up falling apart as I wove. I think it may have been jute. So the rest of that will go in the paper bits bin for the next papermaking session. I hope that I’ll get to a little of that this year.

I have work in two shows right now – a first for me! “98% Water” is currently in “A Strand, A Shape, A Story,” the Tapestry Weavers South exhibit at the Folk Arts Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, North Carolina. I have two books, “First, the Seed” and “Flow” in the Triangle Book Arts show “Re(f)use” in Artspace in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Flow” is hanging as part of a collaborative work led by Barbara Livingston, and it is definitely my favorite of the two books I submitted. I will photograph it when I visit the show. Both shows are incredible, and the book arts show will twist your head about what a book can be. Opening reception for Re(f)use is on Friday, Feb. 2. I don’t know if I’m going yet. Feeling a bit shy and a lot agoraphobic about it.

Okay, time to get to work in the studio.

consumerism, Upcycling, voluntary simplicity

The Year of Going Deeper

A lot of articles and posts came out in the past few years about people who have decided to drastically cut spending for a year. Pledges have run the gamut of the obsessive compulsive buy absolutely nothing, create no waste, grow all food and barter plans to more moderate plans to cut down and purge. And then, of course, there are those whose poverty leaves them no choice.

I became an advocate of voluntary simplicity in the late 80s, when I really couldn’t afford much extra anyway. For several years I wove on frame looms (still do) with rags and bought the cheapest yarn I could find at yarn outlets. I crocheted a lot. I worked at a bookstore that carried a lot of remainders and I was able buy samples from book buyers very cheaply and so book buying was my biggest addiction. When I came into a small inheritance from my aunt I spent it on a Harrisville floor loom kit, which I got at a wholesale price from a friend who had a weaving supply store.

We didn’t travel much or far. Both of us had low-wage jobs that gave little vacation time and no sick time at all. We would toss a tent and the dog in the back of our little pick-up truck on the rare weekend we had off at the same time, decided what direction to head, and went that way. We went to Lake Waccamaw a lot because it was free.

My life has accumulated a lot of stuff since those days, as we both got better, more stable jobs, a small house, and we absorbed the belongings of our parents that we couldn’t bear to part with. The book addiction is deeply rooted in both of us. I LOVE COLLECTING BOOKS of ALL kinds. Novels, art books, old musty books with Art Nouveau covers, dictionaries, encyclopedias, nature books, old textbooks, secretarial manuals…it’s bad in my house. The hoarding is bad. Bad, even though I regularly purge these books boxes at a time. At one time I justified it as wanting to open a used book store one day. I sold books on Amazon for a few years. Now I justify the hoarding as supplies for my book/mixed media/collage creations.

So this year, no purchasing of books or art supplies or knick-knacks that we do not need. I like the way David, the author of Go Deeper, Not Wider, approaches this idea. It puts a positive spin on using what we already have to enrich our lives. I’m not going without, I’m going deeper.

It’s already hard for me. I see a recommendation for a magazine, or a particular kind of scissors, and I look it up online. I know that if I buy an e-book or digital issue of a magazine it will most likely be forgotten without reading it. That has been proven. Online classes are bought and abandoned halfway through or sooner than that.

However, I mentioned that I bought the Blurb PDF of India Flint’s “Bagstories” and I have joined the private Facebook group where she is going to guide the buyers of her wee book in a project. This, so far, has already been worth the price for the connections I’ve made to other North Carolina artists on the Facebook group! This fabric may be a tad too stretchy for the bag projects, but I finally sacrificed my batik pants from the late 80s/early 90s that I loved so much and started cutting them up to reinvent them for a new use. I’ve almost finished measuring the warp for that rag rug project I began several years ago.

I’ve hoarded fabrics the way I’ve hoarded books – it’s time to go deeper into them as well.

art, book arts, collage, Upcycling

Flow


I finished the insides of the panels for the Flow book today. Tomorrow I will finish the back sides, which will be much simpler. I messed around with laying them on the floor and switching them around to make them “flow” better. I can already see what I will change in the process for the next book, but I’m going to finish this one and send it off.

