bead sketches : month one


When I wrote the following on Dear Flora last month,

"Something new for what is feeling like a glorious new year on the horizon.
Thought it might be time to embark on a yearlong adventure ... 52 weeks
of 3-inch squares and the discovery of all the tiny worlds I can create
within them. I have no idea where this is going,
but go I must ... "

what I didn't mention was that I was going on this journey mainly to
play with beads again.  We'd taken a break, my bead family and I.  You know how it is
when you have to step away for a while in order to come back with fresh eyes,
a renewed heart?

I'd been away for so long that many new bead varieties had hit the markets without me
and I'd been growing steadily more curious about how to integrate them
into bead embroidery work.  Compound this with all the hand dyed
cloth I'd been amassing, explorations with paper, metals and all sorts
of sundry textiles and what was building felt nothing short of a crisis of making ...
I needed to dive.
I needed to stop dreaming and start doing.

For the last year or so I've noticed myself being attracted to the projects
of others who'd committed themselves to creating something/anything on a steady schedule.
Committed.  Key word.
Schedule.  Key word.
Be they daily poems or sketches, weekly paintings or mixed media collages, 
even a gorgeous pair of knitted socks per month, folks were dedicating themselves to
show up ... do the work.  Best of it was, they were gaining much from 
this kind of discipline.  They talked about it - they were having breakthroughs.
Their new creative "habit" was renewing confidence &
providing fertile ground for inspiration.
This, to my mind, was a healthy choice of how to invest ones time.

So I had a good long think about what I could stomach doing for the long haul.
Having really blown it in the past was actually helpful for not setting goals
to outrageously out there ... 20/20 hindsight & all that.
Size was going to be critical.  Beads are [mostly] tiny little pretties
and the last thing I wanted was a demanding blank space shouting, "Fill me up!"
So learning from a previous 6-inch disaster I first cut the size in half.

Another extremely important aspect of setting parameters was allowing
for the element of  play  ... I did not want to produce a *finished* square each week.
Instead, how freeing to simply play with ideas & materials
and just see where that took me.
Hence the name, bead sketches - not particularly clever, but to the point.
Without the pressure of having to finish something each week I found
month one an extremely enjoyable enterprise.  As each new week rolled around I
picked up whatever caught my fancy in the moment & started from there.
I wondered what would happen if I paired this with that,
then tried it.  I experimented with edge treatments & extending beyond
the exact space while allowing the materials to dictate the direction.
There were mess-ups - like joining methods, thread issues, fabric limitations -
which sent the beads all wonky-doodle ...
but I sure know a lot more now then if I'd never started.

Little templates to explore some ideas every week.
Slow and steady ... just show up.
Play relentlessly.

I'm really liking how this feels.

It would be immensely enjoyable to hear about your experiences.
If you are someone who's ever [or currently] embarked on a daily, weekly,
even monthly practice, your comments about the process are most welcome here.
If you'd like to share a link where we can come and see what you made during the process,
please do.  I think the sharing could be very advantageous indeed.

Thank you for stopping by.

"I have no idea where this is going, but go I must ..."


Five years ago


A trend has been afoot on the internet for quite some time,
something called  Throwback Thursday
and although I've never participated, I have on occasion enjoyed friend's postings.
Which is what happened today.  After having a good giggle over some ancient history 
I saw on Facebook [it does have its upside from time to time] I thought to myself
 what the heck, let's see what was going on say five years ago
in my own neck of the woods.

A hop over to my photo archives from January, 2011 & it appears
not much was happening different from now ...

I was out photographing a lot of frost,

was taking lots of chilly, storm-ridden walks with this one 
[that year we could have ice skated on our pond!]

and I was enjoying some extremely pleasant hours weaving cloth scraps
which coincidentally, I've returned to a bit of late because of my '52 week project' ... 
but I'll tell you more about that in my next post
 where I'll share my first 3-inch explorations for the month of January.
Stay tuned, I'm very excited about it!

