Be Delighted

"Oh my my my my, what an eager little mind!"

Auntie Mame

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Sea of Grass, a Pool of Tears

One day last February I was asked to come to Levelland, about 30 miles away, and give a presentation on Seated Yoga to a ladies club. (It was a delightful group, btw). It's a quiet, calming drive, a straight line through the plains without much variation in topography and lots of open sky. On this day the sky was overcast, the day was chilly, and as I approached the town I saw a farm road off to my right, and along its edges, waves of dried, bleached grasses and winter-dead shrubs. I was ahead of schedule so I took a detour a few feet down the road and got out of my car with my cell phone to take an atmospheric shot, as well as some close up shots of the grasses for inspiration. I worked a little Instagram hocus pocus and came out with these two images.

This isn't the first time I have been captivated with the texture of prairie grasses. A few years ago I painstakingly stitched this image from a photo I had taken on another country road near Wolforrth.

Later, while going through my fox phase I did this painting, which became more about the surroundings than the little sleeping fox.

 So I started out by doing a small painting of the Levelland grasses.

Then I started painting grasses just out of my imagination, in different colour palettes.

It's tricky catching the colour and depth on my cell phone. My daughter will take professional photos later.

Finally I prepped a larger canvas and went back to my original photo for inspiration.

It was met with great enthusiasm on social media. In fact I sold it even before I had added the final coat of varnish.

Which is when the unthinkable happened.
I was indeed adding that final coat of varnish, after having done three layers of glazing to create a warm, radiant effect. This was the same varnish I had used on the other paintings, and many paintings before but.....maybe it was the damp weather and the other glazes hadn't set, but before my eyes, the varnish and the glazes began to frost over then turn into a gelatinous mess. The more I tried to smooth it out the worse it got. I grabbed the painting, ran to the bathroom and began hosing it down in the bath tub, rubbing with a washcloth to get the varnish off before it set. Not only did the varnish and glazes come off but so did flakes of paint from sky and field. It suddenly looked like a 100 year old painting that had been left in the sun. I just stood there paralyzed. Now what?
Well, after the painting dried I took it back into the studio and for three hours tried to salvage it. I had to sand down and completely repaint the sky, painting right over the telephone poles and wires, then painting them back in. I then had to restore the fields, bring the faded colours back, and repaint grasses one by one. It was at least better than sitting in a puddle of tears.
So here is the second version of the painting over the first version. The sky is a bit different as is the left part of the field. Same scene, maybe as it looked ten minutes later, with the clouds shifting and the wind blowing a different direction. I hope I saved it. I hope my blood pressure is back to normal. I don't want to ever do that again so thus far I have re-glazed the surface three times but not added varnish. I am terrified of varnish.

Monday, April 30, 2018

A Stitch in Time

I'm teaching a workshop next month that focuses on the contemplative pleasures of "slow stitching". It's a way of honouring thousands of years of hand sewing, stitching, repairing, embroidering, and embellishing. Many of those women, and sometimes men, did not have the luxury of doing it for pleasure. They either had to patch, repair, and make do with clothing worn year after year, recycling or adjusting clothes for their growing children, or hire themselves out to spend countless hours of work making fine apparel for the very rich. Often considered women's work or domestic skills, the craft and beauty of it has often been overlooked.

A French dress from the 1770's. The sewing machine wasn't invented until 1851.

In a very rushed world, bombarded with audio and visual stimuli, it is very soothing to just sit and feel the texture of cloth beneath your fingers, to savor creating patiently and seeing pattern and texture emerging, to appreciate the history of a garment or piece of fabric and to give it new life and new beauty.

My focus for the workshop will be on the simple running stitch (and a few others), especially as used in Boro and Kantha techniques.

Boro: a repair technique from Japan.

Late 19th century kimono.

Kantha: a repair and repurposing technique from India

Kantha cloth, gently worn and repurposed.

Here are some examples of each, little projects that I created for the workshop but that are slowly developing and growing. Each row of stitching gradually embeds the layers of fabric into each other, adding weight and strength, as well as integrating a variety of disparate pieces into a cohesive whole.

 This traditional hexagon flower was also pieced together by hand before being embedded into a background fabric. I might turn it into a tote bag. With enough dense stitching it should be able to hold a few groceries.
Silk, linen, and cotton fabrics, plus tulle net and a crocheted flower.

The beauty of this technique is that it is as simple and as basic as it can get. Needle, thread, some scraps of cloth, and your own hands. It can go anywhere. In an age of technology where a $5000 sewing machine can do all your work for you (it can do embroidery by pushing a button while you leave the room to get a cup of coffee) there is something satisfying for the soul in making something entirely by hand.
That doesn't mean it can't be combined with machine work. I have often combined both hand and machine stitching in one piece just to get a variety of of textures, lines, and details, and, frankly, it does speed those big projects on to the finish line.