When it hangs it needs to be ten feet long so I’ll have to do math tomorrow!

book arts, cloth weaving, depression/anxiety, papermaking, Slow cloth, Upcycling

Saint Patrick’s Day


Thinking about Ireland. Aching for it. I wish that I had the courage to throw everything to the wind and take a chance on trying to move there. Like, NOW. This is a photo that I took on the Burren in May, 2012.

Since I last wrote, spring came and then left.

When this weather system came roaring through, I had cluster migraines all day. I always feel concerned for the farmers when we have these false springs.

I read “Long Quiet Highway” by Natalie Goldberg this past week. It was time for me to read something about Buddhism. Do you ever wish that you could get back a feeling that you treasured and you don’t understand why you can’t? I don’t understand why I don’t care about certain things that I once cared about. It occurred to me months ago that maybe I should get out one of my many books on Buddhism or mindfulness or simplicity but I didn’t care enough to do it until this past week. I want to care. I want to care about cooking and gardening and even watching TV and movies again. I want to feel present again. I guess this is depression. I feel so lazy and blah. Anyway, Natalie’s book is excellent and it stirred something up that needed to surface. Let’s see if I can get moving forward.

The book also made me want to go to New Mexico. I think that Sandy and I will go there in September, if we have the money.

I meant to go see Natalie at her stop at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro on Sunday, but I started making a book and that took me into a time warp and I forgot.

It was the first book I have made in many moons. I didn’t have a real plan. My sewing machine was in the shop and so I got out the denim paper that I made last spring and a piece of the recycled denim woven cloth to make a cover. A couple of scraps of old pajama pants decorate the front. This one is for me to experiment with stitching on paper. The paper is very soft so if I make another book with it I will need to reinforce the signatures where the pages are folded and stitched to the cover.

I just picked up my sewing machine and I look forward to some frustration-free sewing this weekend.

cloth weaving, critters, political activism, Slow cloth, Upcycling, weaving

Disengaged

I guess it was inevitable that I would get burned out on outrage. I’m still keeping up with news until I get my mojo back though. Another bad cold did not help matters, but I got over this one fairly quickly. The next major political action I intend to take is the People’s Climate Mobilization in D.C. on April 29, 2017. I’m taking Amtrak up there early in the morning and a friend will meet me there, then I’m coming back on Amtrak late that afternoon. No overnight stay this time.


Work is busy, and a lot seems to be going on at high levels behind the scenes, which is disturbing for us who actually implement the policies. I’m grateful for my job, and I love my work. I hope that I will be able to keep it until I am at least 60 years old, when I will be able to receive most of my state pension if I leave the university. I would like to retire there, but not if I am not in the same department, which is one of the best places to work in the university. Unfortunately a lot depends on state politics here.

Craving studio time. Weekends are the only time I’ve made it over here so far this year. Right now I am weaving together more subtle checkerboard squares to mount shirt pockets on, for the blanket. Also I’m sewing random bits together to make new cloth, with no real plan on how to use them. Maybe they will go on the back of the blanket. It is curious that my passion has moved to sewing, considering the mental blocks I had to overcome. I wish very much that I could sew by hand, but at some point I accepted that my tendinitis is just not going to allow it except in very small amounts.

My problem is definitely not artist’s block now. It is time management and energy flow. I have a billion ideas. I want to get back to making paper and books again. And plant my garden. And plant a garden here at the studio house. Too many things!!!

The weather was beautiful week before last and I moved the Shannock loom out to the front porch for one day. Looking forward to weaving on the porch more often now that I have it screened with a ceiling fan and electricity. Susanne, Marianne, and I enjoyed the porch at the studio house too.

Registration for Focus on Book Arts opens tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. PST. Susanne and I definitely plan to go, and I think that Judy will come for part of it. This will be our third time going to this conference at Pacific University in Forest Grove. We’ll stay on campus because neither of us will have a lot of spare cash since we both are going to Europe on separate trips this spring. I have a voucher from Southwest from volunteering to give up my seat last September that will pay for my airfare or I wouldn’t even be able to consider it. The dilemma is what class(es) to take during the first three days? I know that I want Leighanna Light’s class on the weekend. I had thought to take a more technical class on leather binding for the first three days, but my heart says no. I thought about Jill Berry’s class, but I’d like to take at least one class from someone I haven’t studied (or played, depending on how you look at it!) with before. Now I’m thinking about the Chinese thread book class. That seems interesting.