Nope, aside from the aforementioned activities which pretty much echo present day,
the image that has led me to write my first  Throwback Thursday  post

Our dear Quinn.
Five years ago, right after Christmas, my fella and I drove to Oregon
to pick up this special being.  Black dogs are notoriously difficult to adopt out
and this little girl was no exception.  Malnourished, unsocialized, scared of
everything & everyone, we spent that first January gently introducing her to our world
and showing her as best we could that life had a better side
than living in a chainlink enclosure
by yourself.

Quinn is so skinny in this picture!  Weighing in at 47 pounds she was only
five pounds heavier than my small collie back then.  But no longer - now she is 65 pounds 
and a powerhouse of solid swimming, ball chasing, long distance hiking muscle. 
Best of all, she's found her person to be devoted to
and he has the dog he's always wanted ...
 intelligent, curious, playful, steadfastly faithful & incredibly loyal.

It was a long road - is STILL a long road - training & helping this girl to be comfortable
 in a world she previously mistrusted.  None of that was her fault and we've had many a
discussion about what kind of dog she would have become if she'd had a better
start in life.

It is rarely ever too late to help a dog.
Please consider adoption for your next choice of fur friend.
You may actually inherit an angel in disguise. 


This moment in between


Winter Solstice

Thinking only makes the heart sore.
I Ching
when you startle awake in the dark morning
heart pounding breathing fast
sitting bolt upright staring into
dark whirlpool black hole
feeling its suction
get out of bed
knock at the door of your nearest friend
ask to lie down ask to be held
listen while whispered words
turn the hole into deep night sky
stars close together
winter moon rising over white fields
nearby wren rustling dry leaves
distant owl echoing
two people walking up the road laughing
let your soul laugh
let your heart sigh out
that long held breath so hollow in your stomach
so swollen in your throat
already light is returning pairs of wings
lift softly off your eyelids one by one
each feathered edge clearer between you
and the pearl veil of day
you have nothing to do but live 

~ Anonymous  by Jody Aliesan, from "Grief Sweat" (Broken Moon Press, 1991)

: : :

Update on solstice morn:  overnight, a friend sent a sweet note.
She wondered if perhaps the "anonymous" poem above had been written by me ...
Although I'd like nothing better then to claim that gem as my own, it troubled
me that such fine words had no author.  So I went back to Google where I'd initially
found it and kept searching, but this time using the first line of the poem and not
the key words  winter solstice  for the search terms. 
And there it was - reprinted in the book section of 
I also discovered that the first two lines of the original poem
had been dropped from all the copies circulating the internet;
I have added them back.
In addition, the original contained no capital letters in the body 
and no line spaces - I've revised those as well.

So .... here is the poem in its original, true form.
Thank You to my friend for raising the question that sent me on
a quest for ownership.  Ms. Aliesan deserves this credit and now I can give it.


Closure :: metaphors in cloth


~ details on silk lace blouse, made by Vernon, 1915-1917 courtesy of Digitalt Museum ~

~ dress by Mariano Fortuny, ca. 1939 via The Costume Institute of the
Metropolitan Museum of Art ~

~ silk stomacher ca. 1720, The Metropolitan Museum of Art ~

~ garment design by Isabel Toledo, from the exhibit/book
 'Fashion From the Inside Out' ~

~ Paul, 1999, by Jackie Nickerson from the 'Farm' series ~

~ Peony Dress, Hand, San Francisco, 1997 by Linda Elvira Piedra
from 'The Story of My Love' ~

~ 'Savage Beauty' ensemble by Alexander McQueen, spring/summer collection 2001 ~

~ pattern on dress form, photographer unknown, France ~

~ photo by Lin & Jirsa ~

~ interior seam of boro jacket, sashiko stitched, from Sri Threads ~

~ pieced dress by Gibbous Fashions ~

~ detail from silk evening coat by Paul Poiret, ca 1912, The Metropolitan Museum of Art ~

s'enfuient' (The Air Shivers of Things Fleeing) ~

1.  the act or process of closing, or the state of being closed.
2.  an end or conclusion
2.  a sense of resolution or finality at the end of an artistic work.


