Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

I am lucky enough to have a wonderful Dad, who taught us all a very important concept:

"the Daddy tax"

Expo '70 in Osaka, Japan
This time-honored tradition of arbitrary taxation has been carried on to the next generation --  my husband embraced it with gusto, and I'm sure our kids will pass it down to their families, too.  (Just kidding, Dad!  I love you!)

Just a quick check-in to wish all the fathers out there a very happy Father's Day!  I'm taking a short blogging break to focus on my family... my older daughter is home from college, my younger daughter is graduating from high school, and my son's health is going downhill again.  Creativity sort of slows down when life heats up, I've found.  I know it's only temporary, so I hope to be back soon!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Thirty years

My husband and I took a quick trip to Italy and Holland early this month, but so much "housekeeping" stuff has come up since our return that I have barely had time to look at my photos, let alone post any.  These are my favorites, taken in Zaanse Schans, a wonderful re-created historical village outside of Amsterdam, and textured with Kim Klassen's "oh my":

linking with Texture Tuesday

We enjoyed visiting friends in Amsterdam, but our heart is in Italy.  My husband and I lived in Milan for the first four years we were married, so Italian habits and preferences have been part of our lives ever since.  We have an academic connection to the city of Bologna, though, and return most every year for meetings, but we also take the time to slow down and absorb just being in Italy.  Bologna is a very special place - known as a major center of intellectual thought, it is home to the first European university (predating Oxford).  Like other Italian cities, it is full of gorgeous art and architecture, exquisite museums, unbelievably wonderful food... but relatively few tourists.  
textured with Kim Klassen's "grunged up"

textured with Kim Klassen's "oh my"

textured with Kim Klassen's "charmed"

Bologna is particularly known for the porticos covering most sidewalks in the city.  It makes getting around in the rain or the summer's heat pretty easy! 
Thirty years ago this week, I met my husband.  I was a first-year graduate student and he was a few weeks away from graduation.  He had spent a transformative academic year in Bologna, and over the years since, this expanded into so many Italian-focused experiences that it really shaped us as a family.  
The only thing is, it just seems like yesterday.  How can time go by so fast?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ah, Providence!

I am gearing up for the vicarious thrill of my artistic life.... my youngest daughter will be a freshman next year at the Rhode Island School of Design. We drove to Providence on Friday to attend an open house for accepted students, and I am smitten.
textured with two layers of Kim Klassen's "grunged up" (multiply @ 47% and color burn @ 71%)
As a current student wrote recently on the class of 2016 facebook page, RISD is the Hogwarts of art schools. This school is more than just an art school; it is a dynamic community of creative thinkers who happen to express their ideas visually.

Now I know that if you really want to become better at taking pictures, you must bring your camera everywhere. But this weekend was for my daughter -- and while she is usually fairly tolerant of my photographic vanities, she was horrified that I would embarrass her in this setting.... so I left the DSLR at home and used my iphone instead. In the end, though, I couldn't capture any of it because they asked that we not take photos of the students at work. It was OK to photograph inside the nature lab:
textured with Kim Klassen's "Little things" (overlay @56%)
Imagine a huge hall, filled with cabinet after cabinet of natural curiosities, from stuffed animals to specimens of all kinds of plants. It felt like a magnificent Victorian museum glorifying the great explorers of that era.
textured with three layers of Kim Klassen's "Happy heart" (soft light @100%, multiply @100%, and color burn @100% 
Providence has so many historic buildings and architectural gems, and I am looking forward to getting better acquainted with the city over the next four years. One such treasure was the Providence Athenaeum, the fourth oldest public library in America. Established in 1753, the present building dates back to 1838. I loved the fact that visitors are welcome to come in and browse, and I especially loved the mixture of old and new books on the shelves, which makes it a living neighborhood resource with the stately feel of another era. I can see myself heading there next time I'm in town, just to read the newspaper in the armchairs next to the portrait of George Washington.
textured with Kim Klassen's "little things" (overlay @56%)
textured with Kim Klassen's "little things" (soft light @50%)
And of course, no visit is ever complete without good food. I love the internet -- I found Nick's on Broadway by trolling the foodie forums for Providence. We had a spectacular brunch there, all based on  the best locally-sourced ingredients. I had feathery-light poached eggs on a polenta base that was more a lemony-herbal souffle than any polenta I've ever eaten before.... delicious!
no textures here.... pure food, served to you in a straightforward manner!
And here is the neighborhood cat -- I had to take this picture because it reminds me of long ago (way before kids). Back then, I had three cats who knew exactly when to jump up into the window and wait for me to come home from work: 
textured with Kim Klassen's "little things" (multiply @100%)
Linking with Texture Tuesday

