Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hello, and goodbye

Hello.

I am here to say: this is goodbye, for now.

Blogging has been a struggle in the last few months. At first I thought it was a temporary lull. Then I realized that it had become a chore, something I did not look forward to. The time I spent on the blog felt like time sucked away from my art. When I went out of town this summer, I did not miss the blog for a minute. Didn't even have a fleeting thought about it.

Then I had a minor health crisis (from which I'm recovering and feeling much better in the last couple of weeks). I could not do much artwork at all, which felt frustrating and scary to me. I began to see that I've been wasting energy on a lot of things that do not matter. I want to refocus and to be conscious of my priorities. In order to do the things that truly are mine to do, I need to drop the incidentals - especially the activities that primarily please someone else or that I "should" do.

Now is the time to find my own balance in life, and to listen to my own inner knowing. I am trusting my intuition more and more - and what I hear is that I need to turn inward and to do the creative work that calls to me. So much falls into place when I stop seeking respect and approval from others, which is the trap I fall into when I'm obsessing about my blog stat counter and comments. Don't get me wrong - I think the Internet is a wonderful world, and I'm not going to disappear from it. It's just that I need to give myself a chance to unplug from its incessant hum, if only to remember that I have a whole life without it.

I aspire to be a more joyful Judy. So I guess it's fitting that I finally finished the "spring" banner that says "JOY", and that it graces my last blog post.

spring - joy - banner final 9-30-11

spring - joy - banner, final sideview 9-30-11

spring banner - letter J (final, 9-30-11)

spring banner - letter O (final, 9-30-11)

spring banner - letter Y (final, 9-30-11)

I'll leave this blog up, because it's got some ideas that people may want to explore. Maybe I'll start another blog next year, on a very different topic. Or not. Everything changes, and I'm open to the possibilities.

I salute all my readers, and everyone who writes a blog. You are amazing. Really.

Thank you, and namaste.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

First thing in the morning

I've been trying some self-portraits the past couple of days, but I've winced at how I look and deleted every one. Too serious, too goofy, too fat, too old - the ego yammers away in my brain, trying to convince me that my body is always undeserving of my love. I guess that makes me just like a lot of women in the world. I could always find plenty of flaws, even as a teen, but now that I'm firmly middle-aged, the image in the mirror seems even more like an enemy.

So I've been practicing a little self-kindness here and there. Looking at myself naked in the mirror and saying things like: thank you, body, for taking me where I need to go and doing what I need to do, every day of my life. It sounds totally corny, but it makes me realize how very grateful I am for my health and my strength. I have my share of aches and complaints, but every breath is a gift, and I aim to use it well.

For many years, I often awakened with my brain grumbling about the day ahead. Now I try to be in the moment, noticing what the morning feels like, and then stretching and saying "thank you" to the Universe for another day. On a whim, I placed my camera by the bed so that I could take a photo upon awakening. I purposefully smiled some love into the lens, and I finally got a self-portrait that I liked, bedhead and all.

First thing in the morning

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Journaling with Teesha

I had the privilege of taking a visual journaling workshop with Teesha Moore this weekend - right here in Spokane! Teesha and her husband Tracy are perhaps best known for their wonderful art retreat, Artfest, held in Port Townsend, Washington each year. Tracy doesn't teach at her retreats because she is too busy making sure that everything goes smoothly, but she is quite the artist in her own right. I leapt at the chance to take a class with her. She is generous, warm, funny and encouraging - a real pleasure to be around. (You can see some of Teesha's journal pages here.)

We made simple journals from large sheets of watercolor paper and started collaging, drawing, doodling, and writing. Teesha makes her pages very full and lively, and she challenges her students to do the same. I've gotten the furthest on this page. It has a long way to go, but I'm happy with my progress so far. . . .

Journal page begun in Teesha's class

Monday, July 11, 2011

On the trail of wildflowers, early morning, July

(All of these shots are "straight out of the camera" - no cropping, no light or color adjustment, nothing but what the camera saw when I pushed the shutter button.)

Bachelor buttons and grass

Sunny bachelor buttons 7-9-11

Backlit yellow flowers

Yellow flowers with bug

Orange red flowers

Flower seed head

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Testing the waters

Today I kept seeing an image in my mind: eyebrows cut from magazine photos. Sometimes it goes like that. Random stuff floats to the top of my consciousness, and it comes back again and again.

