Monday, October 22, 2012

Staying Positive

Hi!  I've been too busy with work and family to post much this fall, but I wanted to encourage you all to take a look at this wonderful TED talk on positive thinking -- I know, I know, there's a lot out there about this right now, but this guy is fun to listen to and inspiring.  My thanks to Lissa EuDaly for telling me about the video!

By the way, the suggestions for staying positive that Achor offers in this video have been so useful in helping me feel present and energetic throughout my father's emergency quintuple bypass surgery this past week and our days in the hospital with him!  
Dad is healing well.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I'm in a Mosaic Art Show

Hi, all.
I will have two of my pieces in a mosaic art show for the month of October.  Here's the flyer (none of these images are of my work, by the way):

Mosaics at the Mill—
A Show of Mosaic Art
September 29 - November 10, 2012 Curated by Mosaic Oasis Studio & Supply
Opening Reception:
Saturday September 29 2:30pm-4:30pm
Closing Reception: Saturday, November 10 2pm-5pm during the Old Schwamb Mill’s Fall Open House
Artist Talk: Carol Shelkin
Breaking into Mosaics: Finding a Visual Voice Friday, October 26th at 7 pm Sponsored by Mosaic Oasis Studio & Supply

Directions To Schwamb Mill
The Old Schwamb Mill
17 Mill Lane off Lowell Street Arlington, Massachusetts 02476-4189
Mill Visiting hours: Tuesdays and Saturdays from 11 am to 3 pm

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Back to Maine!

Tonight, I write to you from Fiber College in Searsport, Maine.  If you are a lover of fiber, textile, or other related crafts, you should check this out!  My friend Sarah Kuhn, who has a wonderful blog called Thinking with Things, introduced me to Fiber College.  
I will be forever grateful!

So, what is it?

Well, in the past two days I've been in workshops with extraordinary artists exploring indigo dying, spinning with a Navajo spindle, and sculptural knitting.  I have this hovering sense of an emerging synthesis -- as though all my creative urges that will no longer be denied might come together in some holy explosion of creation that I have yet to understand.  Sounds a bit extravagant?  That's okay -- remember, I'm back in Maine: the closest I get to a creative home.  

So, here are a few pictures to give you a peek into what Fiber College looks like:

The meditation hut.
I arrived at the Searsport Shores Ocean Campground where Fiber College is held every year and walked through the enchanted woods to a meditation hut that sits by the bay overlooking Belfast, Maine.  I sat by the water and knitted for awhile.  Then I strolled down to the beach.

I was taken with the rocks and shapes on the shore -- it seems that most of my visual inspiration comes from natural forms -- whether I am conscious of it or not!!

Friday began with an indigo dying workshop taught by the talented Jackie Ottino Graf, who dyes the luscious textiles and yarns produced by Swans Island Blankets.  Jackie also spins exquisite art yarns and knits!  Here's Jackie and the fabulous indigo brew:

Friday afternoon and Saturday morning I was in workshops with the master knitter and artist Katherine Cobey.  In addition to writing the book on diagonal knitting, Katherine has created powerful sculptures using her knitting and other objects to offer social critique and evocative commentary on our world.  Below is a poor quality shot of one of her anti-war pieces -- you really must visit her website to see this work!

Tomorrow I have have another workshop with Katherine Cobey -- this time she's teaching with Daina Taimina, inventor of hyperbolic crochet and author of Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes.  The workshop is called "Two Divas with Sticks" -- I know it will be the perfect finish to this creative weekend!

So, tonight, as I sat down in my little vacation cottage to compose this post, I assembled a few of tokens that will continue to remind me of my time here.  (I included a necklace that I made recently with one of the glass bottles I found in Eastport during my retreat last summer!)

I hope to be able to post more in the coming months -- I know it was a pretty thin gruel I provided this summer!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Poem

July was hard on me -- bad health news and no energy for art or gardening or reading.  Rather than go into that sad news, I offer a poem by Mary Oliver (one of my favorite poets!).  For me, the poem speaks to what is essential in life.

by Mary Oliver
Welcome to the silly, comforting poem.

