another summer ends

Its grey and raining here today.

It perfectly suits my mood, I’m a little sad and grey myself.

Suddenly summer is over. Technically it has been over for me for a week. Classes started back up at both schools where I teach last Tuesday, but it has felt like summer because my sister and Mum were here visiting after the wedding. We had a lot of fun playing tourist in my backyard, visiting parks and museums and just spending precious time as a family. Yesterday they went home.

It is beyond words, living so far away from them all, my parents and sisters, their spouses and children. I am incredibly lucky in my life here, I have the love of a really good man, and my children, and my grandchild. I have a beautiful home. I have meaningful work. I have friends. Somedays though I am still sad to be so far away from the place that will always be my home.

Life goes on. My work calls to me. Life has laundry and dishes and papers to mark.

And I can look forward to a less grey day, next summer, when hopefully the entire family will be back together again, even if it is only for a few brief glorious summer days.


Recently I was invited to join a group of artists from various disciplines working with kozo. Needless to say I was thrilled. About a week ago we met to cook the fibres and start cleaning and beating. This sort of work is always more fun in a group, and especially if there are snacks and drinks! We took turns working and so there was plenty of time for socializing. One of the artists wanted to try spinning the cooked but unbeaten fibre, which she was able to do! Amazing! This meant at the end of the session there was a piece of cooked unbeaten fibre which had been pulled apart for her experiment. I rolled it up in my apron and yesterday when I went to make paper (and so needed my apron again) I discovered it again. 

What I found was a beautiful organic structure full of holes, and regular readers may already have an idea where this is going…. yes, holes = needlelace. So I sat down with a needle and thread. And produced this

I loved how the needlelace reflected the structure of the fibre, it was an interesting intersection of natural and man-made. I liked it so much I decided to press on. Next I tried a bright contrasting thread.

And then I unpicked it because it just felt all wrong. So I switched to another more organic/neutral colour, a cream and added more. Better. So I just kept on working.

I never thought of working with just the fibres, but I love how this looks. I think a bigger experiment may be in the near future.

Now I am in full-on summer mode and can barely keep track of what day it is, I find myself in a bit of a philosophical mood. This is partly prompted by the slow unfurling that happens when my hands are engaged in my craft, but this week it was also prompted by a friend who wrote about weeding her CV, and about ambition. I’m really happy (and a tiny bit envious) of anyone who has reached a point in their career where they need to weed out their professional accomplishments to make way for more important or prestigious achievements but it does rather give one pause and make you feel a bit, well, stalled, or in a rut.

On most days I am entirely happy in my little dominion. I get to spend most of my days making art, or teaching art, or doing other arty things. And this is the life of my dreams. It’s the life I have been steadily working towards all these years, and yet, well comparison is the thief of joy, and I do occasionally wonder what I am doing, and why, and if it will ever be important or have relevance to anyone but me. And if not, does that matter?

Luckily I don’t get much time to sit around and worry about these things. There is always more to do than will fit in a day which is a good thing for a worrier like me. 

I FINALLY had an idea for my upcoming show in November. It’s not a clever or particularly intellectual idea, but I decided to just follow it anyway because it is something I have wanted to do for a while. And I have a reasonable chance of finishing it by the end of October. I am putting my caryatids on the back burner because I realized I was trying to squash a big idea into a space and time frame too small for it. So I am going to do more research and take it more slowly.

In the meantime I have been walking in the woods and eco-dying everything in sight and making lots of paper. 

None of these are radical things, but they make me feel grounded and connected. I remind myself that my job is to show up and do the work. And then to let it go.

Busy making books

Summer = festivals. I have been busy making lots of blank journals to take to some festivals next month. And I’ve been posting pictures on my Facebook and Instagram as I finish things up. Here’s a few samples.




And these woven bindings


Which sparked some interest in how they were constructed. I haven’t made any of these in years so I had to think about where I first learned how to make them. I finally tracked it down to an Alissa Golden book, making handmade books. She calls it a cross structure binding.
To make it you need two soft covers twice the width of the signatures plus the width of the spine. I used two pieces of cardstock here.