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Saori weaving

All flowers are beautiful,
even though each individual flower is different in form and color.
Because of this difference, “all are good”.
Because everything has the same life, 
life cannot be measured by a yardstick.
It is this individuality that makes everything meaningful 
and the uniqueness of each thread
that creates the tapestry of life.
Misao Jo
(from Loop of the Loom website)

I've been busy, busy, busy.  I just got back from a week in Europe, and on my first day home took my mother into New York for a birthday surprise.  She loves weaving, so her gift was an all-day pass at Loop of the Loom, an amazing fiber studio on the upper east side that follows the Japanese tradition of saori weaving.  Saori is a free-style form of weaving that embodies the concept of "wabi sabi," or the beauty that exists in imperfection and simplicity.  

Once you learn the basic techniques, you can really just play with color:

The program we followed was called a "zen weaving" session, and I can see why:  we lost all sense of time, and became completely absorbed in the quiet sounds of the loom as we worked it, and the patterns developing before us almost without any thought.

It's funny -- I love color and use it intuitively in my quilting and mixed media work, but not as much in clothing.  I went in with the idea of making a scarf, and my final piece reflected that:

My mother, on the other hand, is not hesitant to wear bright colors, and so she made this:
I think next time I go to Loop of the Loom, I will go without any preconceived notions of what I'm going to make, so I can truly just play with colors.  I do that so easily with my quilts -- I wonder why weaving felt like it had to be "practical?" 

In any case, we had a wonderful day, and I can't wait to return!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What goes around comes around....

A year ago, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer asked me to write a guest post for her blog on how I combine quilting and art journaling (you can read it here).  I wrote that moving from quilting to mixed media felt like the next logical step in my self-directed art education.  What I didn't realize then was that passions ebb and flow in cycles, and those cycles inform and move the subsequent ones.

I mentioned in my last blog post that I've been moving back to an obsession with fabric and quilting, with less emphasis on the mixed media and photography than I've had in recent months.  But this time around, I sense a difference:  now I'm fascinated with composition and color, not just color alone.  This quilt-in-progress gives you an idea of what I mean:

Free-form piecing inspired by the work of Nancy Crow
I don't think I could have made a quilt like this before.  I wasn't able to see beyond the block, or grid, orientation that most quilts have -- but since I've taken classes in collage and have begun to work in mixed media, this is beginning to change.

One thing that I think is unique to patchwork, as compared with art journaling -- the fact that you can easily change your style just by changing fabrics and construction techniques!  These 6" blocks are also current projects of mine.  While I am artistically inspired by free-form, intuitive piecing, I'm equally fascinated by precision work, especially if it involves applique or hand-piecing.   

By staying open to whatever inspires me in the moment, I avoid boxing myself in to any one identity.  I can be a free spirit!  And that includes art journaling, too.  Lately I have also been feeling like drawing faces, so why not?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I have been thoroughly enjoying our odd, warm winter, and now, our balmy 70 degree days of spring.  After our out-of-cycle blizzard back in October, I'm sure we'll get ten inches of snow in April -- but what can you do other than just go along for the ride?