After the storm


We recently had a whopper of a gale.  A long night,
then an even longer dark day of sideways rain and rattle-the-rafters wind.
The lull that followed meant only one thing - time for beachcombing - so four-paws and I
headed out to see what we could find.  I wasn't entirely sure there'd even be a shore left.
Predictions had been ominous but living as we do on a tiny rock out in the Pacific Ocean
 we know variables can be extreme island to island.  I needed to see firsthand how our
favorite spot had fared.

Thankfully, it was not so bad really.
Bull kelp was in abundance, having woven itself down the beach in dramatic ropes.  A few
boulders that support the edge of the two lane road had been displaced and
one or two megalithic tree stumps (from Canada perhaps?) had been dredged up & tossed ashore
like toothpicks.

The donations from the sea were plentiful.

I left this red one in place.  Figured a heart rock was better doing its good business under
a big sky, near a Big Puddle, than home with me in my pocket or on my windowsill.

This particular beach is in somewhat protected waters, with San Juan Island directly to 
the east & San Juan Channel in between, so it isn't like beaches that 
face the open ocean where lots of human trash prevails
(I'll pay you five dollars if you can even find a piece of sea glass on this stretch),
but it does hold a motherlode of natural detritus ...
some feathers
and lots of seaweed ... especially during storm season.

And there was our "garbage" to collect and treasure.  Hadn't seen this around
for a whole year - a reddish seaweed that makes lovely rose-colored marks when wrapped in 
cloth (especially silk) if one is game to judiciously watch temperatures in the dyepot.

Worth the whole walk, was that.
Have you ever heard of the British artist, Jo Atherton?
She weaves tapestries with the flotsam from her beaches & other coasts of the world
and tells some very interesting stories ...


Introducing 'Dear Flora' ...


To all of you who visit here
and who may also be on Facebook,
I have recently launched an artist page :

I hope you'll visit me there!
Come have a look-see, maybe take part in the conversations
or just say "Hey"...

What's in a name?
Dear Flora  is my open love letter to the world of plants & my relationship with her ...
and it isn't a name only for Facebook
but one I'll be putting with the things I make as well.

Its flight time.  I need to share this evolution that's so astoundingly
taken my heart by storm.

I think I've been kin to that wrapped up, tied tight, bundle above ....

and yet what I really need to do is let loose some.  Sway with those breezes
that do such fine things with silks when they're out in the open air.

Silk -  strong and soft at the same time.


See you soon.


Riversong :: Being (t)here, again ... with India Flint


I've had trouble writing about my recent time in Scotland.  I've been home
well over two months and I'm still struggling to find words
to explain that place, the people, and what happens for me when I am there.

It's proven difficult to describe how completely that country has stolen my heart.
Yes, the breath-taking scenery is a huge part of the equation, but all told
it is the breath it gives me back that keeps the calling acute.

When the thought first came to return this year and re-enroll in the 'Being (t)here' masterclass
tutored by India Flint and offered at Big Cat Textiles, I wondered
if maybe I was being a bit looney ...
yet in the end I felt I wasn't anywhere near done with spending time by the great River Tay.
So much good came from slowing down there, wandering along her banks with an eye
to detail and a heart set on paying attention.
I knew that although I'd be repeating a workshop I'd just recently taken
there was no way it would be the same.

By the completion of day one I knew this to be fact, for India
had taken what I'd thought was already a perfect course and bumped it up by a couple
dozen notches. This time around was going to be altogether different.

This little bell nudged us to attention innumerable times over the
five days together - I grew very fond of its sound.  Although I wasn't expecting to have
the company of so many pleasant classmates again, just like before these gals
were a splendidly supportive group who shared, inspired, cajoled, laughed
and even splashed about in a great deal of river mud,
all with immense amounts of joy ...

and this time there was also a great deal of singing!

A tidal river seems to me to have its own particular song, rising & retreating
as it does, like clockwork.  Add the voices of women who are happy to be (t)here
and the effect is close to sublime.  I'm not blessed with a singing voice
(those who know me well will know to find me singing in the car)
so I was especially moved by these impromptu choirs taking place
(even in the classroom).
Thank you all for that!

