Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Poco a Poco

I leave for the airport to welcome my house guest at 6 pm. Until then I am making a mad dash between cleaning, hooking, planning, anticipating. This is what the rug looks like as of noon. I think I've figured out that one of my faux pas was using rug weight wool. Much too heavy and difficult to pull through the backing. But it is really beautiful too so I am living with it. Ok, that's it. Lights out until Sunday.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Time Out at the Lake House

On Thursday Katie, Diane and I packed up our cars with art supplies, warm beach clothes and food and made the journey to Diane's wonderful house on-the-lake by-the-sea. We had every kind of weather and stayed until Sunday afternoon. We visited an inspiring gallery, ate mexican food, drank wine, shopped and made art. We stayed up until after 3 am most nights sealing our friendships with stories, dreams, future plans and hot ideas. We laughed until our guts hurt and danced until one of us (ahem) might have broken a toe. It was good; a time out of time. We are home now, all of us exhausted and yet full of great ideas for new experimentation in our work. We shared all our secrets.

The water you see outside this window is the lake. We woke up to the sounds of ducks and geese on the water and in the yard. The wind blew and the rain came down. We stood on the dock and froze our butts off, then ran laughing back into the cozy house. We drank a lot of good wine and ate all the chocolate. Diane made us matzo ball soup. It kept us warm and nourished for the late night sessions.

Diane and I worked on journal pages while Katie painted her layered and intense images that she will take to Artfest. We shared our supplies (okay, I was a little touchy about my brushes) and I personally raided Katie's collage box for great stuff. Katie be so generous.

Diane has a much better scan of this layout when it was finished. This is a beginning stage but I think pretty as it shows lots of color. Diane drew the image and then we both put watercolor on it. All three of us contributed to the writing.

Here we are on the very windy and cold dock. This was during the 3 minutes of sunshine that day but the wind was bitterly cold. No skinny dipping today.

Diane says that this summer we can kayak on the quiet lake. That sounds so peaceful and good.

Somebody had a birthday and the other two somebodies brought her a stack of wonderful gifts wrapped in this pretty pink tissue with the lollipop paper flower on top. Surprise. Blushing gratitude. The singing of the birthday song. A complete loss for words to describe the love, the attention to detail, the goodness of these friends. Like a sacramental blessing. Inside: Victorian birds, flowers, candles, aromatic pumice, a tea towel, stationary, collage paper.

The recipient feels humbled. Thank you. Thank you por todo.

We also shared a project of altering a big reproduction of the Venus deMilo that was in the lake house. I estimate the size at 16x42". Here are shots of 4 stages of her transformation. By the time we were finished there was nothing left of the original image. All of us added to and covered over what the previous one had done. Lots of laughter as we made the goofy parts. I recommend this to all artists; a process called exquisite corpse. So here is our gal.

Just a few tentative dibs and dabs to get the thing started. At first you hardly know where to start but soon the process picks up steam.

Katie sent her to the manicure parlor where she got her nails done. I think she is blowing them dry in the 2nd photo.

I think Diane toned down the background here and then everything went blurry for me. It took on a life of its own as we traded spots and kept going.

This is our finished lady. We painted her a frame and hung her on the wall and agreed that each time we meet we will do another one until each of us has a big painting that we have all contributed to. This looks like none of our styles and all of our styles; it is like the joy that emerges where our 3 personalities come together. More than the sum of our parts if you know what I mean. We get along wonderfully. Halleluia!

There will be more in time I think about our weekend and more from Katie too when she gets caught up (both of us having house guests this week) but for now I'll just say that it was fun to share our gathering with you and I hope we've inspired others of you to gather with your friends and try to have a little time off to laugh and break out of your routine. Our lives are so demanding that it is a slice of heaven to have a retreat and a rest now and then.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Face

Yesterday and today I hooked her face, hair and the flower above. I so long to continue but I am making myself stop after only several hours. Trying to use all my ergonomic knowledge to take care of my hands. I think the cow painting is done too but want to stare at it a little longer before I share. Sometimes I don't see it all immediately after finishing; I like to look at it under different lighting conditions (at different times of the day) and kind of sneak up on it and catch myself by surprise in looking at it. That way I see it afresh and any weirdness pops out. You definitely don't want to see my weirdness.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Checking In

Gosh, I feel guilty about not having more to share. How and when did that happen? At any rate, I've been sidelined by taxes and other nuts and bolts activities; all the things I'd classify as the drudgery end of being a working artist. Others have written about how much time they spend on these uninspiring activities so I wont get into that. Anymore I try to do as little of those things as possible. I just want to have the fun stuff; after being a mom and a worker bee I think it is finally time for me to play.

There are new calves in the field across the lane that are so innocent and untutored that they walk right up to you with trust and sweet expressions on their faces. I confess that they have stolen my heart. So today I am painting a big canvas of a cow with a placid demeanor; wish me luck. You'll see it in a day or two.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Inch by Inch

This is my Sistine Ceiling. In the sense that I have tethered myself to a project that is asking for weeks and months of my life. I have seen much larger rugs than mine in books and online. How in the name of all that is holy did those hookers ever do it? I respect and admire them even more now that I am staring at what seems like acres of territory to fill. Argghhhhh . . . . . . .

Friday, February 09, 2007

Day Off

For several days now I've been comatose under my rug hooking project and I've only come out of my trance today because my over-used body has demanded it. Five years ago I had carpal tunnel surgery and the memory of all that has taught me not to push my body too hard. So reluctantly I have put the hook down (it is a Joan Moshimer hook for all of you in the know and I love it) and today I will clean up the big wooly mess in the studio and maybe start a painting. I've posted 3 photos for you of the progress; there is nothing fast or rhythmic about putting in the stitches for me - I would be interested to hear from anyone who has had an easier time of it.