So that's what I'm doing right now, going along for the ride, trying to balance my every-day "stuff" with my creative life.  I am deep in the midst of several big sewing projects, which don't really lend themselves to blog posts (it's kind of like watching the grass grow....), but I've got some travel plans coming up soon, so my camera is getting warmed up for action.  In the meantime, here's a shot I took in Thailand over Christmas:

Textured with Kim Klassen's "Thursday" (overlay @100%)

linking with Texture Tuesday

Monday, March 5, 2012

All work and no play......

I have decided to stop fighting it.

I have too many passions, and there just aren't enough hours in the day to do everything.  So rather than feeling frustrated because I can't spend every waking moment taking photographs.. or quilting... or making mixed media art.... I've decided to follow what Julie Fei-Fan Balzer calls the "shiny ball" -- that is, whatever intrigues me in the moment, without the burden of expectations.  My creative interests tend to move in cycles, and what I find fascinating is that when I come back to something after being away from it for awhile, the other creative things I've been doing in the meantime add a dimension that was missing before.  You really lose nothing by being peripatetic!

The point of all this is that the great wheel is moving now, back in the direction of my more.... well, nerdy interests.  My brain is whirling as I wrestle with a structure for a genealogical research database I am trying to create -- one that doesn't easily fit into existing commercial database models.  The frustration comes because I have just enough knowledge to know what I want and how to get it, but not quite enough to design it easily.

So, for a study break (and as my submission to Kim Klassen's Texture Tuesday), I am offering more images from our trip to Thailand over Christmas.  These shots were taken at a rice mill near the town of Wiang Papao in the northern part of the country, and were textured with Kim's freebie texture, Happy Heart.
"Happy Heart" (soft light @49%, multiply @82%)

"Happy Heart" (soft light @100%, color burn @15%)

"Happy Heart" (soft light @70%, color burn @19%)

Try as I would, this image of drying rice just didn't look good with added textures!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

And now for something completely different....

Lighthouse at Fort Point, San Francisco --
Processed with Kim Klassen's "Felicity" and a texture I created from a photo I took at the fort,
 using the tutorial Kim shared in our "Beyond Layers" class
(linking with Texture Tuesday)

I'm taking a break from showing images from my trip to Thailand ..... Instead, my husband and I decided to take a quick trip out to California last week to visit family.  The weather was wonderful, and we were outside as much as possible.  One day we explored the parks around the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  

Although I've been to San Francisco many times (I even lived here for a few years when I was a child), I had never visited Fort Point before.  Fort Point was the main naval defense for the city of San Francisco until the civil war.  It is tucked away under the base of the bridge, and probably isn't high on tourists' must-see lists.  Despite my fear of heights, I had a marvelous time -- there were so many interesting angles to capture:

This was the walk back from the fort towards Crissy Field:

Crissy Field was originally an early aviation strip, and is now a well-used park along the beach.  It certainly is a magnet for dogs!  We met my husband's sister and her boys there with their Golden, Brooklyn.  As you can see from the first photo, he was so happy in the water (it would take an awful lot of treats to get our Golden, Jackson, to venture anywhere near it)!  I was surprised to see how many professional dog-walkers were out, too.  I am still a little nervous about taking pictures of strangers, so I only got a few shots of them, but they were legion that day:

And now, on a completely different subject......

My creativity seems to run in cycles, and lately all I want to do is work in fabric.  In the last few weeks I have completed three quilt tops.  I will send two of them out to be finished by machine, but I plan on quilting this one by hand.  Since it might be awhile (a long while) before I am finished, I'll show it now:

It's really big, so wish me luck!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mid-winter blues (and pinks and purples....)

Right about this time of year, winter starts to gets old.... the novelty of the season wears off and I start thinking about the colors of summer.

