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.

Looking for a new direction.

It’s been a day around here. When I first started writing this blog I promised myself I would try to be honest about the bad days too. I’m currently trying to figure out what to do next in my life. The college where I teach is restructuring some things, which will mean next semester I will be paid even less to teach the same material in less time. And I am struggling. I just don’t think I can take a pay cut and I feel the students are also getting shafted. So I am looking for new work. It’s pretty demoralizing to realize I am unqualified to adult.
So I am thinking about ramping up the more commercial aspects of my studio practice, which means there would be less time to focus on an upcoming gallery show. I could also get more serious about workshop development and marketing. I could apply for some residencies, look for some grant funding maybe.  I feel like I am standing at a crossroads here.
So I did what all artists do. I went to the studio and pretended everything was okay. Well sort of. Actually thanks to Seth Apter’s blog, I discovered a new source for free journaling prompts. Even though the site is called colour me positive, I decided to go back to basics and work in black and white and do blackout style pages, hoping some insight will appear. Obviously I am behind, but as this week is spring break for me I am doing a prompt daily. Here are the first 3




Journaling left me feeling more centered, so I played with some gelatin printing for a couple of hours. I’m still under employed but I have a roof over my head and a studio full of supplies. Life could be worse.


coming or going?

simple abundance july 25

I was driving my youngest daughter back to camp earlier this week when we passed a truck just like the one we were riding in – “watch out” she said, “we just passed ourselves going – we’re in a time paradox!” Too much Dr. Who in this house maybe?

But honestly that is pretty much how I have been feeling all year. Somehow I cannot seem to get grounded at all, and although some incredible and splendid things have happened, I feel they have all slipped by half-appreciated in a blur. I have been far too busy living to have a life. All of my good intentions seem rather tattered and I am feeling glad that a new school year is just around the corner (and a little freaked out about how much work I HAVEN’T done on my new lectures) and with it a fresh mental start.

I am trying to be gentle with myself – but I am frustrated by the fact that so many of the projects I had hoped to complete this year are still unfinished in the studio.I have made incremental progress on a few – the signatures for women’s work are almost completed – but I didn’t finish it in time to enter it in the Rochester Art of the Book show as I had hoped. I know it WILL get finished – and probably pretty soon, but I feel as if I have let myself down yet again. I know the only way forward is to pick myself up and renew my efforts, but I honestly just feel a bit tired. I’d like to just take a nap – in the woods away from everything.

never done....

never done….

I have signed up for the August round of the root 30 day journal project – just to see if anything comes to the surface. Obviously something is holding me back from following through with my commitment to myself, to make more time for my own art, maybe by going back to my journals I can figure it out. While I am waiting for August – I have decided to reread Simple Abundance and journal about whatever that brings up – maybe by staying in the pages of my journal where it is safe to make mistakes I can rekindle my energies and get back to work.

Now back to my coffee and preparations for the upcoming Bookfest at WNYBAC

missing my studio

It has been a whirlwind week with the European artists, many trips to the airport, many more trips to the two galleries where the show now hangs, and ending yesterday with a fun day trip to Niagara Falls. I have only walked in and out of my studio to grab something we needed, I am feeling a little disembodied and anxious, it is time to get back to work. I’ll leave you with some pictures from the last week.

my new work for the show

my new work for the show

beginning the installation at 3rd on 3rd

beginning the installation at 3rd on 3rd

we made the FRONT PAGE of the local newspaper!!

we made the FRONT PAGE of the local newspaper!!

a quick side trip to Niagara Falls

a quick side trip to Niagara Falls

Jean & Wendy at our table at the local SWAN Day market

Jean & Wendy at our table at the local SWAN Day market

when artists teach….

one for sorrow

one for sorrow

It’s official – I am completely overwhelmed this term. I offer the following photos as evidence – and these are the clean-ish rooms.

there was a table under there..

there was a table under there..


and no clean plates…

This morning I had to eat my breakfast crumpets from a bowl as there were no clean plates!! I am up to my eyeballs in final exams – research papers to mark and stupid questions. Oh and I believe a holiday also rapidly approaching. The studio has spilled out into the dining room – mostly because my office is so trashed I can barely get through the door and there are books on every flat surface. I keep telling myself only two more weeks – but the truth is that now my hours have been cut I won’t be able to really take a break and will have to keep working at job number two over the holidays. I am exceptionally bummed out about this, I have work I NEED to do. The ideas are piling up. Gah! What’s an artist to do? I am beginning to wonder if I will have any work to show at all next year! The solo show next October may be a tad empty if I can’t figure out a better solution.

I did manage to make a little time this weekend to finish my collages for this event – which I am looking forward to. I sort f cheated and revisited the magpie series for some of these.

OK enough online procrastination – those papers won’t grade themselves.

and the universe said…

keep those lists coming please!!

keep those lists coming please!!

