Bringing in a new year

I don’t usually make resolutions in January, the start of the academic year in September always feels like a more natural time to change things for me, but as the year turns and we travel back into the light this year I feel I need to set my life back in order. But what order?

The winter break is a time to hunker down for me. I don’t really enjoy winter except for the beauty of the cool north light, so it’s a good time for me to buckle down and get to work in the studio. So far this has mostly involved clearing the decks from last year, like these two books which had been partially finished on my bench since spring.

But as that weight clears I am making mental space for some new work for two back to back solo shows at the end of summer. What was I thinking? Well actually I know, I was afraid if I said no I would miss an opportunity, fear, fear answered for me. I am genuinely excited about both shows and both venues. They will each demand something different of me and give me a chance to show unique bodies of work, but seriously two shows in 9 months time, gah!

Okay, so you know there will be sewing, and I was really happy to get this book from my hubby for Christmas

And I have been slowly working my way through it using her techniques but on paper

I have been sucked into her orbit and also ordered her book of clothing designs (because I am going to have time to sew too?!)

I’m also back to my daily blackout meditations, I need to get grounded if I am going to pull this year off, so here are a couple for those who don’t see them on my Instagram feed

Im hoping to blog at least once a week about each project, mostly because that will hold my feet to the fire and hopefully keep me on track. So here’s to a brighter shiny new year.


some little escapist faeries

Wow! Its been a week. Not just the election – although I am still reeling from that, but also a trip to the Cleveland Clinic which meant a day with over 12 hours of driving. I am exhausted!

Like many other artists, stress drives me into the studio, where I found I just couldn’t settle to any of the projects I had started. On a bulletin board over my desk were 5 or 6 little partially completed collages, things that were stuck and abandoned there. I have been wanting to paint again for a few weeks, the change in the light as autumn and winter draw in always makes me want to pick up a brush to capture it, and so I decided I would try painting over a few of those collaged panels.

What to paint? I hadn’t picked up a brush to paint anything except a wall in more than 10 years –  I decided to just be whimsical and paint some little tiny faerie faces on a couple and see what happened. It was fun, just the escape I needed. The little faces looked a bit odd and isolated on top of the layers of collage, so I added another layer of collage over the top. I enjoyed having a brush in my hand. I see more tiny paintings in my future.

Here are the results – they will be my contribution to an exhibit coming up in December at the Sensory Art Gallery & Winery.


And now back to real life – a mountain of essays to grade and an enormous gift giving exhibit to install at the 3rd on 3rd Gallery.

working with paper

I have work in a new exhibit which opens this Friday (Working with paper, Center Gallery in Olean, NY, 6-8pm). Regular readers have been sharing my struggle to get this work completed, so I thought I would share this moment of resolution with you too.

This is that monigami scroll which almost ended up in the bin


And here are all those little tea bags I saved obsessively and then printed on


It would be wonderful to see some of you at the opening, but I will also try to post some better pictures once the show is finished and properly lighted.

Thanks to everyone who encouraged me through the dark days and helped me reach this moment.

one step too far?

It’s okay, relax, this is not a political post! Instead it is about the scroll from my last post, the one I didn’t think was quite finished. 

Friday night I decided to revisit it. I had a couple of pieces of dyed and printed paper that I didn’t use, so I thought I would try giving one of them the monigami treatment. One of the things I felt wasn’t working was how stiff and heavy the paper was. So I gently kneaded the test strip with some oil, and it softened up beautifully. Additionally the organic dye (onion skins) moved around a bit creating a mellow background tone, but the monoprint pretty much remained the same. I loved how this piece looked, so I decided to go for it and do the whole scroll.

I’m going to blame my next decision on the fact it was late on a Friday after a really busy week, but truth is I could have made this awful choice any time. I decided not to take the scroll apart. This was crazy thinking. Although the paper was quite stiff and heavy, the areas that had been folded in the dye bath were seriously compromised, add to that the size of the scroll, and disaster number one happened. As I worked the paper it tore badly in many places.

