Making this piece was quite the challenge. I started on it in 2008 or 2009 and got as far as completing the face, but then was waylaid by life. It sat on a frame for another seven or eight years (!) and haunted me.
Although I was determined to finish I was also intimidated, because while I was punching the forehead, the foundation suddenly collapsed and my needle plunged all the way through, leaving a large hole in the fabric.
Yikes. What to do?
What I did do was put it away for the next several years. I couldn't fathom how to fix it because the spot was too tiny for a patch. Finally about a month ago I took it up again and closely examined it, realizing that you couldn't really see the hole.
So I left it there and finished the piece, hole and all.
You have to look really hard to find the problem spot (though it probably cannot be seen in a photo; likely only in person).
Lesson #1: Use the Right Materials
This was one of those major learning pieces. Whether I like the end result or not--and I'm still trying to decide how I feel about it--I learned a ton from doing it. For one thing, the foundation was the PITS. I am guessing it was cotton muslin rather than the sturdy weaver's cloth normally used for punch needle embroidery, and that is why it collapsed. It was sold to me as weaver's cloth; the lesson learned is to pay attention to my own instincts--it felt flimsy right from the start. I should have listened to intuition and returned it or thrown it away.
Lesson #2: Make Notes
Another lesson was to make notes, extensive notes, if I am going to put a piece away for awhile. How many strands of embroidery floss had I been using? How had I adjusted the length of my needle? What exact shade should I use to continue? Any other notes I need to make in case I don't get back to it for awhile? I didn't do any of this and had to reconstruct everything when I started work on it again.
Lesson #3: What Would You Do Differently Next Time?
A third lesson was in the use of values to convey visual planes. I would do this quite differently now, but I needed to work through this portrait in order to learn that.
Lesson #4: Revise!
And then there's the lesson that hair is hard to do well in embroidery. Such a different format from pencil and paper! A friend told me my initial efforts made the portrait look like a photo of Dilma Rouseff of Brazil. She was right, and I had to rip out the "over-hair," but at least I was laughing as I did so.
I could go on... In the end, it was a challenge but it was fun as well, and now I am eager to do some additional portraits.
"My nose isn't big. I just happen to have a very small head."
I have indeed been absent from writing for a long while.
It's nothing bad, nor have I abandoned my blog. Instead, life has been overly-full with good things, including two major projects. I'll write about one of them today.
I just returned from a less-than-24 hour trip to Cornwall, VT, where I stayed overnight at the Oxford Rug Hooking School and completed the requirements to become a Certified Teacher Punch Needle Rug Hooking. (!! Hurrah !!)
And as if that weren't wonderful enough, just look at the weather and views I had while I was there (even though I hardly had time to be outside).
There was earthy eye candy everywhere.
Here are some samples, a photo journey for your enjoyment:
Amy Oxford's school is a bit of heaven on earth, one of my favorite places to go and well worth the four-hour drive for me. (Although TWO four-hour drives in 24 hours just about did me in.)
And then there is Amy herself, one of the kindest and most generous people I know. A fabulous artist, teacher and businesswoman. And there is also Heidi the dye wizard, working her magic on both creative and administrative aspects of the school--and just as nice. (Heidi also can repair absolutely anything.)
It is sheer pleasure to be in residence there.
I am ready to collapse for the evening and try to take in the fact that I'm now certified...a fact which just makes me think, "But I have so much more to learn!"
My one regret is that I couldn't stay longer. Anyone who has been to the school and is reading this will know exactly what I mean.
As for the other project I'm involved in: that one is bigger, longer-term, and more disruptive, and may prevent me from writing much for a while.
It's all good. But it's also all-consuming.
To quote the old Beatles' move, Help: "I can say no more."
I saw a friend yesterday who had been sending me images she'd created on her iPad. I just loved them so she told me what app she had been using, a free one. I immediately downloaded it. And I had also acquired a new stylus, the Adonit Pro. (I have an old iPad so I cannot use the fabulous new Apple Pencil because it only works on the most recent iPad models. I won't be getting one of those for awhile.)
Here in order were my first four attempts with this new app. I think I'm in love, and addicted already. Oh, the ideas for rugs and other textiles!
Endless possibilities here!
"Your heart is full of fertile seeds, waiting to sprout."
Several weeks ago, a young woman riding her bike in the bicycle lane of a busy nearby square was "doored" (hit by a car door opened by someone who was not looking) and knocked off her bike directly into the path of an oncoming truck, which could not stop.