It is not the sunrise,
which is a red rinse,
which is flaring all over the eastern sky;

it is not the rain falling out of the purse of God;

it is not the blue helmet of the sky afterward,

or the trees, or the beetle burrowing into the earth;

it is not the mockingbird who, in his own cadence,
will go on sizzling and clapping
from the branches of the catalpa that are thick with blossoms,
that are billowing and shining,
that are shaking in the wind.


You still recall, sometimes, the old barn on your
great-grandfather’s farm, a place you visited once,
and went into, all alone, while the grownups sat and
talked in the house.
It was empty, or almost. Wisps of hay covered the floor,
and some wasps sang at the windows, and maybe there was
a strange fluttering bird high above, disturbed, hoo-ing
a little and staring down from a messy ledge with wild,
binocular eyes.
Mostly, though, it smelled of milk, and the patience of
animals; the give-offs of the body were still in the air,
a vague ammonia, not unpleasant.
Mostly, though, it was restful and secret, the roof high
up and arched, the boards unpainted and plain.
You could have stayed there forever, a small child in a corner,
on the last raft of hay, dazzled by so much space that seemed
empty, but wasn’t.
Then—you still remember—you felt the rap of hunger—it was
noon—and you turned from that twilight dream and hurried back
to the house, where the table was set, where an uncle patted you
on the shoulder for welcome, and there was your place at the table.


Nothing lasts.
There is a graveyard where everything I am talking about is,

I stood there once, on the green grass, scattering flowers.


Nothing is so delicate or so finely hinged as the wings
of the green moth
against the lantern
against its heat
against the beak of the crow
in the early morning.

Yet the moth has trim, and feistiness, and not a drop
of self-pity.

Not in this world.


My mother
was the blue wisteria,
my mother
was the mossy stream out behind the house,
my mother, alas, alas,
did not always love her life,
heavier than iron it was
as she carried it in her arms, from room to room,
oh, unforgettable!

I bury her
in a box
in the earth
and turn away.
My father
was a demon of frustrated dreams,
was a breaker of trust,
was a poor, thin boy with bad luck.
He followed God, there being no one else
he could talk to;
he swaggered before God, there being no one else
who would listen.
this was his life.
I bury it in the earth.
I sweep the closets.
I leave the house.


I mention them now,
I will not mention them again.

It is not lack of love
nor lack of sorrow.
But the iron thing they carried, I will not carry.

I give them—one, two, three, four—the kiss of courtesy,
of sweet thanks,
of anger, of good luck in the deep earth.
May they sleep well. May they soften.

But I will not give them the kiss of complicity.
I will not give them the responsibility for my life.


Did you know that the ant has a tongue
with which to gather in all that it can
of sweetness?

Did you know that?


The poem is not the world.
It isn’t even the first page of the world.

But the poem wants to flower, like a flower.
It knows that much.

It wants to open itself,
like the door of a little temple,
so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed,
and less yourself than part of everything.


The voice of the child crying out of the mouth of the
grown woman
is a misery and a disappointment.
The voice of the child howling out of the tall, bearded,
muscular man
is a misery, and a terror.


Therefore, tell me:
what will engage you?
What will open the dark fields of your mind,
like a lover
at first touching?


there was no barn.
No child in the barn.

No uncle no table no kitchen.

Only a long lovely field full of bobolinks.


When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

Let grief be your sister, she will whether or no.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.

A lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

Live with the beetle, and the wind.

This is the dark bread of the poem.
This is the dark and nourishing bread of the poem.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Two Poems

I am sad tonight.  

Mary Oliver's poem is an embrace when I am sad:

Wild Geese  by Mary Oliver (from Dream Work)
"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things."
Jane Kenyon's poem helps to remind me that happiness will sweep in like a change of weather:

by Jane Kenyon 

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Creative Process

So, there was a message on one of my posts kindly asking about my process for making my mosaic windows.  Vikki asks: 

"Could you at some point do a blog post about the process of how you put together your amazing glass pieces? I find the whole process just fascinating and wonder things like how much material you collect at a time? Whether the material comes first or the idea? (and then you seek the material out), what your workspace is like? Where you find inspiration & where your style comes from? Whether you lay things out or let the mood take you?"