Those of you who know my work will no doubt be saying, but you love torn things you can mend, and this is true, BUT, the oiling also seemed to have obliterated the really delicate monoprinted images. It was ruined. 

Saturday I hung it out on my washing line to see if evaporating some of the oil would help. My poor neighbors never know what they might see hanging out there.

When I brought it back in later that day it still looked awful.

Yesterday I decided I would try one last thing to try and save it. I took the scroll apart, and gently ironed each piece of paper between clean sheets of absorbent paper with a very hot iron to try and pull the excess oil out. It was tedious and now my studio smells like a chip shop, but I think it might have saved the day.

As I removed the oil the printing began to re-emerge! I was afraid the all the extra texture added in the monigami process would still hide the more delicate printed images, but I think enough is still there.

So now all I have to do is repair all the tears caused by being too lazy to take the scroll apart at the beginning and then sew it all back together again. 

Lesson learned. Long thread, lazy girl.

Dyed paper experiment.

Sometime in the last couple of years I tried dyeing some paper using plant materials. I put them under weights, put them in the corner of the office, and forgot about them. By the time I accidentally rediscovered them many of the pages were moldy but I could salvage a few. Then I put them in a basket of other papers and forgot about them again.
Earlier this month I came across a call for work for a 4×6 exchange exhibit. You send a work and get a random work returned. So after rediscovering them for a second time, I pulled out one of those sheets of eco-dyed paper and tore it down to size. I started sewing.


I thought this was okay, but not really wow, so inspired by the splotchy dye on the leaves I thought I would add some french knots.


This was an awful decision. They were too much. Having gone too far I decided there was nothing to do but keep going, so I added more stitching using a finer thread almost the color of the paper.


This was better, but I hated the french knots so a good friend and fellow artist Elena suggested I just take them out. Duh! Brilliant! And that was much better, but still unbalanced. I posted a picture on Facebook and several other art friends weighed in. Sometimes you need another set of eyes. Another artist, Anna, suggested adding more layers to the composition. Again, brilliant.
This paper had a mirror twin from where the leaves were pressed in. So I cut out the main leaf to add on top.


Already I was feeling happier. So I embroidered around the edges and trimmed a little more with a scalpel. Then sewed through the layers.


So here is the final composition. Better by committee. And off on its way to the exhibit.
One of the most amazing things about the internet is that it brings other artists into my studio. Sometimes you need fresh eyes and its great to be able to reach out to people you admire and trust.

Keeping my head above water!

This semester I have a crazy teaching schedule, 5 classes at 3 different schools. It hasn’t left much studio time! I did finally wrap up the Berehinia book, I ended up hand dyeing some paper using tea and rust and making new covers.


She shipped out this week, along with “maple” and “women’s work” for this exhibit. I am so excited to have work included in this exhibit again! Can’t wait for the opening.


I am also working on a guest book commission, and a book for a DNA embroidery related exhibit. The binding was pretty easy to work out. But I had a crazy idea to hand stamp a human genome sequence inside. Where do these crazy ideas come from?  Why do they come to me?!


Thankfully fall break is coming up this week at all 3 colleges, so I might get to play with some new ideas in the next few days.

And just like that summer is gone

The last official week of summer was spent helping our youngest get ready for school while recovering from another surgery. Here’s hoping that sets her up for a better year ahead.
This week was the first week of classes. This semester I have picked up some extra work, so I am teaching 5 classes at 3 different colleges. The college i usually teach at treats their adjuncts very well, but one of the new colleges has pretty much abandoned me to sink or swim. I am glad i have so much experience under my belt or it could have been disastrous rather than just stressful. I also scheduled a workshop one evening this week. I survived, but it was a pretty foolish thing to do to myself!


And around packing and hospitals and teaching I also squeezed in time for the last festival of the summer


And to finish up a new installation for the faculty show at the college where I usually teach. The curator took this nice picture of me at work.


Actually the weather is still very lovely, summer is not really over quite yet, so I am hoping I might be able to make some paper from plants from the garden before the sun slips away. And I have some new projects on the go in the studio.
But first, coffee in the sunshine on the porch.