You need an odd number of tabs cut out from each cover and spine, leaving just the front and back covers intact. Then I cut the slits in the front and back to coincide with the tabs.


To prepare the signatures mark where the two tabs cross the spine and add an additional station at each end for a kettle stitch


Then sew over the tabs and add a kettle at each end to secure the signatures


Then you just weave the tabs through the covers


And done!
If you want more detailed instructions I’d recommend the book, it has over 100 bindings.
Well back to work. Maybe I will see you at a festival later this summer.


This is what is on my mind lately. Trying to settle in to my summer routine makes me realize my mind is going a million miles an hour. Summer for me is ideally a time of working in the studio. It’s a time to explore, do some research, and let the work find its own path, but deciding to take part in the open studio tour and do an evening art festival meant the beginning of summer was filled with scurrying. Of course scurrying is essential to financial well-being but not an ideal state of mind for reflection or for new work to emerge. This week life finally slowed to the syrupy pace which signals summer to me. In fact, I had to look at my calendar to figure out what day it was this morning!

Last week I attended a NYFA event in Auburn, a long drive from my home, but worth it. I was working as a sort of mentor, a safe place for artists to express their dreams and someone to run their ideas by after a weekend of intensive business boot camp. I gave them feedback and ideas of places/people to look to for help. (Long time readers may remember I attended a boot camp myself and it rocked my world!) I also got to meet D. Chase Angier, a choreographer, and a conversation with her gave me a radical mind shift and convinced me to slow down and rethink a project I am working on, and to DREAM BIGGER. I realised I have been limiting the kind of work I was thinking about creating based on opportunities I currently have to exhibit the work, which of course is totally backwards! Just because an opportunity for a larger or more complex work doesn’t exist right now, doesn’t mean I won’t be able to find somewhere for it to be seen in the future. Meeting Chase was a gentle reminder from the universe to just do the work.

On a more prosaic note – I needed something to wear to the event, so I made a new pair of trousers, I like them so much I made a second pair and bought fabric for a third pair! I used a great pattern from vogue, by a designer whose work I wasn’t familiar with – Marcy Tilton. I also bought a blouse pattern by the same designer, which came out nicely too. I forgot how satisfying it is to sew for myself! While I was in a practical mood I also did some mending that had been cluttering up my work area for at least a year – mending always makes me feel virtuous, and of course it restored some favourite clothes to my wardrobe.

This is turning into rather a newsy post – so the other big news in my life is my quiet new car. I have been driving a 2003 Impala for a while, it is functional, but not so pretty and it was reaching the point of no return. As our youngest daughter has graduated from college we could finally afford to replace it. We have been looking for a while, and then this week we found the one. I am so excited because we were able to afford a used hybrid! It is so quiet and luxurious, I am a lucky girl! I can’t wait for upcoming workshops out of town, as it will give me a chance to test all the bells and whistles.

As I work in the studio right now I am listening to “Quiet” by Susan Cain. The book is about introverts. I am an introvert. I am not shy, or afraid of leadership, but I find people exhausting. It took me a long time to realise this. As a child I spent most of my time ramming around with my sisters (I have 4) and kids from the neighbourhood on our bikes, but I also spent a LOT of time reading by myself. As I got older I realised this wasn’t true for everyone. I envy people with easy manners and the ability to make small talk. I often come across as aloof because I find small talk agonizing and so default to saying nothing at all. This can be a bit of an impediment as a teacher. I am perfectly happy to lecture; I am not particularly afraid of speaking in public as long as I am well prepared, but I find it hard to form bonds with my students by casually chatting. The students I do form bonds with tend to be serious about their work, and that is the way we connect, through sharing ideas and knowledge, not with small talk. I find teaching workshops really intimidating until we begin working. The “chatting” before the workshop begins is excruciating for me. I never know what to say! So if you take a workshop with me help me out! Again I find it easier to connect with people once we are talking about the work. And inviting a curator to my studio is a 10 on my discomfort scale!

I realise now that introversion is one of the reasons this blog is so valuable to me. It allows me to put my thoughts and ideas out at a distance. To have a safer conversation with you. I wonder how many of you this is also true for?

Well time to go back to my quiet studio and get to work. As always, thanks for sharing my journey.