So it has been a bit bleak around here, which is partly why I have been so uncharacteristically silent – my hubby hasn’t had work in a while and the economic noose is feeling a bit tight. BUT a few days ago I decided to try and buck myself up by not only counting my blessings (which are MYRIAD) but but sharing the wealth a little. Several of my friends have ongoing kickstarter projects, so I made a small donation to each – and to a local organization too. It is funny how focusing outward makes everything less scary. I’m not any richer or more financially secure than I was before but I FEEL better. Huh!

Yesterday I got a call for an interview for a REAL job in my field – actually sort of a dream job for me, so on April 16th send out good vibes and keep your fingers crossed. I also got to spend a wonderful afternoon getting to know the curator of this show – gone viral – better over lunch, followed by a private tour of the exhibit. If you haven’t been to SUNY Fredonia to see it and you live within hailing distance – please go, it is incredible! And then to keep the great vibes going it is finally Spring Break. So I get almost an uninterrupted week in the studio. I will be taking some time out to speak at a conference for these nice people this weekend, and then next weekend I’ll be at the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair on Sunday April 7th. That is enough happiness to get me through the inevitable grading.

And one more thing. The lists are arriving almost daily for this project which I am fondly calling – never done – but if you haven’t sent yours yet, don’t despair! I need hundreds to fill the book, so keep them coming. I am hoping to show the finished book this summer. Want to help, email me at debraeck at debraeck dot com. Thanks!

And now I am off to the studio. Thanks for listening.

happiness project 2

another journal page – still working on “messy”


So a month has gone by and I thought I would share an update on my first month’s “happiness project” (if you don’t know what the heck I’m blathering on about check out this post). I have to admit I was hopeful but skeptical going in – but yea! good news, self improvement with lists and projects is working for me. I exerted considerable effort on relaxing, and in combination with my yoga class I can report that my mood has improved. I find myself more cheerful – even randomly smiling!  I haven’t conquered my need to be doing something all the time, but I have valiantly fought back, taking a weekend trip, with no work! and making time to be with family and friends in spite of looming, seemingly urgent deadlines. I am surprised that this has worked, I am even more surprised that I seem to have more energy – and no deadlines have been missed. Hmmm – maybe there is something to this relaxing thing!

So the idea of the book is to tackle one source of discontent/unhappiness each month. So this month I am focusing on organization. I have been de-cluttering for years, but I still have objects in my home with no permanent place – this months goal – “a place for everything and everything in its place” I know stuff won’t stay put – but I am hopeful I can improve a little! How wonderful it would be to not waste energy wondering where things are!!

In studio news – more of the same. I am neck-deep in research on women’s work. I have been learning how to crochet and make needle lace. As with every new technique one learns my head is filling with new ideas. I am really trying to think about content for those embroidered bindings and I think the needle lace has given me an interesting idea. Hopefully I will have some images to post here soon. I would be embarrassed to share my beginning crochet with you here as it is BAD! But hopefully I’ll be able to figure out the issues I am having with tension and make something that doesn’t look quite so wobbly. Thanks to everyone who has made suggestions on how to improve my technique – if you crochet and have words of wisdom for me – please share!! I am hoping to take a workshop on making and using “plarn” soon, and I’d love to make something cool from recycled bags – the course is being taught by one of my students who makes amazing things from her plarn!!

As for needle lace – well of course it is intricate and time consuming so I LOVE IT!! but it is tricky and again – issues with tension to be worked out – but wow! how amazing it looks. Oh I have BIG thoughts about this one.

OK – back to work! Have to finish the prep for my workshop at this conference tomorrow. Maybe in December I had better work on keeping my deadlines straight so I won’t have to do all this last minute rushing!

happiness – relax!

I have been feeling out-of-sorts for a while now. What should be an exciting new chapter in my life – having my hubby all to myself (having myself all to myself for that matter) is not living up to my expectations. I ought to be happy – I have a great husband, my kids are successfully making their way in the world, I have a beautiful home, my own studio, my art career feels like I am stepping up – so what is my problem??

Then Janet over at tattered and worn posted about a book she was reading – this one: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I am a bit of a sucker for self help books, so I thought why not? Luckily my library had the kindle version so I was able to start reading right away! Now I have to say right off the bat I knew I was going to like this book – this is a woman who makes lists, wants rewards and has a life much like mine. This is my kind of self help – charts, lists, stars…. I have already devoured half the book, and started on my first month of my own happiness project. While the author started with boosting her energy I knew my first task should be to relax.

If you don’t know me this might sound a bit silly – but I am so type A. I am always over-scheduled, always on the run, always tense (always even when I am sleeping). If there is a space on my calendar I rush to put something on it. I operate well on full speed, but I really suck at stop. Even if I appear to be stationary, my mind is running on ahead at a mile a minute. (unless I am absorbed in some repetitive task in the studio – but other people don’t need to be DOING something in order to relax!)