Instead of opening my journal and working with the image, I kept avoiding it. Chores to do, people to talk to, Facebook postings to read - mostly inconsequential stuff. I kept seeing the eyebrows, but also noticed that I was very reluctant to get down to business. Maybe I've been avoiding my own artwork so much that I don't know how to get back to it. Maybe I'm avoiding the messiness of life; maybe I'm scared to find out what I really think about everything.

It takes courage to look at your thoughts and feelings and admit where you are in the midst of them. Avoidance comes in many flavors: alcohol, drugs, overeating, sex, work, shopping, TV, Facebook, etc. I think there are very few people who can sit with their uncomfortable selves and see all the imperfections and love themselves anyway. But if we don't learn to give our selves a break and relax, how can we spread love or compassion to anyone else?

Tonight I wrestled myself to the dining room table and cut out some eyebrows, then the rest of a face. I wrote on the page, testing the icy waters of my dissatisfactions. I only dipped my toes in - and that felt like a good start.


"Testing the waters" journal page

Monday, June 20, 2011

A bird in the hand

The spring banner is still slowly unfolding - even though the summer solstice is almost here . . .

Adding a few more birds seems like a fun idea, but I've struggled with how. Tonight, I finally put all the pieces together.

Pink 3D bird for spring banner

The body is a simple stuffed shape. The eyes are French knots. The beak, wings, and legs are all made from "fabric paper" (a la Beryl Taylor), which is a layered concoction of muslin, bits of interesting papers, and tissue paper, all held together with watered-down glue. (You can find a tutorial about it here.)

One reason that I like working with fabric paper is that it's fairly stiff, but you can sew through it. I placed two pieces back to back when I created the legs on my sewing machine. The wings are a single thickness, sewn through the buttons, so the back of the wings flare out from the body a little, making it more three-dimensional.

Pink 3D bird for banner (side two)

Now I can create a few more birds, and then assemble the flock to finish the banner!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Oh

I have not given up on finishing the spring banner - even though it is months late and summer will be here soon. (It's still quite cool in this neck of the woods, though. I've heard estimates that spring is about 3 weeks behind "normal.")

I had originally thought that "O" would have a sun on it. But after creating a bunch of these organza leaves, I thought they'd be pretty sprinkled on the vintage doily.

Spring banner - "O" with leaves

I sandwiched the organza between layers of Solvy (a water-soluble stabilizer), then stitched the leaves with free motion on my sewing machine. They pucker and buckle in places, which adds to their character. You'd have to put it in a hoop to get the leaves to come out flatter.

Spring banner - "O" close-up

I didn't think about the leaves unraveling with wear. After I finished sewing the leaves to the doily, I re-read a book - maybe Fragile Fabrics by Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn? - that talked about heat-sealing sheer synthetic fabrics so that they don't unravel. Well, it's too late for me to do it this time around. I hope they'll hold up okay over time.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A letter to Sue

Dear Suzee,

Part of me keeps hoping that if I don't write this blog post, it never happened. You didn't die. You should still be working and playing and breathing in Manhattan.

But you're not. I flew back to our hometown in New Hampshire, to see you one last time, to kiss you on the forehead before the casket was closed.

How can this be? How can your beautiful life be over so soon?

You lived with gusto, with guts, with joy. You sang, you laughed, you cooked, you loved. You faced heartache and you came out a better person for it. You did not hide. You embraced your life and welcomed so many into your circle.

I was your smug older cousin, but I came to understand that I could learn a lot from you. I admired your ability to let your hurts go, and to live in the now. At the wake, your mom said that I was the one who taught you how to read. I don't remember that, but I know that you taught me to sing - to lift my voice, loud and proud. You helped me to see that I could be my free-spirit, uninhibited self. Why would I waste my time trying to be anybody else?

The morning of your funeral, I went for a walk in the woods that we roamed as kids. I took my camera, and found some comfort in noticing the beauty of the flowers on the path. Bluets were everywhere. Small, humble flowers, ones that we must have noticed every May, as the days grew warmer and the peepers began to sing in the blueberry pond.

Bluet clump

As I finished my walk, I noticed - or felt? - a particular clump of bluets in the middle of the path. I kept walking, but something told me that I had to go back. It was somehow important that I photograph them. I put my camera down and pushed the shutter a couple of times.

Bluet with five petals (first photo)

As I reviewed the second photo, still crouching on the path, I finally saw what I was supposed to see: one bluet had five petals instead of four. Totally unexpected - I'd never seen that before.

