In Search of a Voice

February 27, 2015

This week as I scoured and straightened my resume, in preparation to secure some steady work and since job hunting is an internet activity, I stumbled across Adela Akers’ work. I just finished a video about her processes and what inspires her work. I feel terribly foolish and wasteful letting time tumble through my hands like beach sand when I could have been working in my studio. I have fretted and worried about my future instead of being productive in the studio. I expended lots of energy working part time in the tech field and once the parts were installed  transitioning my  time was not effortless, switching from mathematical heavyweight computers to free spirited right brain activity, was a lot of work.  I  managed to squeeze time for investigating wet felting, some sketching, dyeing wool and exploring the properties of raising felted wool into vessels. I have met many wonderful and talented global crafters and  even those who raise sheep , a world I did not know existed. It has been a wild eight years but when I learned that Adela took what she knew as a foundation: weaving and turned it into a microphone for her creative voice, I became excited. She incorporated new dimensions by up-cycling materials leading the way towards a three- dimensional quality, often foreign in flat weaving. Ade lead me to Caroline Bartett 0f the UK who does stitched and block printed linen. I was moved by Tim Johnson exploration with human thumbprints and smooth stones. He works as on site installations and places of meditations. . I also found some great basket makers Dona Anderson, Dorothy Gill Barnes and Nancy Moore Bess of California.These great artist are part of my new direction.  I have become intensely tired of wet felting especially since all roads lead to wearable art (which I do not have any affection) and want to get back to making art, creating a statement and reflecting my inner voice once again because it is screaming to speak once again.


February 6, 2015

I cannot say I am returning to blogging just as I cannot say, I ever left.   I merely became distracted or refocused on other issues closer to my heart, well maybe more important. As they say, family is forever. Yes, family issues pulled me away. A close friend told me over the holidays that I was in need of discipline, after I healed from his blunt observation and revelation I have been mulling it around. Initially I fought it and justified my behavior by telling myself that he has no clue what I deal with on a daily bases thus I dismissed his comment as inaccurate. In the past month, as I am re-engaging with other felt makers, which has stirred my true love of textiles, I sense the lost ground and momentum gathered while experimenting with wet felt making. Maybe I do obsess a wee bit over the troubles of family members and take their battles as my own, instead of allowing them to discover the path for themselves. UGH. Instead of attending to my own needs that is to say creating with textiles, I forfeited my needs in light of theirs. This is a hard habit to break as I have attempted to re-engage activities in my studio for eight weeks. I recognize that habits are hard to break. I wake up in the early morning saying to myself, “Ok today I am working in my studio. Nighttime arrives and I fail to make an appearance into the studio.

Anyway, I have begun a fresh journey even though I am unsure of the exact directions. My first step in returning to work is that I have been cataloging my previous work and without a journal, my memory is foggy concerning the details such as the dates. I can say with all confidence, I enjoyed pushing the limits of my understanding, crossing techniques and making a few of my own in the process. I enjoy the idea of vessels, something very impractical. Felt making has been historically a functional process of making coverings for the body or even protection for shelters or rugs to cover the walking surface. It is to me eye candy like a well-composed painting. I spent the afternoon investigating silk and the antiquity of it because a few of my pieces incorporated hand dyes silk into wool. The juxtaposition seems appropriate because wool seems practical and silk more exotic, the luxury fabric of the leisure class. Silk is fragile and just does not have the longevity of hardy wool. Many silk quilts do not survive because of the various minerals used in processing the silk or even the dyes tear down the properties of the fabric

This subject has been mulling around inside of me for several years and  has been unanswered until now.   I read this article in the latest journal of the American Craft Council.    Some younger artist will argue against these points as they poorly defend their shoddy execution of work.There is a time of experimentation and craft is out the door in lieu of pushing the idea, however refinement does come into play.

Last year I was asked to speak about craft to a small group of graduate printmaking students from Tyler School of Art. It was an interesting assignment: to talk about craftsmanship to people who presumably are more closely allied to painting than anything the craft world can offer. I doubt they use the words “craft” or “craftsmanship” very often, and craft might seem altogether irrelevant to their work. So how should I speak about it?