This happened about 3/4 of a mile from my house. Within a day, a Ghost Bike had showed up and was placed, covered in flowers, at the exact location where she had been killed. Since I drive or walk by that location several times a week, it was upsetting to see the bike there.
Bicycling groups around the world have long observed a thought-provoking custom to memorialize fatalities caused by motor vehicles. When a rider has a fatal accident while bicycling, someone will take an old bike and paint it white. They will then place it permanently it at the location of the fatality. These are called "Ghost Bikes." It may sound gruesome; however, it is such a poignant reminder of the perils of biking in a car-saturated urban environment.
Unfortunately, another such bike has now showed up practically at my front door. On August 29th, there was a fatality less than a block from my house. Strangely, I was home with the door open and yet never heard a thing.
There's a commuter train that goes right by my house, and the tracks must cross an unbelievably busy street. I've lived here for decades and have never heard of an accident between this train, which runs frequently, and any vehicle on that road--bus, truck, car, biker, or pedestrian. The crossing is incredibly well marked. Long before the train comes through, loud bells begin to ring, bright lights begin to flash, and two very long barriers come down across the road, one for each direction. Therefore, it was incredibly puzzling to hear that on the 29th, a bicyclist was hit and killed by a commuter train there.
This is a mystery for sure. What really happened? It was broad daylight. It was a fine clear day. All the crossing signals (lights, bells, barriers) were working perfectly. All the cars on either side of the tracks were stopped. Many pedestrians were also stopped, waiting to cross once the train had passed. And other bicyclists were stopped.
All of a sudden, another cyclist came down the road with great speed. Everyone assumed he would stop. When he did not, motorists and pedestrians started yelling for him to stop. He did not. In fact, he actually had to maneuver his bike around the barriers to get onto the tracks--past the lights, the bells, and the barriers. He never stopped, and a large number of horrified observers watched as the train hit the bike and he was killed.
What was going on there? Was this a suicide? Or was he in a rush and did he assume he could make it across before the train? Who was he? What was his history? It seems likely it was suicide, given the fact that he had to really work hard to get onto the tracks and couldn't have failed to notice the signals and barrier.
I will never know. Nor will I know his name.
I'm not a cyclist (too scary around here), but I feel terrible about this, and now I have a Ghost Bike just a stone's throw from my house. Not something I ever wanted to see here.
Rest in peace, whoever you are.
This is about all I can manage today. I have a nasty summer head cold and I think I've been overdoing it.
Even though I'm trying very hard to limit my activities, even short tasks are tiring. This is Joey Challenge #128. I couldn't resist giving it a go...but now I need a nap!
Below is the same photo altered with two separate iPhone apps.
When I was a kid, I remember my mother complaining that I never finished what I started. She was right. I would develop some sudden enthusiasm and throw myself into whatever-it-was and then just as suddenly lose all interest and drop it. I had unfinished projects littering the house.
I remember being furious with her for pointing this out--because I knew it was true.
I made a vow to myself that I would "finish what I started" from then on. And mostly I've stuck to that vow. My mother did me a big favor.
After completing a really challenging project last week (more about that in a future post), I had finally cleared the decks of all my recent textile endeavors and was free to think about what's next. I do have one additional rug underway but can finish that as soon as the weather turns cooler and I can get back in the studio.
As soon as I asked myself, "What IS next?" I realized I had two ancient unfinished objects that I truly wanted to complete. One is a quilt I started at least 30 years ago. But that's in pieces in various boxes and will have to wait a while longer, until I can find everything. The other, though, is a punch needle embroidery face that I started at least seven years ago. Here it is.
I finished 9/10s of this back around 2009, and then I had to stop for reasons I no longer recall. Not smart.
This morning I finished the face, despite running into a soft spot in the backing that was threatening to disintegrate completely. (Eeeek! Desperation was only seconds away.)
The piece itself is actually in full color, but I used an app to switch it to black and white to study the values.
I think I could have done a better job of finishing. However: If one has abandoned a project for over seven full years, and one has been silly enough NOT to store it neatly in a bag with its appropriate colors, then "one" will have to spend most of the day guessing at what colors were used, at how many threads were being used per stitch, and at what in the world I was thinking when I put it down with so little to finish. Jeez!
After I got all that sorted out--kinda--I finished the tiny space that remained in less that half an hour. I mean, by dropping this piece to work on something else seven years ago, it just made everything so much harder when I went to pick it up again. Oy!
Perhaps I thought I'd get right back to it. I never did. And I've thought about finishing it ever since. There is still a lot of work to be done.
