All change

I’ve been missing in action for a while here on the blog.

While I’ve been gone, my whole life has changed. I’ve had some health problems, so I’ve started taking better care of myself. And as part of that, I made the decision to finally walk away from the adjunct life.

So right now I am recovering from surgery, and mostly unemployed.

I am still teaching here and there, workshops, and one regular adult class.

I am going to hang a couple more shows at the gallery, but at the end of the year I am also walking away from that part time gig.

I’m grateful for my husband, his grown up, real job allows me the luxury to take a deep breath, and figure out what’s next.

Some things are coming into view on the horizon.

Orkney magic – part 3

I’m going to end this little set of posts with some images from the sights. We took a little bus tour to visit a few of the many historic monuments on the island. I could bore you silly with lots of information, but I’m mostly just going to show you how stunningly beautiful it is and encourage you to go see it for yourself.

The Broch of Gurness

The Earl’s Palace – we ate lunch here – it was just like being on a school trip, with our brown bag lunches.

The Brough of Birsay – a magical stroll across the tidal causeway

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and we ended the day at The Ring of Brodgar just as the sun was going down. Just thinking about it still gives me chills

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Our very last stop as we headed home for dinner was at the studio of the Harray Potter where it is possible I bought many souvenirs!

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I’m planning to return someday soon – one week was not enough to soak up so much history.

I’m sure I’ll go back to this place during the year as I work on things I started here, but I’m going to end these posts for now. I want to offer another sincere and enormous thank you to the Allegany-Cattaraugus-Chautauqua Fund for Women and The United Arts Appeal for supporting my trip and workshop experience.

the dye pot – adventure part 2

In the last post I mentioned my dissatisfaction with my own inability to loosen up and really experiment when doing the drawing/book making exercise on the first afternoon. That feeling  surfaced again on the second day and really would linger for the rest of my time.

On the second morning we were all given a beautiful piece of recycled wool to prepare for dyeing. We were instructed to add to it some of the fabrics we had brought along to experiment with how they would take the different dye materials. I was still thinking about the seaweed on the beach and I decided to add some vintage fabric from my stash that had a polka dot sewn onto it. I cut it into “seaweed-y” shapes and sewed it to my wool strip. But I stuck with the one fabric choice and I was very controlled about how I placed it. I looked around the room, other people were adding random bits of random fabrics with wild abandon. They were sewing fabulous marks with many kinds of thread. It was too late to change my own work and embrace the process so at that point I had to let it ride and hope the dye pot would add some magic. I was disappointed with myself for not leaning in to the process and trying to control the final result.

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my prepared wool

After lunch we headed out to gather local materials and the bundles went into their bath. I decided to just stick with my plan at this point and dyed mine with a bunch of different kinds of seaweed collected from the beach.

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wool bundles relaxing – ready to dye

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All the bundles ready to go back in the pot, mine is third from the right in the center

When it was time for the first reveal I loved the colours and I really loved the way the seaweed had embossed my wool, but my added fabric didn’t take the dye well and many of my threads didn’t dye either. My stitches were too petite and didn’t read well against the dyed wool. I wasn’t disappointed with the workshop – but I was sad about my own failure to try and LEARN something instead of trying to control the outcome.

Eventually we would sew those wool strips into a tsunobukuro style bag. I was delighted to find that the finished bag was the perfect size to carry my new sketchbook! Here’s the finished bag a few weeks later after being used as a much loved container for my sketchbook. Its growing on me, and I think I will keep working into it slowly, letting it evolve. I’m hoping by keeping my sketchbook in there it will remind me to let myself let go a bit more!

Last step to finish by bag will be to add the great button I brought on the island (shown in the last image). Hopefully I get around to that over break!

In the next post I’ll show you the results of me trying oh so hard to relinquish control. Until then Happy New Year!