It seems obvious that good craftsmanship is unimportant in the art world. One even can get the impression it’s forbidden. For instance, when I saw “Unmonumental,” the inaugural show for the new building for the New Museum, there was more than one example of extremely casual fabrication. Many of the works on display were assemblages of found objects, following in the footsteps of Rauschenberg from the ’50s. (Think Monogram, his famous sculpture with the tire encircling a stuffed goat.) To me, the work that exhibited the least amount of effort was from Sarah Lucas, who did little more than arrange found objects – a sofa bed, a wooden box, some light fixtures. Sure, there were the requisite winks to famous artists – the fluorescent light referred to Dan Flavin. Yeah. OK. And then what? It was completely lame: a case of the “zero craft” school of sculpture. But this piece was in the New Museum, and I’ll never get shown there. She made it, and I didn’t. Art no longer requires craft. It’s plain to see.

What is craft, anyway? The social philosopher Richard Sennett says craft is work done carefully, and for its own sake. This is an expansive definition. It could apply equally well to writing a contract, plumbing a sink, or cooking spaghetti sauce. It is far broader than what we think of as the crafts (ceramics, glass, wood, etc.). But still, Sennett’s definition applies: A good potter works carefully, and the quality of her work is, in some respects, its own reward.

To Sennett’s definition I would add two provisos. First, craft demands practice. Sennett makes this point, claiming that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become accomplished at any difficult skill. Maybe. I’m certain talented individuals can become skilled in much less time. Nonetheless, a lot of repetition is needed to become highly skilled. Neuroscientists have shown that practice actually changes the structure of the brain: With repetition, neural pathways are reinforced and even changed. The work becomes almost automatic. This is what Peter Dormer called tacit knowledge: skills that become embedded in the body, so to speak.

I would also say that craftsmanship requires knowledge of the field at hand. An accomplished furniture maker must know a whole catalogue of joints, finishes, tools, woods, and much more. He must also know furniture itself, both contemporary and historical. Without all this knowledge, the maker cannot know where he stands in his own field, and he will tend to constantly reinvent the wheel. The skilled worker must know the history and techniques and materials of his work. Otherwise, he just flails about.

So does craft have any place in a setting that seems to completely devalue it? Yes, I think.

The work of art today is a window into meaning. Art is a more-or-less transparent opening onto a concept. This is the legacy of conceptual art from the ’70s: All works of art are required to be connected, in some way, to an idea. As Arthur Danto said, “Art is embodied meaning.” You can quibble about the details, but Danto is pretty much right. You have the thing – whether it’s a performance, a video, an installation, a sculpture, a painting, or any other type of thing that produces an experience – and you have the meaning that stands behind it. You look through the work of art to the meaning.

I think this business of seeing through the surface of the work of art has four crucial components. Two require some form of craftsmanship, one requires knowledge, and one requires pure imagination. When all four components come into alignment, you have an interesting work of art.

1/ Good art demands careful thinking. If concept is the key, the whole business of arriving at an interesting and compelling concept requires that the artist be able to think carefully. The idea must be arrived at logically and with rigor. It can’t be a sloppy mess, and it can’t be stupid. If you have a bad idea, you have bad art.

The art world has scrupulously avoided stressing the necessity of clear ideas. Critics give artists a pass. Bad ideas are everywhere.

Let me give you one example. Ruudt Peters is widely considered to be one of the premier conceptual jewelers in the world today. A while ago, he produced his Anima series, which had the unfortunate property of looking just like Stanley Lechtzin’s electroforms from the ’70s. (Strike one.) Peters was concerned with connecting with his feminine side, which he called the anima. This term is Carl Jung’s, and he used it to denote a whole series of female archetypes that trace a progression of spiritual awakening. Peters, however, took it to mean only the subconscious and the unconscious. By relinquishing conscious control and dribbling hot wax into water, he generated forms for the Anima series. In so doing, Peters claimed, he was getting in touch with his female nature.

Is this good thinking? No. First, Jung insists the anima is a complicated thing, a whole progression of states of mind. Peters made the anima way too simple. (Strike two.) Second, the simple equation of the feminine with the unconscious is a very old, and very bad, idea. This is the kind of thinking that equated women with animals, incapable of rational thought. You see it a lot in 19th-century art and literature. Once you equate women with the unconscious, you relegate all women to second-class status. They’re intuitive, but irrational. They’re too impulsive to vote. They can’t manage money. Keep them barefoot and pregnant! They’re foolish, after all, and aren’t capable of the kinds of big important ideas that men deal with.