What an interesting time I have had with these questions! I can easily describe the physical process of composing the windows - and I'm happy to do that - but I might prove less articulate about how I arrive at a design. I'll start to try to answer these questions by walking you through the process of creating this window that I just finished:

I began this window after my father gave me a wonderful oblong frame (roughly 12" by 36") that he had made.  I knew that I wanted to try another tree (I've done two other, very different, trees). (As an aside, I will say about design that I seem to arrive at my designs by a complicated process of an idea for shape or color that is modified and influenced by the glass, the frame, my mood, and so  much more.  And, sometimes, I just sit down with nothing in mind and tinker to find a design -- though this is not always very productive, it's fun!)
Okay, the tree:  I sat down with the frame and my buckets of glass all around me -- I have sorted my glass into like colors for simplicity.  The last time I had been to Absolute Glass in Methuen -- the wonderful, family-owned shop where I buy all my glass -- I had picked up a sheet of the blue/violet glass you see as the sky in the finished piece.  That sheet of glass dictated my color choices: I thought the tree might be red, but once I played around a bit, dark purple demanded to be used -- and it works much better with the blue/violet glass.  The sun arrived early in the process. In my mind, I kept seeing images of a solitary tree with a sun setting behind it -- in fact, I kept thinking of the Serengeti, though I've never been there!  
At first, I cut and placed many more yellow streaks for the sky than you see in the finished piece.  But it was too much -- the image was confusing.  Here's a look at the design before I removed a lot of the yellow streaks:

Once I had the tree and major placement of the sun figured out, I glued the tree and the orb of the sun to the window glass.  From there, I cut, placed, and finally glued the sky and leaves.  Here is the window before it was grouted:

As you can see by comparing this ungrouted window to the finished piece, the grout is the most transformative step in the entire process -- so much so that I often don't know if I'm going to like a piece until I have grouted it and put it up so the light can shine through it!

The actual journey of the designs is so much more elaborate than I can describe here -- perhaps especially because it is not a verbal process.  Shapes and colors surprise me; they lead me to images that I must have seen somewhere in my life -- and these shoot into my mind unbidden.  At night, I can close my eyes and numerous window designs come to me.  But, unlike words, I cannot capture them on a page.  Yes, I could jump out of bed and sketch them.  But I'm not particularly good at drawing.  I like to just enjoy the show and wait to see what is persistant the next time I sit down with the glass or come across an interesting shaped window or frame. Sometimes, this persistance is almost uncomfortable.  A quote I read recently by the poet Louise Gluck captures this best:

"It seems to me that the desire to make art produces an ongoing experience of longing, a restlessness sometimes, but not inevitably, played out romantically, or sexually. Always there seems something ahead, the next poem or story, visible, at least, apprehensible, but unreachable. To perceive it at all is to be haunted by it; some sound, some tone, becomes a torment—the poem embodying that sound seems to exist somewhere already finished. It’s like a lighthouse, except that, as one swims towards it, it backs away."

Vikki, I thank you for inviting me to think about this!  I know you asked about style influences and workspace: I thought I might wait and address these in another post.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Home from Maine

Sadly, our two weeks in Maine flew by!  We arrived home last Sunday and I've been in a Lupus flare since Monday (when I foolishly mowed the fields, I mean lawn, in the hottest part of the hot day -- what was I thinking?!).  I'm feeling much stronger now, but I still have a lot of fatigue.  So, before I go off to read freshman placement essays, for which I will need all my strength ;^), I'll just post a few photos from our trip.  Every year, it gets harder to come home -- I think Maine might be my retirement home one day:

Looking out at the harbor on the day we arrived -- ahhh!

The meadow at  Sand Beach in Acadia

Fog rolling in!

Just beautiful!

Stay tuned for a post about my creative process!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

New Windows!

Just a few windows to show:
This is another transom sized window that I found at an architectural salvage shop up in New Hampshire.  I sure wish this size window wasn't so expensive and so hard to find!

