Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Celebrating a Stress Free Holiday Season with My New Friend Jack

I have a new friend and we have had a fine time together during this holiday time. I have not experienced one bit of stress, not one, tiny bit, thanks to his help. From choosing gifts to sending cards to cookie exchanges to gifts for needy community members, Jack has helped me cope calmly and gracefully. You may know Jack -- his last name is Shit. Jack Shit. As in "I am not doing Jack Shit for the holidays."

When the urge to bake hits, Jack says, "Still your mind! You do not want to go to the store to buy supplies, spend the evening baking, and run around tomorrow delivering them to your fat friends who don't need to eat them. Put on your flannel jammies, flip on the tv and watch a movie. Maybe someone will drop by with some cookies for you."

When I was asked to contribute clothing for needy babies, Jack said, "They'll take cash, you know." So that's what they got. Those babies won't know or care. They'd rather have candy anyway.

Purchasing gifts for friends and family? I was contemplating shopping trips, trekking through malls, driving long distances to get just the right thing. That smarty Jack said, "Wait around for a last minute deal to come in your email and order online." Brilliant! Took me about 30 minutes and that included typing in their names and addresses for delivery.

Christmas cards? Jack advised that I would be killing trees in the interest of sending meaningless greetings to people I talk to on the phone anyway. Everyone else would be thrilled with a lovely digital card from Jacquie Lawson. Jack knows his stuff!

Jack's wisdom includes, "All this so-called seasonal kindness is claptrap. Be good to everyone all the time and relax with a clear conscience in December while everyone else runs around like maniacs going in debt."

He has urged, "Girl, there is no Santa Claus, hell, even Jesus would not approve of Corporate Christmases. Don't do it for them, don't do it at all. That's called not doing Jack Shit!"

Jack has been a good and true friend. To show him my gratitude I am going to do something extra special. Just as he recommends, I am not doing Jack Shit for him.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Carving a Background Stamp

While shoving strolling through the 2011 International Quilt Festival shopping are, I ran across the exhibit and found this lovely Indian Printing Block. I was delighted to take it home with me, where it sat unused for about a year.

I had an idea that a solid background stamp would add some interest to the original design, and that I should carve this stamp. I was fortunate to attend, also in 2011, Jane LaFazio and Pamela Underwood's Lavender Sage Art Retreat in Austin, TX, where we carved stamps that we designed. Armed with these skills, I jumped right in.

Here's is what I used:
Speedball Carving Set (carving tool and stamp block blank)
tissue paper
oil pastel in light brown color
stylus for tracing
Stayz-on stamp pads in several contrasting colors
Muslin and paper

Original stamp on tissue paper, outlined with oil pastel
First, I stamped the original stamp on tissue paper. (above) I outlined the shape in oil pastel, which is soft and smeary, just what I wanted for this job. I flipped the design over on to a stamp carving blank block and used a stylus to go over the outline. The smeary oil pastel design was transferred to the block. (left) Using my basic little Speedball stamp carving tool, I began removing the portions of the block that I did not want to include in the image. (left)
Here's what it looked like when I finished carving it and slapped a purple stamp pad on it. It was not difficult to carve because I kept the shape simple, and the image stamped beautifully.

What I have learned about the original stamp is that it does not work well on paper (at least not index cards) because the detail is lost, but that it works much better on fabric, although not as well as I would like. I think this might have had do do with the surface upon which I was stamping. I used a dropcloth over a cutting board and it may have been too hard. 
Stamps on index cards, much of the detail stamp is lost.
Background and original stamps on fabric;
better but not as detailed as I would like.
In conclusion, I think I can get the image that I want by stamping on fabric on a padded surface, yet to be determined. If you give this a try, please comment and let us know what worked best for you.

Update: After all my experimentation, I discovered a video on the site that helped immensely: Inspired Block Printing with Jamie Malden.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Colorado Days

Aspen trees turning
For the last two weeks I have been enjoying southern Colorado. I have family here and I have picked apples, worked in a permaculture garden, built a compost bin, shoveled bear poop (!) out of the back yard, attended a fabulous concert at Steve's Guitars in Carbondale, and generally enjoyed the beautiful weather.

My aunt has a big apple tree in the backyard and for the last several nights a bear has climbed the tree to eat apples. He or she shakes the tree, chomps, grunts, and causes apples to fall. This all takes place right outside my second floor bedroom window, but I have never seen the bear. It's too dark, even with a flashlight shined from the window. This morning we shoveled up a 5 gallon bucket of bear poop. (I debated whether to post a picture of the poop, which is quite interesting, and have decided to spare you.)

