In which I look back on a decade

a lot of cake

I thought I wanted to celebrate turning 59, and look back on a decade of accomplishments. I invited friends to come via Facebook and email and face to face encounters. If anyone asked me if they could bring something, I told them cake, or something to drink.

My friends came through, big time! Above is the table full of different cakes, and the author of two of them. I had a tiny slice of each one – they were all so delicious, in so many different ways. Also we had a tent in case of rain but it was turned out to be a nice place to keep out of the sun, and Al decided a birthday is not an elaborately celebrated birthday without helium for balloons and liquid nitrogen for amusement value.

I talked myself hoarse. I visited with people I see regularly and people I hadn’t seen for a couple of years. I introduced friends to other friends; some introductions I’ve been thinking about for a while(!).

Today I am sitting still and reading birthday cards that are making me laugh, and also are making me grateful, and trying not to talk to anyone.

What did I do over the last decade?

  • sheparded/supported two kids through high school graduation, college acceptance, college life and 1.75 graduations (Alice should graduate in the spring. I will still be 59. I’m just anticipating this a little.)
  • Rode a first level dressage test, and got better than 50%
  • built a boat, launched it, rowed it
  • built a boat trailer, and am slowly learning how to back it up
  • designed and printed a tarot deck, and sold 100 copies
  • sold some artwork through a gallery
  • designed and built a city from cardboard – a stage set, but still!
  • worked for five different theater groups building things
  • made new friends
  • kept the old

I’m glad you could join me on this part of the journey, I’m all agog to see what comes next!

Bench Notes

Bench notes are the notes on experiments that I take to remind myself of the steps I took, and what I was thinking, and what I thought the next steps would be. These excursions start when I see a piece of artwork or a scrap of something and my head spins with ideas about how I might translate that to fabric, and whether it would be interesting if I did. This batch started with the images below.

I saw pictures from Guo Pei’s Fall 2019 collection, and I was struck by the construction of the garments. I mean, one model is straight-up wearing a bathtub filled with flowers, which has to be strenuous, while a conjoined dress for two women looks like it could sow dissension between even the best of friends. But the fabrics are amazing, the techniques bear close examination, and these two constructions made a huge impression on me:

The dress on the left, and the sleeves on the right seem to be made from hundreds of fine pieces of silk sewn vertically onto the base garment. The silhouette on the left, in particular, is created almost completely with the shape of the vertical pieces. The idea of sewing something that densely was intriguing.

To begin, I used some pieces of silk dupioni, sliced in wavy lines, and stitched onto straight vertical lines.

Color changes depending on light and orientation. I like the way the edges echo across the piece, like overlapping waves. I forgot that sewing a convex curve to a straight line made the outside edge too short, bending the base fabric. I think the silk needs to be cut more on the bias, to prevent unraveling, and also to add ease to the outside edges.

For a first test, I think I can see some ways to go on the next experiment. Next step:

  • make the stitched edge straight

This makes everything lie flatter, and I miss the movement of the concave edges stitched down with the longer edges ruffling and standing off the page. When I stand the page on edge, instead of flat on the table, the shapes become more interesting.

Some possible next steps then:

  • bias cut
  • make the outside edges more unified – more regular
  • change the weight of the silk? dupioni is fairly stiff, find something more drapey
  • sew in the folded center of a piece? 2x the edges for each seam…

I’ve ordered more silk so I have more raw material to work with!

back to work!

I’ve been working on a series of landscapes based on photographs from friends. Velma Bolyard is a paper-maker, spinner and weaver in upstate NY who takes evocative pictures of her local landscape, and every time there is a barn in the frame I am smitten. My high school friend Jen Dulin walks her lovely dog (and now her adorable puppy) to a lake nearby every morning, and takes pictures of skies and water that make me swoon. I have permission from both to use their pictures, giving me amazing imagery to work from.

With Velma’s pictures I am working on letting the fabric do more work, and sketching crucial details in thread. Jen’s pictures are all about the colors I can put on different kinds of silk, and layers of color.

It is nice to be in the studio again. And in between work with the iron and work at the sewing machine, I work on how to develop my story and what I want to say with my work.


Did your summer go by as fast as mine did?

The last thing I clearly remember was starting the Paintbox season, with fresh paint and a new attitude. As I sit here to write to you, the season finished more than a month ago, at the beginning of August. August was spent finishing up some house projects, and sitting on a beach on an island off the coast of Maine. That beach sitting involved substantially fewer Pina Coladas, and a great deal more grit and beach glass (and also knitting) than I generally associate with the phrase “sitting on a beach,” but it was exactly what I wanted. Also family – I got to go lobstering with my brother and nephew, admire tiny baby lobsters, cook spectacular meals and revel in sunsets.

Now September is almost half over, I’m staring down a birthday on the 27th, and I have turned my attention to marketing. I turn 59 – I am having a large party to celebrate the end of my 50s, and I shall hunker down next year and let 60 creep gently over me. At least, that is the theory.

The marketing part is going a good deal slower than I expected. A lot of the process is writing about what I do and how and why I do it, which requires more introspection than I have applied to myself recently. I’m finding it very interesting to read other artist’s statements and websites, because I can agree, or disagree, and writing those down helps clarify my thoughts on my own process and how I talk about it.