An unbelievable journey -part 1

In November I had the great fortune to travel to the magical Orkneys to take a workshop led by India Flint and Alison Mountain. This was largely due to the generosity of my amazing and long suffering hubby (who gave me the trip as a birthday present), but also because two local organizations had faith in my work, and helped defray part of the costs with some grant funding, so a huge thank you to the United Arts Appeal and the Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua Fund for Women for their support. It’s really hard to find the words for my experience there on the island, but I’m going to give it a try.

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We stayed in the charming Woodwick House, that’s the sea right at the end of the garden!

As an introvert I always approach these kinds of workshops with equal parts excitement and dread. I don’t lack confidence in my work or my ability to learn new skills, and I am not shy, but I find interacting with people I don’t know exhausting and a tiny bit terrifying. I needn’t have worried. Talk about finding your tribe. It was one of the easiest group of “strangers” I have ever had the privilege of spending time with. From the first meal together it was clear that an unusual chemistry was at play, and I was able to relax into the work without trepidation. I really want to thank ALL the amazing artists for being so open and grounded, but I especially want to thank Jo, who took my awkward self under her wing and smoothed the way. She has a truly unique gift for seeing people and facilitating communication – so big hugs Jo!

I don’t want to bore you with a blow by blow description of everyday – so I am just going to share a few highlights. The first day we headed out after breakfast to “shake hands with a place” as Andy Goldsworthy has so eloquently put it. We spent a blustery few hours outside wandering, collecting impressions, sketching, I’m sure like me many people took some photos. Alison provided us with these adorable little vintage country dance books to use as a sketchbook, it had never occurred to me to draw in a printed book before, but it was an interesting challenge to marry an impression with an existing page!

In the afternoon Alison led us in a workshop to try and capture those impressions. We worked with a variety of materials including some incredible natural inks. We began by working on a large sheet of paper which was then folded to make a simple book form. Then we worked back into the pages the folding created. I was amazed to find myself working comfortably in a pretty crowded room without “walling myself in” with my stuff.

My final result looks to me like my work, but I can clearly see the influence of the place and the process. I was envious of the artists who could really work freely – I struggle to just make marks and be loose – and this was a feeling that came back to me again and again during this workshop and is something I am really hoping to carry into the new year. The first marks were pretty loose, but the end result seems a little tight and maybe overworked?

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The first day was so rewarding, and the experience would only keep getting better! Stayed tuned for more!

 

embroidered at WNYBAC

Like many artists I am so fortunate in the people and places the muse throws into my path. Regular readers will already know that I love spending time at WNYBAC – the Western New York Book Arts Center, in Buffalo. Its a bit of a hike from my home (1.5-2hrs by car) but I finished the second half of my undergraduate degree in Buffalo at UB as a commuter, so I can find my way there and back in my sleep. Last year I was offered an opportunity to have an exhibition in their gallery and that show opened earlier in the month. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you will already have seen some images from that show, but in case you don’t here’s a few images

As part of the exhibition “package” they ask you to design a workshop to tie in with the show, and today I taught a cheerful group of 13 students, many of whom had never made a book before, a pretty challenging two signature, two needle cross stitch binding. If you’d like to give it a try, or were in the workshop (thank you!) and want a refresher here is a brief tutorial. To begin you will need the following supplies:

  • This two signature cross stitch template printed on a sheet of letter sized (8.5×11) cardstock
  • 8 sheets of 9×12 paper (grained long)
  • some linen thread and needles
  • an awl, a bonefolder and an x-acto knife

Begin by cutting out the pieces from the template.

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Next score the lines along the spine and fold to create the cover ( printed side inside)

Punch all the dots to create the sewing stations in the cover

Fold each sheet of 9×12 paper in half and tear down into 16 pieces that measure 6×9

Divide into two sets of 8 pages, and fold together in half to create two signatures

Using the stripy punching guide from the template, punch the sewing holes in both signatures

Cut a piece of thread 24-30 inches long, and thread with a needle at both ends. Do not tie any knots in the thread

To begin sewing enter the spine at the head of the book. Each needle should go into the first sewing station, through the signature to the inside of each.