This is pure, stupid sexism. Peters embraced a sexist idea, one that demeans all women – strike three. Of course, neither collectors nor critics noticed what a dumb idea Peters was promoting, but that doesn’t alter the fact.

My point is that the artist must be careful in how she thinks. She needs to read and research. She must know the field. And she must demand that her own thought process be clear and logical. That doesn’t exclude leaps of inspiration, but flights of fancy must be grounded in cold logic. Good concepts require careful work. In other words, there is a craft to thinking, a way of thinking carefully, as opposed to being sloppy and stupid.

2/ The artist must know his field. If you’re doing performance, you are obligated to know the history of performance art, its innovators, its leaders, its great works. You have to know Allan Kaprow and Claes Oldenburg and Adrian Piper and Karen Finley. If you don’t, you’re ignorant, and you have no context for your work. You’re fated to reinvent the wheel. Knowledge is crucial to making art.

This is not a matter of craft. It is accomplished with study and experience.

3/ The artist must be able to translate the idea into a visual experience. Concept and form must be matched. Here’s where inspiration and creativity come into play. Figuring out the optimum form that an idea can take is no easy task. All forms of art are open for consideration. Which is the best one for the idea? How do you make the experience compelling and memorable? How do you imbue the idea with poetry? How do you ensure that the idea is communicated clearly? The best artists do all this with imagination and intelligence.

Matching idea with form is not craft-like. It’s a matter of creativity. Which is hard work, but not the careful work in a given context that I’m writing about. Inventing at its best is wild, playful, even undisciplined. Outside of the familiar. That’s how great art is made.

4 / The last component is exercising control over composition. In the broadest sense, it’s about design and execution. And there is a craft to both.

It’s obvious that beauty is no longer the primary driver of visual art. Beauty went out the door more than a century ago. Beauty is now an occasional visitor, but not a resident. In art, beauty has been replaced with the interesting. We can do without beauty, but we can’t do without something interesting about our art.

But how do you make something interesting? How do you make it compelling? How do you make art so that viewers are drawn to the thing and can’t turn away? How do you hold your audience, make them wonder and dream?

To my thinking, the artist orchestrates the viewer’s attention. Orchestration, the management of visual complexity: That’s what all artists do. Artists direct attention toward certain aspects of the work, and divert it from others. The idea is to move your viewer’s attention from one element to another until clarity emerges. The meaning behind the work becomes clear.

One of the important jobs of the artist is to remove distractions. Distractions turn attention away from the matter at hand, and invite the viewer to focus on something extraneous. A distraction is a detour, a pointless side trip away from interesting subjects.

A distraction is usually an anomaly, a visual element that stands out from the rest of the composition. Anomalies call attention to themselves; they stand out like the proverbial sore thumb. Good artists control anomalies carefully, the way painters apply a dash of red to anchor all the rest of the colors in the painting. The idea is to place anomalies where they do the most good, and eliminate them otherwise. An inept artist will put anomalies where they don’t belong, unbalancing the composition and interrupting the optimum flow of the viewer’s attention.

This is precisely where old-fashioned craftsmanship is relevant. In my necklaces, for instance, I am forced to deal with connections between parts. These connections must be flexible enough for the necklace to drape comfortably over a variety of body types. Sometimes they must also restrict movement, so the necklace sits properly on the body and doesn’t droop. Not only does this require some engineering, but it also requires real craftsmanship. I don’t want the joints to call attention to themselves, because they can’t contribute to the meanings I want to communicate. I can’t let my hinges become glaring anomalies. If they were large and complex, they would distract. So I reduce all my hinges to points of light between elements, little visual touches that are devoid of significance. To work, they must be small and perfectly made. Furthermore, they must be tough enough to endure the normal abuse that jewelry encounters. They must be well designed
and well made. They must be well crafted.

Control of anomalies is necessary even if the fabrication is, shall we say, relaxed. Even if the artwork is festooned with globs of paint and garlanded with gashes, the artist still needs to make sure the anomalies are in the right place, of the right emphasis, and the right size. They must exert control. They must exercise care. And that’s pure craftsmanship. That old stuff that most people think is so out of fashion.