Bluet with five petals

I thought it looked like a star. And I smiled, thinking that you are a new star, too.

Thank you for being a part of my life.
I love you!
-- Judy

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all!

My son, now 12, is not thrilled to be the subject of my photos. But he kindly consented to a few quick snaps in the backyard today. (I'm holding the camera in my left hand - not ideal photography, but I like the immediacy and imperfectness of it.)

Mother's Day 2011 (1st shot)

Mother's Day 2011 (2nd shot)

He's 5'2" and 85 lbs. and growing like a weed. And I am so very very blessed to be his mom.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Light still dwells in you

This I know to be true:

even when the darkness seems to swallow you whole -
when you can't smile
you can't get out of bed
and pain grabs your body

light still dwells in you.

you may not see it because you have your eyes screwed shut
fiercely squeezing out everything you fear

but I know it glows inside you.

nothing in the universe can extinguish your light.

fog and night may hide it
but it burns within you.

some day you will open your eyes to a dazzling dawn
you will breathe in as if for the first time
and you will feel as if this world has always been here
waiting for you
to be you.


Heart suncatcher ablaze

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A nest for the birdie

I've stitched a little nest for the birdie on the banner.

Spring banner - nest

I used dark brown pearl cotton and a variegated embroidery floss, making it look like a hodgepodge of sticks. I didn't have much of a plan starting out;  I'm happy with the results. Sometimes I think I do better if I trust my instincts and dive in.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

No excuses

I almost started this post with a list of excuses. Why I haven't been blogging, why I haven't been working on projects, blah, blah, blah. What's the point in repeating that story? I doubt you care about my excuses, and I don't care about them, either.

Suffice it to say, I have my challenging times, just as everyone else does. What matters: how do I meet those challenges? What do I do with the days I have been given? I laughed a lot while I took a shower this morning. So many conditions and events could have me pinned to the floor, but most of them struck me as totally absurd or ironic. I could only shake my head and laugh as the hot water poured down.

Today I chose to concentrate on the now. I watched the sun shine one minute, and I watched the hail bouncing off the mud the next. I took deep breaths in yoga class. I thought about my cousin who is in the hospital. I wrestled with new software at work. I smiled at my goofy husband and son. I chose to write a blog post.

Update: the spring banner is coming along. I've been stitching whenever I get a chance.

Spring banner bird

Spring banner "Y"

Honestly, if I did not "make stuff," I would be a basket case. Creativity is sanity.

Monday, April 4, 2011

S-O-L-D!

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday to me!

I decided not to grumble about turning 48, but to enjoy the day. I received a lovely bunch of bright daisies from my husband, who dragged himself out of his sickbed to buy them! He's so sweet. Ross gave me a big hug and kiss. Some packages, things I had ordered for myself, arrived in the mail, so that made things festive, too. And it's so nice to get phone calls and emails and Facebook messages - maybe I'm corny, but I love it nonetheless.

Perhaps the best part was hearing that I'd sold "Heart Signals," a piece I'd made last year. I'd placed it in a show in Post Falls, Idaho, at the Jacklin Center, and frankly, I figured I'd be driving there this week to pick it up and hang it up in my office again. I'm glad that my pessimistic side was wrong.

"Heart Signals" (final)

(Yippee!)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring banner in progress

I'm working on a spring banner. Honestly, it should have been finished long before now, but between life's ups and downs and my lack of inspiration, it took me a long time to get going on it. I finally feel like I have a handle on it.

The base fabric is a set of three white doilies that I bought in a large box of slightly imperfect household linens. They have some light stains that won't come out, which I can work around. Next I found some fabric that must have been meant for curtains - kind of sheer, with a sweet pink print. That got me up and running.

I cut out letters from the curtain fabric and machine stitched them to the doilies. Now I'm adding some appliqued figures and embroidery:

Spring flowers (in progress)


Spring bird (in progress)

It's been a while since I've done much with fabric, so this is feeling fun and fresh.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bar light

Wine glass and waitress at West Wing

Our waitress smiles hello.
I wince about last time. Yet she
beguiles in bar light.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The challenge of noticing poetry in daily life

When I notice that I need something to spark me creatively, I sometimes give myself a challenge. It's like a coming up with a game, writing my own rules as I go along. Today I thought: hmm, I haven't written any haiku in a while. Maybe I should write about my daily life, and photograph the subjects, too. I give myself permission to be spontaneous and not worry about "perfection" - the poetry can be goofy and not always follow the rules, and the photos can be blurry or poorly composed or whatever. I took a short photography class last week, so this is a perfect opportunity to experiment with what I learned.