My son Henry's girlfriend Shannon
My son has launched a business of installing permaculture gardens in Durango and thereabouts, and I have been assisting him with marketing, setting up a blog, and so on. I visited a garden he installed in Carbondale, and was amazed at the continuing yield of a small garden. (If you'd like to contact him about a garden for your backyard, it's henryellisjohnson (at) gmail (dot) com.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Prayer flags for all beings

I have been enjoying The Prayer Flag Project, and I finally got organized enough to jump in with a few of my own. Instead of overplanning, overthinking, and generally acting perfectionistic, I just did it.
A 50 cent garage sale sheet yielded 72 - 5x7" rectangles to play with. Having so many inexpensive pieces of fabric made me reckless -- if I did them wrong, it wouldn't matter because they were so cheap and there were so many of them. (The obstacles we make for ourselves!)
I dug around in my art supplies and found some fat tubes of Crayola finger paints, Radiant Rain, and big bottles of Colorations liquid watercolors from Discount School Supply. These materials, like the cotton fabric, will deteriorate rapidly. I think that prayer flags, like prayers, are meant to be transient and vanish into the universe.

I grabbed a few tools for making patterns and textures. One of my favorites is the purple rubber brush thing. It is soft and I can use it on my Gelli printing plate safely.I grabbed a few tools for making patterns and textures. One of my favorites is the purple rubber brush thing. It is soft and I can use it on my Gelli printing plate safely.
I placed the fabric on waxed paper on my worktable. I don't have a photo of this part, but I rolled out some blue fingerpaint on the Gelli and scribbled in it with the purple brush. I mashed each flag into the paint, adding more as needed.

And I painted. I globbed yellow finger paint on the fabric, then brushed it around and let it dry. I sprayed on some green Radiant Rain and when that was dry, added some orange. I like the Radiant Rain because it is sparkly, always a good thing in a prayer flag, I believe. I dropped the watercolors on the fabric to make blogs. When I decided that the colors were what I wanted, I had to decide how to add the lettering. After considering handwriting, image transfer, and printing on tissue paper, I decided on the latter. Easy and quick and more predictable than handwriting.
I stuck down the tissue paper captions with gloss lustre Mod Podge, then later wished I had used matte medium. Too shiny.
In order to hang the flags I added 2 machine made buttonholes to the top of each flag and then strung them on some orange twine I had around.
The flags read as follows:
May all beings be safe.
May all beings be well.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be loved.
May all beings love themselves.

These flags are intended as a housewarming gift for my son and his partner, Shannon. I want them to always be safe, well, happy, and loved.

The gig is up

The emma & abby gig is over. It was fun while it lasted -- going to garage estate sales, arranging the finds in the shop, and eagerly watching what was selling (or not). It began to be less than fun when I realized that I was barely working in my studio, I was spending more time scrounging through other people's castoffs that I was spending cleaning out my own closets, and, well, the glamour was gone. Worst of all, I was not making a profit. It would have been fun for longer if I had been making money, I think. I gave Colleen notice, and packed up my remaining "treasures" on Friday. The boxes, thankfully there are only a few, are in my studio waiting for me to decide the fate of the contents. My son has just rented a house in Durango, and I am going for a visit next week. Gee, I wonder if he needs me to help decorate?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Patience, nature, and addiction

Clouds over my house
No internet connection. No netflix, books, Instagram, syncing 2Do across devices, syncing calendars, uploading and downloading photos, Pinterest, no nothin'. We have had only the most sporadic connection for the last two months. (It's a long story and the ending has not come yet.) We have paid AT&T an obscene amount of money so that we can limp along with an air card and an account for my iPad. I used my iPhone so much that, even though I have an unlimited data plan, they retaliated by slowing down the connection. I depend upon the mercy of my friends and local coffee shops. 

For reasons unknown, I have a connection right now. It could go away at any second. I don't like living in this risk zone.

I tell myself, "Well, buck up, girl. You lived without the internet for most of your life." Problem is, I have come to depend on these devices and apps to keep me organized, focused, and of course, entertained.  