Craftsmanship will never be-come totally obsolete. Young artists are tempted to slap things together. Sloppy craft has the aura of authenticity; hot glue and staples seem sufficient. But I’m convinced they will eventually see that visual art is necessarily a matter of visual control. In time, they will start to think about meaning, attention, and anomalies. And then … craft.

Bruce Metcalf is a jeweler and sometime writer who lives near Philadelphia. He is the co-author, with Janet Koplos, of Makers: A History of American Studio Craft. This essay was first published on his blog, CraftGadfly.

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Maybe Tomorrow

July 6, 2014

Peter Korn said, “Why we make things and what does it matter” actually that is the title of the book I am nursing in between gardening, cleaning and just living. He makes the case that often some artist will allow living get in the way of living an exceptional artist life. I am guilty as charged and mercilessly miserable in doing so. Yet, day after day I fall accountable with no reasonable or even unreasonable excuse. When I cross paths with other artist from my past I either feel guilty/ jealous because they have continued with their life’s work or pressed their talent aside as a passing fancy. In an worthless attempt to ease my guilt I buy books on how to get back to producing art which is evident by the stacks of such books on my night stand. One such book suggests doing what is called “morning papers”. The technique is to do free-stream writing every morning, fresh awake, writing as quickly as ones hand will move, not reading, thinking, editing any grammar or spelling. One fills three pages with writing, stopping at the bottom of page 3, no more no less. The premise is to empty one’s mind of worries, cares, unresolved tasks or distractions. This worked for several months before the dry spell eased in once again. One time I dug out every single sketchbook or journal I ever kept and flinging them all about my sleeping quarters, hoping to dream of productive years. I have joined various craft groups to soak up some creativity, which only left my creativity parched and bone dry. O’ Woe is me, tomorrow is another day, another chance.

December 20, 2012

Someone found this post and contacted me about purchasing the vessel for his wife.  Even though the pics have been published previously here is a narrative about the creation of the vessel.

This piece was originally inspired and constructed for an invitational show in Paris, France called “Stations”. The show was held in a gallery made of ancient stone and it was on exhibition during the Passover Easter Season.  Fourteen USA artists from a wide array of disciplines each were given a station to create a work of art. The show was fascinating and vivacious in its interpretative views and reading between the lines of the titles.

I was invited to do an interpretation of Station #10 called: Stripped, where Jesus was beaten, thronged and stripped of His garments.   I had plans for the piece to be more graphic with the skin torn and ripped to bits for our wrong choices, misdoings and our wicked ways. But once the vessel dried I heard a calling of the maroon ( dried blood) dribbling  down the vessel as it made an interesting contrast against the butter cream innocent skin made of Icelandic lambs wool.  Though, I usually have no issue with destroying a piece to express my messages, this one beckoned me to leave it alone, a task that has taken  me 30 years to learn.  As artist, it is a fine line between pushing one’s idea and allowing it to stand.

I like to paint a composition then cut it up and weave it back together or dribble other paint over the composition.   In the 1990’s I designed wall blankets, I would create a composition on fabric, the size of a quilt then sew several together, using a machine free form design.  Slash the top layers to reveal the composition underneath, representing people and how we expose parts of our personality and sometimes different from public persona. There is a well known textile artist named, Tim Harding, who inspired me in the late 1980’s with the unraveling of cloth, which gave the cloth a soft pliable function and I employed this technique vivaciously in the late 80’s early 90’s.

In 2007, I answered an ad on Craig’s list to swap artist materials. I forget what I offered but I inherited a large array of wool roving.  I made felt in college using raw wool,  learning to  clean, card, spin and dyeing it but I was not terribly drawn or inspired by this scientific approach to self expression.  Creating the “canvas” so to speak was highly unappealing to me weather it was fabric, paper, reeds metal or wood until I grew increasing bored in winter of 2007 and wanted a new avenue.

I like unusual things and to me vessels made of lambs hair or wool is a lovely revelation because we normally use wool to clothe or keep us warm hence the  astonishment of making a work of art with no intended function  seems like a surprise.