I have been trying to learn how to do this – I started taking a yoga class. I discovered I kinda like yoga – but what I REALLY like is how relaxed I feel after class – which is when I realized that I am not often that relaxed. So this is my project for the month – figure out how to stop every now and then. The first task I set myself was to try and get that yoga feeling  before bed. I am a terrible sleeper – I have always been this way – when I was little I used to climb on the window sill and read by the street lamp in front of our house. As a teen I pretty much gave up sleeping! But now as an adult these poor sleeping habits are (probably literally) killing me. I decided to try this simple 8 minute yoga routine I found online before bed each night. Even I can manage 8 minutes of exercise a day. And guess what – I have overslept several days in a row. Now I understand that oversleeping isn’t something one usually gets excited about – but it is something I almost never do (unless medication is involved).

So even though you are all thinking I am a bit nuts – I am excited – this feels like progress.

So… this weekend I am taking a mini break with my husband. I am going to try relaxing for a whole weekend. hmmmm. wish me luck!


This week someone important was stopping by the studio, so I spent all night Tuesday cleaning it up so you could actually move up there. While I was cleaning I realised that the studio is full to bursting with stuff – I have so much stuff. So I started thinking about a post I had read on another blog. I have been reading this blog for a while now, and a while back she posted about stashes and moratoriums. So I am going to go for it! Except for thread I am going to try not to buy any new art materials. Sometimes too much choice is overwhelming, I am going to challenge the limits of my creativity by forcing myself to work with what I already have – which is not much of a hardship, my studio is bursting at the seams with paper. And having made this public I am going to really make an effort to keep this promise to myself (and you). Looking back at past work I can see there are moments when I create artificial boundaries when I have pulled off something great that has forced my work into new paths and made me reevaluate my ways. I am already anxious about paper that may slip through my hands, but really how much paper does one woman need??


I have been trying to figure out how I first got entangled with the great group of artists from SCIBASE. I think that Louise Atkinson may at the bottom of it all, I am fairly certain that she forwarded a call for work from the Basement Arts Project to me. I am quite certain that my proposal for that show wasn’t accepted, but I ended up on their email list and when the call for work for SUPERMARKET went out I was really anxious to be included. The rest as they say is history. They accepted my proposal and I was able to meet up with them in Stockholm.

This was really the beginning of the strange mental journey I have been on since. I realized while I was at SUPERMARKET that I was quite content with the nature of my practice. I had really struggled after being accepted with the distinct possibility that I was not hip enough for an independent event of this kind. (and really I wasn’t!) I have said many times on this blog that I am maker, my hands need to be busy, I like the sense of gratification and accomplishment I get from producing a finely crafted thing. I enjoy the slow rhythm and repetition of my time in the studio. I am that creature. So while being in Stockholm certainly generated plenty of social anxiety, I really am not good with new people, it also generated a sense of well being that was new. I felt that there were some people who did get was I was doing and that seemed to be enough. I am not cutting edge, but I am OK with being a quieter, middle-aged, suburban sort of message bringer.

Then after spending time with the amazing group of NYFA MARK artists I realized another subtle internal shift was happening. I was really beginning to believe that I WAS an artist. It is really hard to explain what changed, or how my thoughts changed, but something has shifted. I find myself able to relax into the work, to be freer and more playful. Setting goals has allowed me to let go of something tight that was really jamming me up and I can already see the results in the studio and in my professional life. I am still not good with people but I find myself trying to be more open and especially more receptive to help.

And so today I had my first studio visit with a curator. I was able to carry on a fairly intelligent conversation about my work, and to get some valuable feedback about new projects. Just a few months ago I would not have even dared to invite a curator in, I didn’t believe I had anything worth seeing or sharing with a professional like that. I was making judgments about my work I should have been letting others make for themselves. Today I can say I do feel like a REAL artist.

And so, back to Bruce and Wendy and all the others, the artists of SCIBASE who gave me an unexpected boost. People in the art world talk all the time about lack, about fear and competition. This year I have been shown that it can just as easily be about collaboration, shared opportunity and abundance. A group of artists who only knew me through email and proposals welcomed me in, they took my very un-hip, perhaps embarrassingly earnest self consciousness and gently nudged me to a better place.They shared an experience, a space, even dinner!

I am excited to be showing with them again this coming month. My work is already on its way to Liverpool for the Independents Biennial. I finally wised up and created a print project that could be printed in England – so no expensive shipping and the work is designed to be taken away, so no return shipping either! The work I am sending is quite different, it is not precious, it is not finely crafted. It is a response to the absolutely ridiculous provocation of the political conversation in America over the past few months. It reflects the show’s title “inhospitable”, and how inhospitable to women the dialogue has become. I will wait until the show opens to post images.

I want to thank all the other artists in the collaborative who are doing the donkey work of installation and invigilation so that my work will be seen. I really, really wish I was coming to Liverpool to see you all again. And I want to thank all of you, my blog friends for supporting me too.