Then take each needle out the second sewing station in each signature, back out to the outside of the spine.

I always sew left to right because I am right handed, but as long as you are consistent it doesn’t really matter. With the spine facing you, take the needle in the left hand row and take it down into the third sewing station in the right hand making a diagonal stitch across the spine.

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Using the same needle, sew down into the 4th sewing station and back out to the spine

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Take the right hand needle and sew into the left side, completing the cross stitch, again take the same needle out though the 4th hole to the outside again. This is now the left hand needle, sew across the spine to make the next diagonal, and repeat until you reach the end of the sewing stations, alternating needles so the crosses form on the stitches in the same direction

 

At the end, sew up to the previous sewing station, but only through the signature (NOT the cover) tie off the two ends in the gutter and trim.

You can increase the numbers of signatures in pairs and sew into a larger book, like this one. You could also sew between signatures 2 & 3 in the same manner if you wished.

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I chose this binding for the workshop because learning it gave me the idea to experiment with making samplers as bindings, which lead to making bindings using lots of other kinds of embroidery – especially blackwork embroidery.

Its been a pretty perfect day – now I am relaxing at home with tea and chocolate. Taking a few minutes to let all my good fortune wash over me, before I get back at it!

 

Summer’s swan song

Tomorrow the new school semester begins, so for this past week I have been rushing to cross things off my summer list. I’m feeling really ambivalent about teaching this year, so I think it is time to plan my leap. More on that thought to come, but for today, here’s the last update from my summer in the studio. To warm up this week I made this little guy, heavy flax covers from a deckle box several years ago, suede spine, twin needle cross stitch over two signatures, and it has pockets!

Feeling happy and confident I turned my attention to a piece that I wanted to finish for my exhibition at wnybac in September. When I first started making the blackout inspired bindings I really wanted to make an Elizabethan style collar, but I couldn’t quite make it work.

Then during PBI earlier this year I had a bit of an epiphany in Beatrice Coron’s class. I made myself a cut tyvek collar, and I experimented with this accordion folded Lacey cut.

So this week I was determined to get back to that first idea and see what I could make of it now. First up was a period inspiration, taken from a Holbein painting of Jane Seymour. In the painting you can see her blackworked cuffs, and so using that pattern I embarked on a new binding design.

I wanted to try binding this on the bench, so I drew a graph and started the binding. By the time I reached this stage it was pretty late at night. After many false starts where I lost my place and had to unpick my sewing, I went to bed feeling a bit defeated. (Following the graph is like sewing counted cross stitch, if you lose your place it’s really frustrating!) This was the end of day 1

The next day I decided to leave the final mistake in the pattern, as this was just a test and pushed on to the end of the pattern repeat. Here’s that binding

I am just going to have to pay really close attention when I do the real thing. So I put this aside and turned my focus to a paper lace page.

I love how this looks, but the book will need 46 more signatures folded and cut like this, so stay tuned patiently! Especially as now I will have to squeeze them in around teaching.

Ah well, back to the grind.

Whirlwind weekend

Wowsers! What a week that was, the unveiling of the Chautauqua Prize would have been enough for one week, but hot on the heels of that came the grand reopening of the gallery where I am the curator, 3rd on 3rd, part of the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts. It was jam packed as this coincided with Lucyfest and the opening of the new national comedy center. The exhibition is a fun one, images curated from an Instagram contest of images of Jamestown, NY.

Then on Saturday night I finally got to share this Summer’s studio work with my guests at the Crary as I opened my own show. Here’s a picture of me taken during my artist’s talk

That’s the work of Paige Kleinfelder behind me on the wall.

Then on Monday there was a rededication for mural I have been relocating and restoring since last summer. Here I am looking scholarly in discussion with some of the family and friends who helped in the campaign to save it

Then Monday night I taught a workshop at the Springville Center for the Arts where we made these adorable little chunky journals

Then today I taught a blackout meditation group, here’s some student work from that

It’s exhausting just making that list! Tomorrow I am going to clean my house and studio!