Now, for your amusement, this is Diego versus the rug. Trust me, it went on much, much longer than these few seconds.

I guess the rug won this round.

fiber art, Slow cloth, Upcycling

Sewing in the new studio

As you know, I’m enjoying my new studio. I spent a good part of every day of my Christmas break from work there. It was hard to let go of that routine. From now on it will have to be on weeknights and weekends, although I will have to carve out time to do the stuff that needs to be done at home too, I suppose.

It helps to have a great studio-mate!

Looks like we have a big snowstorm bearing down on us tonight so I’m going to try to scoot by there and pick up a few items to work on at home. There are some pieces that I want to hand stitch on.

We’ll have plenty of firewood, although most of this needs to cure to use next winter. No problem, we have lots of old wood in the back since the last two winters were so mild.

The travel t-shirt quilt layout is basically this:

Now I’m stitching together strips of cloth and triangles to have a pile of this “filler” material to choose from to put in between the t-shirt pieces. I hung a sheet from a piece of wooden moulding for my design wall and I fiddle around with pinning pieces up and moving them around.

I’ve spent more than half of the last month sick with two different bad colds. I don’t recommend it as a diet plan, but I did lose five pounds. You have to take the positive where you can get it these days.

critters, Upcycling, whatever

T-shirt Upcycling and Life

Just some photos from the last few days

^^^The Lyle Lovett collection, well loved

^^^This one was in absolute tatters

^^^Pablocito actually was taking a bath in the tub, but he wouldn’t do it after I got the camera.

^^^Theo doesn’t like the camera either, which is a damned shame since he’s so handsome.

^^^Anybody want some big chunks of beautiful maple?


^^^Proof that I wasn’t a total humbug this Christmas

Blather, fiber art, Quilting, Slow cloth, Studio talk, Upcycling

Happy Kwanzaa and Boxing Day!

Well, I’m about holidayed out and I haven’t even celebrated much of anything! That’s typical for me, though. I started losing my holiday spirit when I worked in retail and then the many years of Christmas without my father and now my mother pretty much did it in. If I had chosen to have children, I’m sure it would have been different. I’m grateful that I’m in a place and time in my life where my friends and family understand and don’t judge or try to force me to be merry.

This Christmas we had my brother-in-law over for dinner on Christmas Eve and then watched westerns and A Christmas Story on Christmas Day by ourselves. We had a couple of good meals, one of which was collaborative between Sandy and me and it ended up much better than I would have ever guessed, but also may not ever be able to be replicated! It was linguine with shrimp and smoked beef kielbasa from the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market, along with broccoli, red peppers, onions, garlic, olive oil, lime juice, and feta cheese. Then yesterday I slow cooked a small pastured pork picnic ham in my crock pot with sweet potatoes, red potatoes, apple juice, water, liquid smoke, and Worcestershire sauce. I cooked it just a tad too long but it was still tender and tasty. I foresee more barbecue in the future. (In North Carolina, barbecue is a noun and it refers only to pork. We do not barbecue. We cook or grill out.)

Right now I am at my studio on Wharton St. where I am working on ironing a light interfacing to the backs of old t-shirt logos and designs in preparation for a t-shirt quilt. I’m taking an online Craftsy class from Winnie Fleming called “The Ultimate T-Shirt Quilt.” (Today classes on Craftsy are less than $20, not affiliated, just sayin’.) So far it is perfect for me – I needed something to kick me into action that would be fun and not too taxing on my brain. Although I donated several of my better t-shirts to charity in my purges this past year, I saved some of my favorite for a project like this. Many of them are twenty years old and very worn out. I’m going to either draw, paint, or stitch over the designs that are worn out.

A little later Sandy and I are going to see Arrival at the movie theater. It’s hard to get me to go to a theater because I don’t like sitting in a crowd. But I like to see a sci-fi film on the big screen and Sandy loves loves loves going to the movies.

Then I’ll have the rest of the week all to myself when Sandy goes back to work. I’ll try to get over here in the morning and spend most of each day here, except for tomorrow when I need to get the painting around the front porch door finished so Sandy can hang the door back up.

It will feel a little like retirement!