  Previously posted pics

New fleece

December 5, 2012

I thought I posted this; it looks as though I do not understand my tablet as well as I hoped.  I can successfully do a few things but posting to my bog is not one of them.  Although to my credit I was able to upload this pic on Wednesday but then it has been sitting in the draft section of several days. Let’s be fair and say I was working on the tablet in my car not while driving mind you but sitting in a parking lot using an establishment’s WIFI.  Distractions still keep me from felting however I did clean off the table and get the studio ready to felt by spreading plastic across the print table and sorting through items which I have collected–you know for a future project.  YAY. Perhaps today after work and a shopping trip to Trader Joes, I will get at least a test felt completed. The daunting idea of cleaning all that wool is the main deterrent.

fleece 3 bags full

Hello again

November 10, 2012

Now, that I have semi conquered my smart phone/android, the past 3 months  have been spent not in felting but going with the new technology of tablets. The android platform is similar on phones and tablets but just different enough to add frustrations as the directory structure is vastly different from that of a pc. On the very bright side I have learned to transfer my digital library to my tablet and quickly realized the portability  as i can take the tablet to bed and have to my delight , read multiple novels, it is so easy to take to night shift work, waiting for others in the car and answering emails however creating on the tablet other than emails, Facebook postings is a new horizon.  I have made several promises to resurrect  postings on WordPress that have quickly ended  to a null point. Nonetheless  looking at my blog does stir my creative juices to become a producer once more. I have several lattice vessels that are screaming to be photographed and posted but I have deaf ear  and am pressing on and refusing to get distracted in the details.
It is rumored that Winston Churchill said, “if you are going through hell just keep walking”, so I have my jogging shoes on and warming up my muscles.  The studio has massively been disturbed by a new resident plus I have given a few painting lessons.  Mt eight yr old neice has shown tremendous interest in felting……so may put a kit together dfor her like Nicola does, or just have her into the stidio for a day of fun.In
seven or 8 hours will tell if I can keep the momentum to felt tomorrow. Good night for now.

Once again, I am lagging in the studio. Now, that my son has installed new shelves in the studio, the counters are free and available to be filled with felting and art related items.  Last week I did some portraits of turnips yes the vegetable. Some would more accurately call it a still life but I like vegetable portraits. I was ramped up to paint all week, as visions of peppers, celery, radishes and others danced in my head but an accident occurred.  A door broke to the studio so I am distracted once again. Ack!!!!  I came across a pad of watercolor paper and was emotionally charged to paint.  I was hoping to capture some images while waiting for  the outside temperatures break from triple digits down to a more humanly tolerable temperature.  My lawn has turned entirely to a dormant straw brown, while my neighbors maintain theirs bright vivacious green with frequent watering.   Apparently, this summer’s drought withstood heat temperature not even seen in the historic dust bowl of the 1930’s.  


I am looking forward to organizing my CV (curriculum vitae) and images of my work for an upcoming competition.

Alright You Guys, no foolin’, this heat is CRAZY!!!. Yes, we are back into triple digits and it is much too miserable to felt even in air conditioning. I can’t even think clearly to do anything in the studio but  drink about 64 ounces of water per day and I feel  the days are spent doing nothing but intaking and eliminating.  I am exhausted.  Tonight I went to a concert and was inspired.  The singers were all graduates  from my art classes (from years ago) and I was ever so pleased to see how they have developed their talents and skills as singers.  This week they leave for London to perform at the Olympics, which has absolutely nothing to do with visual arts. The reason I am inspired is to see mere children develop their respective talents into well refined skills and sharing with the world unlike their art teacher.

This piece  sold  at the Women Made Gallery, Chicago, Illnois USA  It is made of Mohair, Alpaca and Icelandic Lamb Fleece approximately 33 inches in circumference.  The abstract aubergine flying geese has been stamped  using a thickened dye made of seaweed- alginate and Urea. Once it was dry  I realized I forgot to add the vinegar to  set the dye.  I experimented with a process I had never tried before and IT WORKED.   .   I placed the vessel into a commercial Chinese Steamer (similar to home bamboo stovetop steamers). I used about  three inches of white distilled vinegar- instead of the typical H2 O -in the bottom portion  and covered with a lid  however to keep the condensation from dripping back onto the vessel,  I placed clean unprinted newsprint paper under the lid to catch droplets while it steaming.  O placed the steamer onto a hot plate, brought the vinegar to a roaring boil, and kept it boiling for twenty minutes. I let it cool completely  and I recall,  over night cooling.  I let it cool completely  – over night.  The next morning I rinsed the vessel with little loss and was ecstatic that my experiment was successful.