As my brain was on this train of thought, I was washing dishes. I looked down into the dishpan and decided soapy water could be as good a subject as any. . . .

Yellow rubber glove fingers with bubbles

Washing plastic bags
in warm, soapy dish water -
bubbles pop and shine.

Yellow rubber glove with bubbles

Friday, March 4, 2011

Some days go like this. . . .

My migraines usually have the decency to hit while I'm at home in the morning. I cancel my plans and go back to bed.

I've been somewhat functional this afternoon, so I took out my frustrations on a piece of junk mail that I'd covered with Golden Fiber Paste. Viva la Sharpie noir!

Migrane journal page

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Outpourings

Have you ever seen the work of Daniella Woolf? She was featured in Somerset Studio last year; I immediately fell in love with her works of paper, often constructed with shredded "morning pages." Writing morning pages is a technique in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way: "three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning."

I have written morning pages off and on for years. The practice is an excellent way to get things out of your brain and off your chest, and put them right in front of your nose. What are you really thinking and feeling? Pour it out onto the pages without censoring and without stopping, and you'll find out.

When I saw Daniella's work, I loved the idea of using morning pages in art. There's something appealing about pouring out your heart in writing, then obscuring the words by cutting up the paper. The shredding maintains privacy. Morning pages are not meant to be read by anyone else; they are a safe place to vent. A lot of my writing wouldn't make sense to anybody else, and I won't want to re-read it, so why not put the paper to good use?

I started this piece last year, but I got around to finishing it only yesterday. I call it Outpourings: 13 Days.

Outpourings:13 Days

It's a tassel, of sorts.

Outpourings:13 Days (top)

The top is a simple felt heart stuffed with polyfil. A loop of cheesecloth is attached for hanging. The tassel is made from cut-up morning pages, strung onto embroidery floss, then sewn into the heart. There are 13 strings - 13 days of morning pages.

Outpourings:13 Days (tassel close-up)

I wrote on all kinds of papers and backgrounds. Watercolor washes, acrylic washes, inkjet photos, calendar pages. I tried cutting different shapes, sometimes folding the paper, sometimes rolling it into beads. It's been a long time since I've done any significant beadwork. This time, I felt that I was creating a beaded tassel with paper.

I think there's more playing with paper in my future.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

There's still time for valentines

If you're facing a quiet Sunday afternoon today, you've still got time to make some valentines! Grab some cardboard and magazines or catalogs, and start cutting.

My cat Gus likes to inspect my projects as I'm photographing them. Although I think was too sleepy to care much about this valentine - I think he was ready for me to go to bed.

Gus and veggie valentine

The theme of this valentine: I (heart) my fruits and veggies.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lots of little projects

I'm working on lots of little projects right now. That's probably a good thing, because big blocks of time aren't part of my life these days. It's easy for me to get frustrated about lack of time, and the phrase "I don't have time to do it" comes out of my mouth too often. But that's not the full truth. If I really want to do something, I make the time for it. Simple as that. I'm working to leave the complaints and the "can't"s behind.

Here's another valentine from repurposed materials - flower catalog photos and thin cardboard.

Flower heart valentine (side 1)

(side 1)

Flower heart valentine (side 2)

(side 2)

My church's celebration of the Season of Peace and Nonviolence started today.One of the projects we're planning is creating "peace rocks." We learned about the idea from our church association's magazine. One of our affiliated churches painted peace rocks and left them all over their town. We thought it was such a cool idea that our church is going to do the same thing this year. Below are a few samples that I made. The rocks are painted with acrylics. After the paint dried, I wrote on them with Sharpie markers.

Painted peace rocks

I did manage to carve out one big chuck of time this week: I took an all-day watercolor class for beginners at Corbin Art Center. It wasn't a fabulous class, but it was inexpensive, and I picked up some good pointers along the way. The students painted artificial flowers as an exercise. My flowers are impressionistic at best (ahem), but I sort of like the leaves.

Hydrangea watercolor

My other project - my eternal preoccupation, I guess - is picking up the camera and capturing the moment. It's as close to instant gratification as I can get, art-wise. I snapped this self-portrait as I walked down the street.

Self-portrait close-up with rust scarf