My Heart Skipped a Beat
Almost finished. Some final quilting and binding to get it ready for a show this summer.

Another piece for a show coming up about the colour Red (detail)

  My sources and inspiration are these two books , and also the work of Mandy Patullo, Cas Holmes, and Jude Hill.

Friday, February 2, 2018


I've been making lots of little fabric stuffed hearts lately, because it's close to Valentine's Day and because it's a quick, easy way to create a miniature fiber artwork from leftover fabrics, yarns, abandoned projects, samples of embroidery, crochet, lace, and saved scraps of ribbon.

I love helping other people create and express themselves too, so here's a basic instruction guide for a do it yourself heart using the 'captured threads' technique. If you're not handy with a sewing machine you can do it the old fashioned way with a needle and thread.

First create a simple heart template on paper or cardboard. They are easy to find by Googling free heart patterns or you can fold a piece of paper in half and remember your elementary school skills with a pair of scissors. It doesn't even have to be a perfect, symmetrical heart. I mean, have you looked at a real heart? It's a bit more lumpy, bumpy, but feel free to make your hearts as wonky as you like. My hearts are about 3.5 inches across

For the base on this example I used some leftover fabric from an ice dying workshop I attended, but any commercial fabric will do since for this technique of "thread capture" most of the heart will be covered, anyway, but pick a colour that will please you.

Gather various threads, yarns, slivers of ribbon, even chopped fabric in confetti sized pieces, and drape them across your cut out heart until you like the flow of the textures and colours. I save snipped threads in a jar for just such a purpose.

Cover the whole thing with a piece of tulle net. Try different colours of tulle. I had some dark blue, some pink, and some shimmery bronze. They sell them by the spool in the wedding supplies sections of craft stores. For this pink background the dark blue worked best.

Carefully stitch all around the edge of the heart using a matching colour of thread, either by machine or hand. This traps all the threads under the net. Cut away the excess net and thread all around the heart. Although, in my case, I liked leaving trails of thread floating out one side of the heart.

Cut out another heart for your backing. It can be the same fabric or something wild. Stitch the two hearts together over the other stitching but this time leave a one inch opening on one side of the heart. Use fluffy, soft filling designed for stuffed animals and stuff the heart. It doesn't take much. Make sure you poke the filling to each curve and point but don't overstuff.

After that, just stitch the opening shut and then find a nice bit of silk ribbon or yarn or twine and hand stitch to the back of the heart. I then embellish with sequins, beads or buttons, or even hand embroidery, over the tulle. Just remember to bury the thread back into the heart before snipping it off.  I often finish the edge of the hearts by brushing gold or silver metallic acrylic paint around the rough edges of the hearts. A beautiful finish for frayed edges. And done. Start to finish it takes about 45 minutes to an hour, but you're having so much fun it seems shorter.

I made a gold one too, using this technique, and a starry night, and a fish in the sea.

And if you make a lot of hearts they make a lovely display.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Clio's Texas Adventure

Our son, Ian, brought his girlfriend, Clio, home for Thanksgiving. She is a native New Yorker doing her PhD in Astrophysics at Berkeley, so mainly a coastal person. We decided to bring them to the middle and have a taste of Texas, especially as it's not summer, so therefore not 100 degrees outside.

First they flew to Dallas to spend some time with Andrea and Tina. Art galleries, restaurants, and a sculpture garden.

I don't know what's happening here but apparently they're off to Oz.

Next a rental car to drive to Lubbock. And a photo op with this sculpture somewhere near Throckmorton.

Upon arrival in Lubbock Clio decided to try a Cosmo. I make a good Cosmo.

She brought a card game for us to play, Mystic Vale. Took me a couple of tries to figure the rules, but it's visually a very pretty game. I certainly liked my Moon Wolf card (Moon Moon!)

Ian and Clio take a walk around Tech Terrace Park

                    We ate in. We ate out. Jalisco's, One Guy From Italy, Hayashi, La Sirena. And Ian had to treat Clio to chicken fried steak at the Cast Iron Grill.

                                                  Breakfast at George's with Ian's Nana.

And we all enjoyed a room escape adventure. This time we were breaking out of a science lab with secret documents. (Glenn, Val, Naomi, Chel'C, Isaac, Ian, Clio)

Glenn arranged for Clio to ride a horse on the ranch of a friend, LaGina Ledbetter, who lives outside Levelland. Clio had had some horseback training when younger so she wasn't a complete newbie.

                                                      Putting Chance through his paces.

Riding Poco

                 A day trip to Paladuro Canyon, two hours north. It was a great day for hiking

                                      As we left the park this fine lady wished us happy trails.