It should be noted that the mohair works its way to the surface and blurs the otherwise crisp edges of the stamped dye.

Leftover Blackberries

June 25, 2012

Oh, the struggle to get back into the groove of creating is wrenching with each non-successful day. The days seem time foolish with nonsense but the necessary domestic tasks of the day: watering flowers, paying bills, errands, ordering bank checks, phone calls, a new military grade screen protector for my smart phone and the mundane paperwork constantly screaming for my attention.  I did get some UNIX commands printed and soon to be laminated in preparation for a new contract I have secured for my day job. The unyielding heat(102F) seems to twist and contort my willingness to execute and complete my to do list.  All I managed to that is remotely related to creativity is organize my collection of sketchbooks and toy with the idea of pitching them.  The rest of my day was spent   cooking stir fried chicken, veggies and lo mien noodles with black bean garlic paste and  a nice dessert  made of Georgia peaches, black berries and pound cake  and la-t dolled  it with whipped cream.  Here is what is left.

Black berries

There is always hope that tomorrow I will succeed with productive studio time.

Made to create

June 23, 2012

Here is an exert from a commencement given at  Biola University Commencement Address (for undergraduates), 2012 by makoto fujimura

“…..We serve a Creator God, and this Creator created us to also be creative.  In the same way that God gave Adam the authority to name the animals in Genesis 2, God invites his children to co-create within God’s parameters. We cannot create ex nihilo, but we are all artists with a small “a,” and we are asked to work through our brokenness and fears.  We are created for love; and love is creative.  So what would happen if every single person who follows this Creator asked the same question “What do I want to create?”  And further, if we became an ambassador to the world to help ask, “What do you want to create, and how can I help you?”  What if we answered this question filled with the Creative, Holy Spirit of God every moment that we are awake, and helped others to do the same?  Would we have a world more beautiful, compassionate, caring and daring?  Would we see our occupations differently?  Would we see our universities differently? Would we see our motherhood, our fatherhood, our brotherhood and sisterhood differently?……”

Makoto Fujimura

Makoto Fujimura Studio | 38 West 39th St. | New York | NY | 10022


Ummmm so what am I going to create today? How can I make it a more beautiful blue globe by my little creations?  After my last posting, I feel I want to get into my car and run over my smart phone so that it will stop dictating my life. Can I do it? Yes, if I want to rapidly become homeless. For a less violent alternative, turning it off I head to the studio.

hello all, today’s post March 27th  is not about felting  but a good friend in his endeavor as a fine artist.  It is best to just post a link instead of me translating his vision and work.

Darin White

Sorry, Darin, for the delay nonetheless I was excited to see the Brooklyn show was a great success, thus congrats are in order. What is next?

I found this posting in my draft basket.  My blogging hit an all time low in the late winter and I am dragging to regain the momentum I once had.  I have been having fun with my adult son and ignoring any ideas and aspirations to create.  I cannot begin to explain how difficult it is to switch between the left hand brain activity of my day job, and the vibrant, creative right brain activity and energy in my studio. Excuses aside I stand empty handed, projects unfinished and allowing the technology of my smart phone to suck the life out of me.  I have shamelessly admitted the admiration of the smart phone developers is high.  I can now draw on my phone, in color and digitally record it. It takes me back to 1994 when I discovered the personal computers and the internet.  When I attended university in Durham, England, I met a nice chap, with whom I interacted for a few years even after my return to the USA.  Years, decades flew past me.  I decided to put this Internet thing to the test. I set out on a quest to find this chap.  The internet was not THAT refined, cataloged or databases had crude inter-connectivity in 1995, even though it only took four seconds to send an email to Australia;  my search took four months and resulted in a phone call in Tasmania. Shocked to hear each others voice, it was not brain surgery to conclude that this internet thing was not only useful but here to stay.


