Thursday, December 31, 2009

indigo moon

indigo moon, blue moon, indigo thread (a gift), spun lokta, needle woven in the dark as it's snowing (finally) today. i've been at this blogging thing for over a month. my new year seems to happen around my birthday and then winter solstice is my winter holy day, but this new year is auspicious indeed. may you be well and happy. and indigo. even if your moon is a nine patch this time. 

--a quirky take on homespun, ninepatch, a square, for jude. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

leaf book

it's very cold today, zero degrees with wind. a little bit of new snow blew around in the night. my toes are cold, and my head fuzzy from lack of sleep. even after the deep physical pleasure of yoga last evening, i did not sleep well. was it the wind, worries about money, or the full blue moon waxing? doesn't matter. 

i have long examined my own drawing, notes, journaling, for many reasons. i have gone on long-time hiatuses from journaling. and i teach journaling to my students. (i teach ELA in an alternative GED program for high school kids). i am following the journals of several artists online, and am very interested in how we record our stories, why we record them, and what it's all about. for now i just want to mention this, i intend to return to it from time to time. the little shifu books are all journals of a sort. they each record a story, and they all trace themselves back to one of my first books, a narrative printed and painted concertina book called no songs but crickets. i made it in 1995 and it was one of those "organic" things, it just happened. very few other books happen that way, but if you are ever on the receiving end of this kind of grace you know it. usually, it's just work. good or hard, but work. crickets was play instead. 

people who make visual journals for whatever reason fascinate me, or rather, the journals themselves, as objects, artifacts. why this is isn't important to me at this point. that it happens, is. these students of mine don't like to write. they have voices, stories, visions and dreams, but mostly as special education students their stories have been silenced or changed by some adult. and so i require them to write in their journals, and i teach them ways to make art in them, and they do. their journals become objects of importance to them, too. 

what IS it about a visual narrative? a story? 

Sunday, December 27, 2009

a pond from a meadow

today i found this where i used to go to harvest basswood. in the warm sunshine, the freezing pond was thawing instead. just up from this spot is the dam, and feeding this is a running stream where the dairy farmer who used to farm this place had his dump. we know that because we have found lots of treasure there, toy guns, bottles, broken crockery.

it was a brilliant day, warm and a bit breezy. wendy kept closer than usual, even got kicked inadvertently a couple of times. the reason: people shooting guns in the neighborhood. she hates guns, thunder, airplanes.

rock sandwich. boulder book. way too big for me to pry apart. but nature is. a good walk.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

ideas in the ethers

after reading a bit about the whole concept of sharing ideas, teaching, attribution, etc, i thought i'd just write a little bit. my last post was all about a dye process that i've been messing around with for over thirty years. but a bit of it is new, and originated in the marvelous work of india flint. india wraps up her dyestuff and textiles into bundles, and steams them, creating ecoprints. what i have borrowed from her in this project is this: using a mixture of dyestuff and mordanting stuff, and reusing, in this case vinegar from the pickles and the found metal bits and the old cloth. but i have been doing this sort of thing all along. my textiles teacher in college, nancy belfer, and other teachers and mentors like trudy van stralen, dorothy miller, mary ann mckeller schwartz, and rita buchanan have also directly taught me dye techniques, and inspired me by their mindful ways of working. i acknowledge their influence on me, as well ideas and instruction from friends or mentors in conversation or workshops: carol blinn, mark mcmurray, shanna leino, aimee lee, chela metzgar. this is the short list! it is my hope that i take what i have learned, assimilate it into my brain, and what emerges is my own "stuff". 

above is a page from my magic lilies artists' book. it includes bits i've learned from: mrs. belfer, trudy, dorothy, mary ann, carol, chela, and sally smith, who taught me to sew books on tapes. carol taught me to dye vellum and she learned it from a colleague. i dyed the silk of the page with a bit of "black raspberry ink" my son ian and his friend nate left for years in my fridge. one tiny book, many influences. my friend darr's recognition that the verdant leaves in my spring garden would die away and in august lilies would appear. he called them magic lilies. he was right.

magic lilies, artists' book: shifu and silk pages, natural and synthetic dyes, natural and dyed vellum, drawing, waxed linen, vellum button. 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 x 5/8 inches

Thursday, December 24, 2009


peace to you and joy and love all around. may you have at least one moment tonight of perfection.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

first ski

i started a blog entry this morning but decided to wait until later today. it was snowing. alot. and i had hopes of skiing. so did wendy, aka "snowbeard". border collie+snow=delight. i skied on my old scaly, rock skis, the one that have no camber and are slow, but the snow was shallow and the trail torn up. the meadow at my place is too overgrown to ski on yet.

so we skied. no hobbits or hobos around. this little shed has big roof holes now. 

i love skiing on easy trails early in the season. this one is close to home, fairly flat, with lovely trees. the trail is used by students and community people. and it is dearly loved.

wendy stays away from open water.

and widowmakers. after an hour, one fall, several rests (i am out of shape), we went into town for a little shopping and then home. a short ski, maybe two miles. but i am flying. this is what i do to keep away the darkness. outdoors.

this is what i do to keep away the darkness. indoors. spun (twisted) lokta.

peace on earth. goodwill. i really don't think we humans mean it. but i wish you peace, your family, too. i know that it's a transitory thing. but it is something to practice. christmas, our north country holiday, is for me these days surpassed by solstice. but i'll take it. and will ask for more snow. for happiness, for fun, for fertilizer (poor man's fertilizer), and to help quieten things some. and to remind the kids to play.