Luckily, our trip to Thailand over Christmas gave us a brief respite from the relentless brown of bare trees and dead grass (there hasn't even been much snow here to mix things up a bit).  I loved seeing a profusion of flowers everywhere; but I am used to thinking of orchids as an extravagance, and couldn't quite get used to seeing inexpensive armloads of them for sale in the markets (believe me, I could try.)
Storyboard and texture ("Thursday") courtesy of Kim Klassen
linking with Texture Tuesday

Friday, February 3, 2012

On the road to Mandalay

My grandfather was a great fan of Rudyard Kipling, and one of his favorite poems was The Road to Mandalay (although it was mandatory in our family to substitute "Wild Bill Robie" for "British soldier" in the 4th line).  My son had a Kipling fixation when he was six or seven, and memorized every word of "Mandalay"-- you might say that it has been an undercurrent in our family's collective memory for many years.

So when we visited Thailand recently, Kipling's words couldn't help but run through my head at every point along the way.

......from the "tinkly temple bells": the hathis "piling teak":

" .....If you've 'eard the East a-callin', you won't never 'eed naught else.
                                                          No! you won't 'eed nothin' else  
                                                          But them spicy garlic smells....."

"...For the temple-bells are callin', an' it's there that I would be —
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea."

(all photos processed with The Coffeeshop Blog's "Butterscotch Vintage" action)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Here are some more in my series of photos from Thailand.  These were taken at Wat Phao, in Suphan Buri province north of Bangkok, notable for the forest of fruit bats surrounding the temple.  I enjoyed its simple lines and gorgeous, warm colors.

All of these were processed with one or more layers of Kim Klassen's "Simplicity" texture --
 linking up with Texture Tuesday

I never did find out why some of the trees were wrapped in monks' robes

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The creative journey....part I

Lotus flower, Thailand
(processed with a layer of Kim Klassen's "Sweet Treat" and "Warm Grunge")
I always tell my children that it is not what happens to you in life that matters, but rather how you react to what happens to you that is important.  "Stuff" happens to people all the time and there is nothing magical about you that keeps the "bad" from happening sometimes.  The question is, will you allow it to cloud your life and your attitudes, or will you use the situation to change something in yourself.
My creative journey is so wrapped up in the circumstances of my life that it is hard to unravel the separate threads. I had a wonderful childhood and young adulthood.... I was happy, and things came easily to me:  academics, friendships, career, marriage and three wonderful children.  I expected that life would just continue along this positive trajectory.  And really, in a way, it has.... just not the way I thought it would.  For the most part, my life is picture perfect except for one rather significant thing: my oldest child, now a 22 year-old young man, has to deal with issues that significantly impact his ability to live an independent life.  The curve ball our family has been dealt in this life is not something that we recognized immediately or that came on suddenly -- rather, its severity has been revealed so gradually that, painful as it is, it has never come as a shock, but has settled down on us like a dull ache.  
One of my favorite journal pages...
The details of his story are my son's to share or not, but let's just say that the consequences of his illness have been the impetus for my own creative journey.  I have been "artsy" all my life, but the thought never even crossed my mind that I could be an artist.... after all, I didn't go to art school!  I knew that to ignore my son's illness -- or to wallow in despair about it -- were both useless exercises.  I had to turn to something to keep me busy and focused. I discovered quiltmaking when I was 40, and immediately fell in love with the way I could play with color without getting messy.  Not only that, but I could sew while still paying attention to my kids. 
This is the first quilt I made (for my son), back in 2000.  It was hand-pieced... I remember every stitch!
I soon realized that the quiet time spent making quilts was my spiritual solace, a time when I could reflect on my life and its lessons and to find beauty in fragments.  My needle and thread became the crucible in which despair became beauty, tempered by patience.  Quilting was a perfect expression of my need for endurance.  You can't achieve a finished quilt without putting in a lot of time!  As I moved on in the last few years to include mixed media art and photography, the sense of time as a vital element in my work became more and more evident.  I love using textures in photographs precisely because they introduce a fourth dimension -- time -- to an image, suggesting that it has withstood the ravages of time to exist today.  I am in this game with my son for the long haul, and that sense of time as a distiller of something exquisite is very important to me.
I am looking forward to 2012, and participating in the creative communities online.  By nurturing our creativity every day, we will envision a world that is better than the one we live in today -- and everyone knows that once we visualize something, it is on its way.