This is a special order I've been working on.  I have never been so picky about a piece -- I usually don't lay it all out on a separate piece of glass before I'm ready to glue, for example!  But I'm happy with the result.

And here's one that I finished designing back in April --- there's a detail shot below.

Hopefully I'll get more grouted and posted before we head for our vacation in Maine.  
Now, off to enjoy the welcome sunshine!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What started as a "Garden in a Bag"

My friend Dhvani turned me onto a great vegetable garden idea for those who don't have good soil or much space.  (I have plenty of space, but after 4 tries in 12 years, it's clear that the soil in my yard does not work well for vegetables!)  So, I thought I'd try a garden in a bag -- which is just what it sounds like: you put down bags of organic soil, cut the tops out, put drainage holes in the bottom, pop in your plants of choice and, Voila!, a garden.  
Well, I have never done any garden project in a small way, but I was determined not to tear up the yard for a fifth time.  Really, I was!  But once I dug up the sod to make a place for the bags, it seemed a shame to leave all that plastic from the bags.  So, here's what I have today:
 I'm crossing all digits that this time I'll have success -- and then maybe I can expand next year!

And, just for fun, here are a few more shots of all that's growing in the flower beds:
The Rugosa is blooming -- and oh, what a heavenly scent!

The Poppies are ready to burst;

The divine Valerian are perfuming the air;
And the three Peonies are sitting straight up in their chairs, just ready to show off their petals.  Meanwhile, on the shady side of the yard:

The Bachelor Buttons are complimenting the Viburnum;

The Rhododendron is strutting her stuff; 

The Babtisia is nodding to the big Hosta;

The Guacamole Hosta and the Rhodie flowers are showing off the lasting color of the worn out chairs;

And the blue bench is spending its feeble last season leaning against the railing.

Happy Spring, Everyone!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

After the Rain

The rain stopped today.  I took advantage of a relatively sunny moment and went out to check on the garden.  Everything was freshly washed and reaching for the sun.  The leaves were heavy with rain, but the flowers were undaunted:

The fish and "fowl" were out, and the frog was playing hide and seek in the foliage:

The semester is finally coming to an end -- soon I will again have time for playing with glass!!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mosaic Inspiration

I can't begin to capture the feelings I had when I entered Isiah Zagar's Magic Gardens in Philadelphia yesterday afternoon.  It was as a spiritual experience for me.  Really!  
I felt my pulse racing; 
I felt like sobbing; 
I felt out of breath.  
As a result of my state of mind, when I ran into the artist early in my wandering through his gardens I was nearly speechless -- I did manage to grab his hand (you know I'm a toucher!) and say "Thank you" repeatedly.  I'd say that he went off thinking me "mad," but I bet he's used to people rendered speechless.  
What are the Magic Gardens, you ask?
The gardens take up half a city block on South Street in Philadelphia.  But this is no ordinary garden:  enter a mosaic-covered building and find yourself inside an entirely mosaicked space; that's right, entirely!  Walls, floor, ceiling -- no surface is untouched.  Wander into mosaic rooms, an interior courtyard, and enchanting "gardens" -- complete with grottos, arches, stairways, and nooks -- all created by a combination of sculpture and mosaic (the arches, grottos, stairs, and walls were clearly not there to begin with!).  
Here are a few photos that I took with my trusty iphone, but if you want more images check out the website for this remarkable place.

An interior room -- no space uncovered!

Wall and roof-line mosaics draw the eyes up to the sky.

A stairway in the outdoor garden also draws the eyes up to the amazing creations that adorn the garden walls and the roof of the building.

An enchanted grotto.

A poet's wall?

More wonderful arches, creating a private room within this very intimate corner of the garden. 
The garden walls are constructed of everything you could possibly imagine, but a sizable amount of the armature is provided by bicycle wheels that offer glimpses into yet other spaces in the garden.

And here is one of the many glass tiles embedded in the wall, letting light in and revealing a mosaicked wall beyond.

Looking through spokes into a lower "room" in the garden.

A harmony of green mugs and an old bicycle wheel capture my eye. 

With ART above my shoulder and magic all around, I can't wipe the smile from my face!