I was not terribly successful convincing other artists that putting their artwork on the Net, would give world wide expose, of course all those artist, now, have fancy websites and I do not.   When the US Science Foundation was the sole distributor of domain names, I had registered several in 1994 before there was a cost and my foresight provided a nice profit when I sold them to various firms.  Anyway, I tried to integrate the digital world and my creativity, which never clicked for me; I am not a graphic artist and was not terribly interested becoming one.  I missed the other input of my senses, the smell of the paint, and the feel of a lovely brush in dipping into paint and applying to a surface.  There is an inner pleasure when paint is applied to various surfaces whether it is smooth and slick like a Bristol paper or rough watercolor paper. The fragrance of indigo oxygenation when fabric is pulled from a vat or mono gum when applied to fabric for a dyeing resists. Now, the smell of wet wool is unmatched.

Saving the Shards

June 18, 2012

I have collected hand blown glass balls for 20 years. I received many as gifts and some I collected as souvenirs of the places I have visited.   I found these swirls of light simply lovely creations and displayed them in a window as seen in photo.  One day about a decade ago, I heard a loud crashing noise in my bathtub and my cat was so intimidated by the noise she darted to the basement.  She must have been enticed to play with these items of eye candy.  I am grateful that my cat was not injured, as she had to be in the bathtub and in the windowsill. Nostalgia kept me from throwing the broken glass away. The shards have been stored in this vase since with the hope of finding a creative way to use the glass I still have not uncovered a solution but thought of photographing the remains.


June 18, 2012

For those longing for the old scratched photos of yesteryear.  Tired of all the crisp digital photos that every Tom Dick and Harry are taking with their Iphones?  I found an app on Google Play  that converts my 10 Mega pixel camera phone into one inspired by The Bärbl – An East German classic, naturally faded with a scratched film and medium vignetting, the perfect all-round choice. This might be the kicker that gets my mojo back. I have been rambling around in nowhere creative land for about seven months.  I just have had no inspiration to create anything interesting.  I am using a 4 G phone, by HTC called Amaze.  It has been a delightful tool for my day job, perfecting documenting  barcodes, or captures the wiring on a 66 block. I have used it as a bubble level,  a cam scanner, where I can scan documents on the spot and even get the degrees within a given angle, not to mention documenting  the scheme in data centers. Thus, I am charged to use this phone/camera thing for some creative.

Messy bedroom

Art Spaces

May 31, 2012

I  cleaned my studio spotlessly and meticulously, making it a usable food consumption kitchen once again.  My new tenant, AKA boomerang son, has taken up residency in the apartment on the lower level of my home where partially my studio resides; it is split into rooms, with doors and a dedicated lavatory but a large section serves as my studio because it has a functioning kitchen and refrigerator, used for felting and dying.  The son and I are in process of arrangements so I can have access to my print table.  What is a print table you ask?  Just as the name suggest but  homemade: I used a four feet by eight feet sheet of wood, covered with ½ inch of carpet wool padding (no longer manufactured)  which is tightly snuggled into place with a unbleached canvas secured underneath with a gazillion stables and it rest on portable legs.  I constructed this table when I was in school, so I could work on screening/printing wall blankets at home without taking my son from precious sleep. He had a locker at the school studio crowded with roller skates, various toys, sleeping bags, pillows stuffed animals and his favorite yummy snacks however did not have a quite space to sleep during my late night creative hours.  I constructed a section where I could stretch fabric and anchor it to a taunt surface.  It is similar to stretching a canvas onto a stretcher frame except instead staples I used stainless steel t-pins so the applied wet paint or dye would not shrink the canvas when air dried.  The table has been the single most useful tool I have ever created, seen the most work activity and it has served me well, since I religiously covered the base with a tightly woven canvas drop cloth.  The table is virtually pristine with exception to a few dyeing jobs that meandered or bled though to the base layer.  Yes, 24 years of various art projects interlaced with tutoring sessions and a sprinkling art instruction classes have all used this print table in diverse avenues.  I covered this cloth table with plastic when I make felt projects.  Though I would love to have stainless steel, I use the print table for dyeing and sewing projects.  Therefore, to loose access is creatively crippling and I have yet to resolve it.