Monday, December 21, 2009

shortest day, longest night

it's upon us now. i asked my students to reflect on their year today, to journal about it, to think about what it would be like to not know if the light would return. do we even believe now? the clear cold weather is stunning, but we have little snow, out back there is a little bit more than by this grandmother maple who dominates the backyard. early dark, long night, late sunrise now begins to ease. welcome!

i don't expect that christmas holiday will be stressful or difficult or big, we live quite simply. there is a small tree with a few lights and ornaments that the visiting puppy will probably have to wrestle a bit with. we have some discord and sickness in the extended family, don't all families? we have some traditions and some friends we'll see, some eating and drinking to enjoy, and some hiking or (hopefully) skiing into the adirondacks to energize our out of shape muscles. i wish you all moments to share with people who mean much to you, time outside, and time off to make or do or be exactly what you need this holiday time. 

Sunday, December 20, 2009


moving toward solstice.

this time of year is a challenge for me, keeping my soul encouraged that the sun will begin to show up a few more and more minutes until i actually perceive lengthening days again. today's clear coldness was lovely before dark, and i went out back walking to fend off the dusk.

i was nourished by the frigid weather. there was so much lovely, thin sunlight, just leaving the meadow. back home hannah worked, my son ian won't make it back east this year. again.

i will write, i promise, soon about shifu. just now, i need to be facing the dark, welcoming the sun. i have one christmas present under the tree... a present to open on christmas morning. we will be celebrating small, smaller than usual, even. that's how it is. love and family and friends and dogs and snow.

if you look carefully, you will see a face, a promise, a miracle. maybe two. maybe more.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


i looked for shifu books, and i only found a couple very yellow, poor quality pics. i'll try to get some more soon. i lost a bunch of photos when my old computer, a hand-me-down, decided to die. i'm gradually finding out how much was lost. this one is traditional limp vellum or stationers binding, sewn on tapes and laced into the cover. the poem is handwritten on vellum "tipped" in with endpages that are dyed with hollyhock. silk stitching, vellum button. one dyed silk page, too. the natural vellum color is seen in the tapes.

magic lilies appear in my spring garden with lavish leaves that flourish, then disappear. in august, several pale mauve flowers appear on long stalks. my old riding (hacking, bridget!) friend darr told me about them, and warned me they would be coming, and he was right. last summer, i celebrated their dance by the stone wall, thinking of darr, the days (and days) we rode our mares together, the changes he always pointed out in my garden. this vellum book is number three of a small series i made last year. one lives at st. lawrence university special collections, the other two will, i hope, be exhibited this coming year. if i'm lucky.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

shifu books

tomorrow i'll try to put up some pictures of shifu books. here's a taste:

it's snowing and supposed to get cold tonight. i don't think we're going to get enough snow to ski, but perhaps. i know many kids wishing for a snow day. when i let out wendy, my border collie, she rolls in the little snow we have, reveling. sometimes she redefines happiness.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


you guys reading this are terrific. i mention a little experiment and there's much enthusiasm, so i get my lazy butt in gear and try to get some work done. so. 

i looked around my work table (the one in my dining room) and just above (behind) the exacto knife blades is the stack of pages for the august book. they are resting in a piece of thick dyed vellum, now measured and being looked at for binding. i will sew them together on supports, which i will lace through the vellum OR make tackets. 

and i took a stack of maybe five shifu pieces to dye with hollyhock, rusty steel, onion skins, and vinegar (leftover from claussen pickles) and put them on the woodstove to stew. they are cooled down now and will stew for a couple of weeks, give or take. 

the stewpot is very boring, visually, but i bring you the little ends of japanese paper given to me by carol blinn, off cuts from a warwick press project. they are now small threads for the next weaving.

though i got home rather late from work, i decided to take my border collie wendy out for a good walk. after taking my class to the climbing wall at SUNY, i thought it would stretch out my kinked up muscles a bit. chilly and snowy, murky, but outside!

Monday, December 14, 2009

dye job

jude asked me about coloring shifu using india flint's eco printing process. this is a page of the in-process book "august". every day last august i "did something" to a shifu square, the result is 31 pages not yet bound. it's particularly uneven weaving is nicely matched by the three colors from dyeing. i used a couple of red hollyhock spent blossoms, a little piece of rusty steel, and pressed them in a vinegar bath for several days. i rinsed and dried outdoors.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


robyn gordon over at art propelled has included my banner photo in her blog about Xes. very nifty, and thanks robyn! 

rainy shifu sunday

i've been weaving today, and finished off a short piece of shifu. i wanted to see how much shrinkage to anticipate. this piece measured 11 1/2 x 18 5/8 inches before washing. i washed it once with hot water and ivory detergent, rinsed and dried. once dry i noticed i'd pulled on the selvages so it was stretched to very different widths as it dried. this is good to know since pressing it out again with steam will probably affect the size. i just want to know how the lokta and cotton behave. the lokta is somewhat overspun, so there's naturally a lot of energy in the web.  

the hand changed and the cotton warp "expanded" and fluffed. dried, the size is 9 3/4 x 17 3/8 inches. a substantial shrinkage. there is alot of energy in this piece, and i am wondering what i'll do with it next. i think i'll look around for some dye that needs to be used, there are dried flowers and bloodroot in the freezer, and black walnut dye in the mill.

i've always loved energetic fabric, and it looks like i've actually managed it in paper. of course my unintentional overspinning is the reason, but i'm going with it. i'm imagining printing letterpress on this, but i may have to iron it first. what if i dye, iron, print, then wash?

spun paper and inner slippery elm bark

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