I believe that there are important lessons in this experience and that I had best pay attention: patience, nature, and addiction. Without dragging you through the depths of it, I have realized that I need to cultivate patience. It's not natural in my family. When I am holed up in the air conditioned house, I am not outside working in the garden or just being with Mother Nature. When I am on the internet, as we say, it's like being on a drug. I am enthralled and I can't Just Say No. I have to look at one more blog, one more Pinterest item, upload one more photo to Instagram. I think this interruption of my addiction is a good thing. I am learning how to survive on my own without my drug of choice. As any addict will tell you, this ain't easy but it's worth it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

emma & abby

It started out as, "We need to sell all the cool stuff cluttering up our houses." Then we added, "Hey, we could sell stuff that we make, too." And it went on like that for a while. All talk and no action. Left up to me the idea would have remained only in my head. My friend Colleen, however, is more of an action person. (Granted, she is younger and has more energy than I.) One day she simply found a location for us to sell our stuff and the next day we were moving in. emma & abby was born, named after our dogs, so creative. That's how I got into the "antiques" business. It's not really an antiques shop, but it is located in the back room at Bruce's Vintage Guitars & Antiques.
For the last several weeks Colleen and I have decluttered our houses, stuck price tags on our belongings, and hauled them to our shop as we grandly call our corner of the back room. And that should have been that. Like the rest of my life the situation quickly developed a complication. Colleen suggested that we go to some garage sales and estate sales to pick up a few things to sell. Sounds good, right? Get some great bargains and move 'em quickly through the shop. Wrong. So wrong. Those bargains have trickled into my house faster than the original clutter has gone. A blue and white Portuguese tray with adorable animals painted on it? Wow! Let's put it in the dining room! Hand crocheted pillowcases for $5? Good Lord, I'll never find a deal like that again. Those things are becoming scarce as hen's teeth and this color would look so great in the guest room. And that cherry bookcase? Back the truck in here and let's see if that guy over there will help load it!

My patient husband has refinished a simply darling vanity, a large 5 drawer chest, and has a dining room table and a bed frame stacked in his workshop. My studio is stacked with items that need to be priced. I've lost track of how much I've spent and I am so tired from schlepping stuff home from estate sales on weekends that I need a vacation to recover.

Okay, it's still all pretty good, you're thinking. Have I mentioned that I have sold virtually nothing? Or that Bruce, from whom we rent, has put up the only identifying sign behind some trees? So this is retail. And the contract for the space runs through July. I have an awful feeling that we will be having one big garage sale in early August. See anything you want?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What, me watercolor?

Curves & intersections
I've discovered a meditative experience in slowly drawing intersecting curving lines without lifting the pen, then painting the openings with watercolors. No planning, no stress. I just swirl lines and then paint with my kid's box of watercolors. I've used one of these as a tiny journal by writing (in tiny letters) in the openings. It takes about 15 minutes to do one of these, if I dawdle, and when I am finished I have a little abstract painting and more peace than when I started. Give it a try, it's very calming.
It just occurred to me that the seed for this process was planted at a retreat I attended last fall in Austin, TX at Turtle Crow Studio. Jane LaFazio and Pamela Underwood are wonderful teachers, and one of our exercises was a continuous line drawing of a rock cairn near the studio. Thanks, Jane & Pamela!

A kinder, gentler way of drying clothes

I have become my Grandma.
It's the launch of a greener method of getting our clothes dry, and it's great exercise for me. Behold, the clothesline! The sheets smelled wonderful, they dried quickly, and best of all, no gas dryer was killed in this process. The only alarming thing that happened was that I viewed this photo of myself and decided that not only was hanging clothes to dry like my grandmothers, I look like my grandmothers. While that's to be expected, I don't think of myself that way. In my mind, I feel about 25, and while I realize that I don't look 25, this photo was a rude reality check. Oddly, I don't feel different after seeing the photo, evidence of aging to the contrary.

I plan to put wood chips under the clothesline and plant some lovely flowers around the area, which is just outside my studio and only a few steps from the laundry room.

I have to go now because I found a tick crawling on my leg and I am just about to freak out. I guess hanging clothes out to dry could be considered high risk behavior fitting for a twentysomething.

Monday, March 26, 2012

I. Do. Not. Have. Diabetes.

Happy yellow tulip!
My annual physical was today. I knew that my weight loss was a good thing, but I had no idea how good. I no longer have diabetes. I am not pre-diabetic, I am not diabetic at all. I do not have to check my blood sugars. All because I have lost weight and removed refined sugar and most other processed foods from my life. I am one happy, grateful woman today.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Photography Class

Yesterday I traveled about 40 minutes north of my home to a shop in Oklahoma City called Collected Thread. It's a great shop with lots of handmade art, clothing, books, knickknacks, and "stuff". The shop hosted a photography class taught by Samantha Lamb, an Oklahoma photographer, artist, and farmer. (See her dandy blog, Early Bird Acres.) Oddly, my path has crossed hers in the last few weeks in several unrelated ways. I decided it was time to meet this woman so I signed up for the class. I am so glad I did. Both Samantha and the class were delightful.