Next up: punching the hair, then some type of background.
I'm now thinking of a whole series of embroidered portraits. I know that when I finally finish this project and post a color version, it will be clear just how far I still have to go to improve--but that's half the fun of learning to draw/punch/paint/hook. I can only get better!
Or so I tell myself.
And much as I hate to admit it: Thanks, mom.
"Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there."
"The artist uses the talent he has, wishing he had more talent. The talent uses the artist it has, wishing it had more artist."
Yup, this is it. This is all that is left of my original Rainbow Lead Pencil. And I'm still using it! I've nicknamed it "Stubby." That's a dime just underneath it, for size comparison, and below that is a regular mechanical lead pencil.
A friend has been asking about where to find this particular brand. Unfortunately, there is absolutely NO identifying information on the pencil at all. I wrote about my search for its exact twin HERE. It's a long, long post, but if you are very determined to get one of these, reading the entire thing may be somewhat helpful...at least to affirm that I share your frustration. (At the time I wrote that post, last August, I had ordered but not tried the Koh-i-Noor Rainbow Lead pencils. I got them and tried them later, and disliked them. I then ordered what I thought might be a match-to-my-original pencil from Oriental Trading Company, but the ones I received were very dull in color and I ended up discarding those also. Your mileage may vary, of course.)
I still have no dependable information on where to get this brand of Rainbow Lead pencils. If anyone knows, please put the info in the comments! Meanwhile, have a good laugh over "Stubby," my beloved art tool.
To round out my day, I took a few moments tonight to practice some new-to-me tangles and some old favorites. Because I need to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, I had to stop here and not spend any time shading - so this is line-work only. Perhaps some time in the next few days I can add the shading.
This was relaxing to do and I'm hoping it will help me slide gracefully into a good night's sleep.
"Sleep is the best meditation."
-The Dalai Lama
(Jeez, did he really say that?)
What a lovely day today was.
The Red Buddha on the left is a photo I took of a large installation on the wall of an unlit back hall of a local restaurant--apparently supervising things while in the dark and unseen. I discovered it on my way to the restroom. The dramatic red color is due to the fact that the only light is a red exit sign just over the Buddha's head.
This Buddha is about four feet tall, apparently made from cement. I couldn't help wondering what it was doing mysteriously installed in the darkness, nearly invisible.
Perhaps some things we'll just never understand.
I was at the restaurant with two very dear friends who, as it happened, hadn't seen each other in over a quarter century. I've seen both of them but they hadn't seen each other. In the interim they've both had and raised children up to adulthood.
We three had a lovely lunch.
After lunch we took an Uber to the Fogg Art Museum and entered the Dreamtime. We went to the truly wonderful exhibit by Aboriginal Artists which is currently on display. All the work shown was inspired and gorgeous, three large rooms of dreamy paintings, carvings, and other objects. Below are three of my favorites with their credits and commentary. I urge you to go and see this exhibit before it closes in early September. Check the URL above for more information and more pictures.
Originally I had planned this trip with one friend; my other friend suddenly contacted me last night to say that she was coming into town and did I have time today...? So we swept her into our plans, which meant that two people who hadn't seen each other in decades had the pleasure and fun of reconnecting. And I had the pleasure and fun of being with both of them, and watching them catch up.
Friends. I am so lucky to have them. Thank you both for a wonderful day.
“Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.”
― Elie Wiesel
Looking at this photo: On the left side is the original plan for this week's Joey Challenge. I loved that she tangled about 1/3 of the tile and left the rest for the participants to work out. Yesterday I posted my first effort --fly-by-night since I was doing the entire thing from memory. Today I tried it again. I'm still not madly in love with my results but that's ok since at least I am tangling...something I haven't had that much time to do lately.
Here's a better look at what I did. Included in this tangle are Paradox, N'Zepple, Tipple, Sampson, and various other random lines and marks I tossed in there, with some graphite shading and then coloring using a Rainbow Pencil.
I may even try a third version of this at some point.
With repetition, the alternate approaches become clear, options open.
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), long-time meditator and coach, focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
NEXT INTRO TO ZENTANGLE CLASS:
No immediate group classes scheduled (I'm always open to hearing about a good venue in the Cambridge-Somerville area). I am always happy to teach 1-1 and/or in a small group in your home.
Come and amaze yourself!
SITES TO WATCH:
Insight Meditation Society
Oxford Rug Hooking School
Zentangle: The Official Site
Green Mountain Rug Hooking
Massachusetts Tarot Society
Skillful Meditation Project