Hear for yourself.
Tracy McConnell-Wood made a lovely three minute video of our group mudlarking
and breaking into song:
Tay Tide Cairns

Newburgh is such a beautiful locale for giving oneself the permission to take time
for personal work.  There are ample opportunities for scenic walking ...

and for me, studying the ways of water ... exploring edges as I like to do.

Looking for ways to translate a notion of distance
or interpret a sensation of walking ...

You are a sage,
a river at its deepest
and most nourishing.
Sit by a river bank some time
and watch attentively as the river
tells you of your life.

~ from Lao Tzu ~

We ebbed and flowed in & out of the classroom not unlike the river's currents.
  Days were intense in meaningful and productive ways: Poetry was read and written,
bundles wrapped & dyed, mark-making explored & discovered, stitching techniques shared,
and all the while India responded to a thousand questions with patience & gentle humor.

We took breaks as we needed them. One of the delights was 'local shopping' ...

Alison & Jeannette, owners of Big Cat Textiles and Hat In The Cat (in Perth),
 look after the students in countless ways and I must admit
one of my favorites is all the lovelies they keep on hand for purchase.
That's the entry hall above which is chock full of vintage linens & clothes, 
baskets of hand-dyed yarn, roving, bits of this & that - everything useful for workshop supply needs
or to bring back home.  Some may have jumped into my suitcase.

There's even more in the adjoining studio ... racks of pre-loved clothing, beautiful finished
knitwear including cowls & socks made from local wool, countless notions
including buttons, trims, threads (many repurposed), even feathers; every kind of embellishment for
textile work that one might imagine.  I discovered last year that the displays can change daily
which makes it quite the dangerous place to wander through.

Sorry, is a wee bit blurry, gals ... sure we were giggling
and I shook the camera.

There they are - the special ladies who look after everyone so well.
Alison (on the left); thank you again for the glorious & nutritious meals;
Netti, thank you again for loaning the dog-less aunties your sweet Jazz
and for the comfy night's sleeps and car taxis ... and ... and ......
To you both: I sincerely appreciate the environment you've created that's so nurturing
and encouraging and filled with both of your good vibes - it doesn't get better than you two!

In the span of a week there were many walks taken down to the river
& ofttimes our dog pal led the way.  I'm quite fond of this image of India & Jazz
having a saunter one evening - one reason is that it shows off the quite incredible apron 
India wore to class.  If I remember correctly, I believe there was a collective gasp
when she first put it on ....

Look at the magnificent detail. 

Such a fascination has grown surrounding this garment, including a general clamoring to learn
the construction techniques, that now a workshop has been formed around it:
The Amuletic Apron
October 8-10, 2016
All the details over on the Big Cat Textile Masterclass Schedule

Student tables were looking more like museum collections by week's end. Some of the found
objects developed deeper meanings after being immortalized in poems or
used as utilitarian drawing tools.  Objects buried in the river scooped up at low tide
became special keepsakes to all of us.

~ student work ~

Perhaps because I'm in my 'older' years now, I'm especially appreciative of a tutor
who guides rather than directs; who presents options & inspiration rather than 
written in stone how-to's.  The voyage of discovery then becomes no one else's but my own.
It's more personal because I've found my own way of stepping through a process,
one that suits my own hands, my own particular way of seeing, and my own heart.
Thank you, India, for that freedom.

So it went.
(t)here on one of my favorite seats in the entire world I whispered a farewell
to the Tay ... "See ya later, my friend."  I always say it that way when I don't want to say "goodbye"...
always to people I'll miss and I guess now, even to rivers.
Then I photographed the lichen patch growing on the wall just off my right shoulder
so I could compare the growth rate from now to when next we meet.

I won't be away for long, Scotland.  You have my heart.


Night and day the river flows.  If time is the mind of space, the
River is the soul of the desert.  Brave boatmen come, they go,
they die, the voyage flows on forever.  We are all canyoneers.
We are all passengers on this little mossy ship, this delicate
dory sailing around the sun that humans call the earth.
Joy, shipmates, joy.

~ Edward Abbey,  The Hidden Canyon - A River Journey ~