It was a fun class with action photography ...
Belle, whose wool is destined for art
And still lifes (lives?) ...
Honey and sunshine
I arrived home just as the sun in the western sky was shining on and through some red tulips next to the driveway.

Tulips glowing with the sun shining through them
The day included a meal at a good Thai restaurant and a lots of walking through the Oklahoma City Home & Garden Show with Bruce. It was nice to arrive home to the Abby, Bob, Darrell, and Darnell a cup of green jasmine tea. (More about that lot in a later post.)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

So what is it about blogging?

Belle, a little lamb girl, having a morning snack
I've been trying to figure out why I love the idea of having a blog, but I don't make many posts. After some reflection, it seems that the point of a blog is to share your life, or a specific part of your life with others. I have friends who blog only about their art, or their gardens. I visit blogs that are devoted solely to cooking or photography. I am not an expert on any of those topics, or any others for that matter. At least, that seems to be what is holding me back. It is dawning on me that I don't have to be an expert, I can just be who I am. So that is what I am going to do. I am going to post about my gardens (yes, I have more than one), pets, my family, my art, and any other thing that strikes me, maybe even politics. Get back!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I cain't dance and it's too wet to plow

Italian flat leaf parsley
Actually I can dance and I am not plowing, but it is wet. So wet that installation of raised beds has been put off for over a week. I do have one 4 x 10' bed, so I've planted some herbs, lettuce and onion sets. 

Dixondale Intermediary Onion Sampler
As I've worked in the garden these recent mild days, I am filled with wonder. The smell of the earth, the feel of the soil, birds singing, sun warming my face as I look at each small plant and imagine how it will grow. These small and delicate living things are filled with mystery. While I am sleeping in my warm bed, they will be outside in the cold, sending their roots out for nourishment in the dark soil. While I am looking at garden photos on pinterest, their leaves and stems soak in sunshine and moisture, and they grow. It's magic. 

Baby steps, baby steps. Persevere.  

Friday, February 3, 2012

Garden Fever

1/19 tiny baby lettuces
Okay, folks, I've been away for a while. I want to catch you up on what I am up to these days. I am garden-obsessed. I am putting in more raised beds, upping compost production, introducing chickens into the cycle, raising plants from seed, keeping a big garden journal complete with photos, and poring over garden related websites. I want to raise a ton of vegetables, eat them to be healthy, give them to friends, and freeze, dehydrate, or can what's left. This is all with the cooperation of Oklahoma weather conditions for the next several months, so it could go south in 5 minutes of hail (last year) or a few weeks of 100F+ days (last year). I want to put in a tornado shelter/root cellar and expand our small greenhouse into a larger aquaponics operation.

(I feel a sense of urgency about this, no doubt due to my recent birthday. It's so strange to be at a point in life where year to year plans seem so tentative.)

I've been inspired by Ruth Stout, a 20th century gardener who sometimes shocked people by gardening naked. I don't intend to do that (although it does sound nice) but she had a method of growing that makes more sense than the traditional tilling and weeding. Here's a two-part youtube video of an interview with her.

I am reading City Chicks: Raising Micro-Flocks of Chickens and laughing my head off while learning about integrating chickens into my garden. Here's the basic plan: Put some straw down on the ground in a pen. Turn the chickens loose in the pen. Feed the chickens kitchen waste and let them peck around on the ground. When the straw gets nice and poopy, move the chickens and their pen to a new site. Put the poopy straw on the garden or in the compost bin. When the plants in the garden get big enough that the chickens can't eat them, turn the chickens loose in the garden and they eat pesky bugs and poop right on the garden. Of course the garden is well mulched so the chicken poop doesn't burn the plants. Do I have the stomach for all this poop? It remains to be seen. Can I connect with chickens spiritually? I doubt it. Oh, one more thing of course, eat the eggs!

I have ordered plans for a chicken coop and I have hired someone to build it. I haven't decided what kind of chickens to get. Any chicken raisers out there want to advise me?

People are growing potatoes in containers, which takes up less space, and results in potatoes that can be harvested by simply dumping the container over. I have salvaged some big plastic trash cans and plan to use those for growing potatoes. Trip to the nursery for seed potatoes today! Shopping on the Champs Elysee? Getting my nails done on Rodeo Drive? Attending runway shows in Paris? Booooooring! Get me to the seed potatoes at the local nursery!

This is Darrell, my garden assistant. Actually, it might be Darnell, they are hard to tell apart. Either way, I don't expect much of them and they oblige by not doing much.