Monday, November 29, 2010

Word play

When I see some idea, several times in quick succession, I know that I'm supposed to try it out. At least three times in the last couple of weeks, I've read about the idea of making a collection of words -- going through old books or dictionary pages or what have you, and gathering the ones that attract your attention. Every person I've read gives credit to Susan Wooldridge and her book Poemcrazy for the idea.  Liz Lamoreux talks about it in her new book, Inner Excavation.  Diana Trout used this idea in one of her journal nudges on her blog; who am I to resist trying it?

I grabbed a couple of very old books off my bookshelf, and wrote down whatever struck me. Then, I chose ten words at random (with eyes closed!), and challenged myself to write a poem with them. To create the two-page spread, I loosely painted my journal with watercolors. I decided to cut out my long word list, and tuck the pieces into a pocket created from a magazine photo. Diana's nudge suggested creating a tab for the spread. I cut out some thick stock from an old calendar and taped on two tabs. I wrote down the poem, and contemplated doodling on one or both pages, but decided to stop there. The words should be the focus this time.

Journal spread 11-28-10

Thursday, November 18, 2010

When in doubt, just keep going

I have no doubt that I've been in a funk for most of the autumn. There are lots of reasons, but no excuses. Do you know what I mean? I can blame outer circumstances, and I can blame myself, but what use is any of that? Blame is wasted energy. Right now, it's more important to me to keep going. I know that I must keep doing something, anything creative.

I bought a package of three small Moleskine journals. Nothing fancy, just simple cardboard covers and blank pages. They are light and thin -- perfect to carry in my purse. I put 4 pens in there as well, thinking a small selection would tempt me to use them all, but most of the time I've been using only one.

As a mother, I spend time waiting for my child. Most days, it's just a few minutes. The perfect moment to take out the Moleskine and do something. This was a rough 5-minute sketch:

Garbage cart sketch

Nothing great. But it's something.

Occasionally I get 15 or 20 minutes of waiting time. If I'm not sleep deprived, I'm usually eager to scan my surroundings for a subject to sketch. And if I like the sketch enough, I may go back and add color later. The next two sketches have colored pencil.

Street scene sketch

Pumpkin figurine sketch

There's something very satisfying about playing with colored pencils, trying out colors, seeing what I can mix together to approximate what I saw. It's an appealing way to end my day.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dyeing with rust

I first saw fabric dyed with rust on the cover of Belle Armoire, September/October 2007. (Maureen Cox's stunning aqua-and-rust duster can be seen here.) I've thought about playing with rust over the years, but I finally got around to it last week.

It's a very simple process. Wash the fabric, apply a mixture of vinegar and water, then add your rusty objects and let it dry. Wash the fabric again, dry or iron, and voila! Rusty fabric!

It's usually recommended that you do this process outdoors because of the odor and the mess. However, I thought I'd try dyeing a small batch of fabric in my basement, where I could keep it away from kid and cats.

First step: dig out my rusty object collection. Doesn't everybody have rusty stuff laying around the house?! Oh yes, not everyone is a packrat like me. If you don't have any rusty things around, you can easily create them by soaking iron or steel objects in some vinegar and water for a while, outdoors. Or go on a scavenger hunt into a garage, junk yard, barn, estate sale . . .

Rusty stuff for dyeing

I chose to use bottle caps. I have lots, and I thought I'd make a simple pattern with them. I decided to sew them onto a 9" x 12" piece of white muslin.

Rusty bottlecaps sewn on fabric

I pinned a second piece of muslin on top of the first piece, reasoning that the rusty bottle caps could easily do double duty. I figured the pins would rust, too, adding extra marks. I carefully wet the fabric and wringed it out a little, then placed it in a plastic container and soaked it in white vinegar for a minute. Wringing the fabric out again, I then spread it out in an extra-large ziplock bag, and placed it on a high basement shelf. I didn't seal the bag, wanting the fabric to air-dry slowly.

Rusting fabric in ziplock bag

The rust formed pretty quickly.

Rusting bottlecaps on fabric (in process)

After a day, I took the fabric out of the bag so that it would dry faster. I noticed that some of the bottle caps weren't getting any rust onto the fabric, because the fabric wasn't firmly touching them. I placed some glass jars and plastic containers on top of the fabric, and that seemed to help. (Next time, I'm going to try placing bags of rice or sand on top, to create better contact.)

Once the fabric dried, I pulled out the pins (very tough to do!), then cut the sewing thread and removed the bottle caps. I washed the fabric in hot water and put it in the dryer.

Rusted bottlecap fabric

Each bottle cap left a unique imprint. The fabric was wet enough that the rust migrated, so a lot of the fabric ended up at least a little orange-brown.

Rusted bottlecap fabric (close-up)

I wonder what I'll do with it now?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Buddha's autumn

A couple of members at my church recently donated a little Buddha statue for a meditation path that will someday be on our grounds. He is resting under a tree near our peace pole for now. This morning I noticed that he had some beautiful maple leaves resting on his arm, so I decided to take out my camera and see what I could capture.

The light wasn't great, but Photoshop helped brighten up the images. On the second photo, I added some texture and played with the contrast.

Buddha profile with autumn leaves

Buddha hand with autumn leaves


"As we watch leaves fluttering to the ground in the fall, we are reminded that nature's cycles are mirrored in our lives. Autumn is a time for letting go and releasing things that have been a burden. All the religious traditions pay tribute to such acts of relinquishment. Fall is the right time to practice getting out of the way and letting Spirit take charge of our lives."

-- Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, on Spirituality & Practice