Second Hand Fabrics

May 30, 2012

Oh, Nicola is now, speaking my language: second hand stores.  I openly admit as a true artist that I have rescued items with a bit of dumpster diving, which ended up being excessively valuable. When I first time visit a town I do not head for the tourist attractions but I scan the environment for junk stores.  I found a little fabric store many years ago, along the side of the road not unlike a fruit stand. It was near a quaint town population just under 200. The store was crammed pack with 100% natural fabrics that were end roll or bolt ends.  I found delicate cottons, silks alongside heavy-duty sailcloth. Oh, I had so much fun dying those fabrics and I still have a few left in my stash. Sadly, the store was torn down in lieu for a convenience store.


I read an article in the NY Times that  the cotton industry has discovered a way to  intermingled nano Millimeter ( I forget the actual weight but it was microscopic) of  synthetic  to reduce shrinkage, yet the amount is so small it  is still legally label it 100% cotton. This explains why newer items such as tee shirts and linens will not dye properly with procion dyes.  Yes, I have taught classes on beach towel dyeing using a kiddie swimming pool.  Have you ever wondered by some 100% cotton tee-shirt seems to be hot or slightly itchy? This small percentage of non-natural fiber keeps the fiber from “breathing”, or allowing the air to freely flow through the garment.


The only true test is doing a burn test, which I found this one of the most useful tools I learned at art school.   For a final test in this class, I was presented a pile of samples and required to identify the contents by burning them.   A small sliver is fibers, held of course with tweezers or tongs, set a flame with a match, various fibers will have a different burn rate, odor, and a distinctive ash or rubbish result. I have worked with textiles for over forty years and yet garments or unmarked fabrics have deceived me especially some with the distinct feel of silk, when tested will burn into a hard uncrushable black ball and smell foreign.  Silk will scent of burned hair and crush into ashes.   Plant fibers have the odor of paper burning while all animal protein: wool, silk, leather have the smell of when you get too close to an open flame and your eyelashes get  singed, the stench of burning hair.    It is a fascinating, to me after I wrote this, I discovered there are several web sites with the various  test results.


March 17, 2012

Felt is not popular where I currently live and I attribute it to the weather.  We experience all four season and with tremendous gusto and today is no exception.  Our little town of 100K population will celebrate St Patty’s day with a parade in a few hours, so I spent the morning perusing blogs and stumbled across many that revolved stitching, some hand and many machine, all which were inspiring.   Stitching is one of my longest and most love form of creative endeavors.  I have always been intrigued by hand stitched books, embroidered cloth and a friend of mine in Portland Oregon, stitches paper, Kristen Miller.  Perhaps I can escape my current creativity funk by re-exploring stitching onto felt. I have nothing to share with you except the flowers from my spring garden.Signs of Spring






quilted furniture

March 13, 2012


March 12, 2012

I was attending a birthday celebration yesterday,  and could not find my stash of greeting cards.  I found a lonely  one amongst my felting flat pieces and how I wished I would have documented it with a photograph.  I assume my stash has dwindled or they are just hidden in a crany of my home,  so time to crank into gear for a new style.  I made my first professional card in 1992.  I usually do a set of cards about 10-12 at a time. Each group is entirely different, some time they are assemblages, some collages, some painted, some with hand-made paper I constructed.  What is most satidifying is to visit friends and family and see they have taken a greeting card that I sent, meant as moment of visual pleasure and they have framed the card and it is handing in their home.

The most unique was a stylized set of hearts painted with fingernail polish that was swirled with a metal stylus to resemble marbled papers. The nail polish was old so it was not until days later that I discovered it would not try to its hardened enamel finish but remained ever so lightly tacky.But these two dried nicely. These are 4 x 6 inches

One group I especially loved was made of torn Japanese washi paper, which I hand dyed then torn into pieces. Hand dying paper is a more gratifying experience especially if the paper is cotton on washi , which is made from mulberry root.  It lends a nice soft edge when torn.

I  did a series of handmade paper 20 years ago and I embedded threads and metallic snippets into the paper as I was drawing it through the water. This is an example of those papers.

Another sample of the hand dyed Washi papers. with a compositional element of metallic thread.

This morning as I was perusing WordPress I stumbled across  this   What I liked about it is the booklet format with found objects—a mini work of art.I am unsure if I will make booklets but I found these works intriguingly satisfying.

The most popular was hand painted triangles cut out then arrange into a composition onto card stock.The shape is a bit out of the ordinary as they were 5 x 11 inches.