You are looking at 4 days worth of hooking here - probably at least each day in excess of 8 hours. It is crazy, I know, to work at it so determinedly, but that is how I go about everything. I once spent 30 days straight hand quilting a bed quilt until I had every bit of it done. I found that soothing.

So this is how the rug is going to look until my hand feels better. I may have to hide it somewhere because every time I look at it I want to work on it some more. No no no.

Here is a little bit of what's going on outside in the Pacific Northwest. The daffodils are springing to life. The daphne is preparing to bloom.

It's definitely time to prune the roses if you haven't done so already. Now I'm off to clean the studio.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Like Watching Grass Grow

This is some slow going, friends. Due to my inexperience, most of the wool I purchased was far too thick for what I am doing so I have to use the pliers and pokers more than I should need to. On Monday I did not yet have a rug hook and so I hooked all of the stitches in the top photo with the bent paper clip in the photo which was the only tool I could touje out of my existing supplies. Not too comfortable to hook with.

By Tuesday I had located a wonderful store in Hillsboro that I drove to (about an hour away from my house) and there I purchased a beautiful little hook that should make things go easier if not faster. I am having so . much . fun. I love making this project.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Dyed in the Wool

Hoo boy, I haven't touched a dye pot since the 70's; I wonder if I still know how. But if I want pretty, marbled colors on my wool I will have to dye it or buy it. Since I am too impatient to wait for something to be shipped I have decided to jump in and do it myself. I have to move while the spirit is upon me. This first photo is of 3 pieces of wool in a pot of boiling water. I am "marrying" the colors here so that the bright pink will settle down to something more subtle.

This next shot is of the swatches I have washed in detergent, soaked in soda ash and squirted with the Dichlorotriazine Reactive (MX) Dye. Each swatch is then squeezed out and put into its own plastic bag for cooking in the microwave oven.

Here is the leaky, dangerous, second hand store $4.95 microwave that John wont let me bring into the house. I throw a bag in the microwave and punch four minutes, then run for my life so that my molecules dont get rearranged. Who says art isn't reckless?

Here are 2 swatches of wool waiting to be cut into strips. After sitting for 6 hours after their time in the microwave I spun them in the washer on spin cycle and then dried them in the clothes dryer. Now it is time to cut them into strips.

This is my crude set up for cutting into strips. I chose to cut 1/4" strips but after trying to pull one through the backing realized I may be sorry I didnt cut them thinner. They are hard to get through the cloth! Oh well, soldier on.

Here are the strips all cut and ready to be hooked. Tomorrow I still have to re-dye the periwinkle swatch which turned out too pale; then I will be ready for the fun part. I ordered a hook over the weekend so when that arrives I will begin hooking in earnest.

So many puns. So little time.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Zen of Not Knowing

Well, it took several hours but I finally got my sketch for the hooked rug transferred to the scotch burlap which I've researched and discovered is made from hemp that is grown in India. Beautiful, useful hemp which (if we weren't so paranoid of drugs as a nation) could save our forests as it can be made into paper, clothing fabric, building materials and so much more. It is very similar in feel to linen and a beautiful, ivory color.

The finished rug will measure 25x34 1/2 inches. Pretty large I think for my first project but I always say, "no guts, no glory".

This close-up shows the spaces between the weave that I will be poking my hook through. You probably wont be seeing this project again until it is finished. It is just a little something to haul around for those odd moments when you want to be working on something.

The point of this post is to share with you my love of biting off a project in a new medium about which I know next to nothing. Who cares? I think of myself as an intrepid art explorer, the fool in the tarot deck, the aleph who hasn't a clue and so dives in despite the odds. At this juncture anything I produce will be a win for me; it will exist where before there was nothing. If it is ugly I will call it primitive with a proud smile. It will keep my feet warm in the winter anyway. If it is beautiful I will act all modest but secretly feel great happiness. So I have nothing to lose by venturing into uncharted territory, in fact that is where I feel most energized.

Back to the studio.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Wildly Busy

If only my life was quiet right now. Ironic, isn't it, that I started this page during Katie's workshop and have been noodling it off and on since then. Maybe I will call it done now. The message is one I really believe; that if you are too successful, too well-known, have too much money or too many friends, you will never have the time or the presence of mind to settle down and work. At least this is the way it is with me.

Two days ago I scoured second hand stores searching for the illusive rug hook (I think I have found one through the tender mercy of an old friend who inherited it from another old friend). During my foray however I did find a second hand microwave oven to cook the dyes into the wool remnants; now I am ready to transfer my sketch onto the scotch burlap and start dyeing the wool and cutting it into small strips. I am excited.

Then yesterday I hung 14 canvases in the Library of my small town. Or rather, John did. They looked so small in the ginormous room; I made a mental note to paint on larger canvases as I surveyed the walls. The paintings will hang there for 6 weeks now; I miss them like I missed my own children when they left home. I just like to have my babies close by I suppose.

And today I visited the studio of an artist friend who has finally earned the privilege of retiring from her stressful job to become a full timer. She made me a lovely lunch and we combed through her inspiring collection of projects that she has created or purchased or recieved in trades and gifts from friends. It was a most magical day and I am still covered in pixie dust from the experience. There are so many artists in our area; we are blessed with a strong and vibrant community that supports and encourages each other. It is as it should be.

Tomorrow I really hope to start my next painting. I am getting quite itchy to mix paint and watch the magic unfold under my brush. Nobody gets as much happiness out of my paintings as I do in the process of creating them. We were made to be creative I believe. If we dont use our magic to create beauty it will twist into a destructive thing that we cannot control - ooooh, dont let this happen to you!! ;-) Be a happy human and use your magic for good things.