I've been in caught in a maelstrom of activity: First spending time with my Woolies, then driving out of state to attend an amazing workshop, then home to officially close on the condo.
I am now a home owner. Gulp.
I've been packing like a crazy woman, loading up the car, and driving across the state and back several times. I'm completely immersed in the early stages of the mess of moving. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
First there was the Wooly Bully meeting the Friday before Martin Luther King weekend. Here are some shots of the rugs we've been working on:
Then on Saturday of Martin Luther King day weekend, I drove to Vermont to take a paste-paper journal workshop with Nancy Shepherd. It was not an good time for me to be doing this, given the messy transition I'm in, but I had signed up for it several months in advance--before I knew what the future held. More importantly, I had been wanting to take this workshop for about 20 years (seriously), after my friend Georg made many such journals and gave me several. Here is a photo of all the journals produced by the students over this three-day workshop:
Below are all the paste papers I made on the first day of the workshop. They are laid out on newspaper to dry.
I wish I'd had a chance to photograph everyone's papers, but I was only able to snap my own.
Here are the front covers of the journals I made, and their bindings:
I have to say I was thrilled beyond belief to learn how to do this. My only wish is that had the time now to practice with all the other papers I created. But that will have to wait until after I move and unpack--so the earliest that I'll be getting back to this will be summer. Phooey. Not only that, but I don't have room to store the new papers because I'm packing everything up; I had to store all of them in my hosts' house in Vermont.
This would be a good time to say a hearty thank-you to my two kind and talented hosts, Sadelle and Ann. Not only did they put me up (or more accurately, "put up with me" !!) but they went way above and beyond with great conversation and excellent home cooking. "Num num num," as Cookie Monster would say. And then there were the Sweetie-Pie Doggie, the Cat Who Must Be Obeyed, and the Shy Timid Kitty, who were really lovely. Thank you Sadelle and Ann for making this possible.
But wait, there's more...
Coming back from Vermont, I drove to the condo for a pre-purchase walk-through, then drove back to Boston. The following day I signed all the final papers to officially buy it. 24 hours later, I left Boston and drove back to the condo and stayed for two nights. Then back here for a couple of days, then out there again for two more nights. Taking stuff with me each trip...lots of packing, hauling, moving. I'm exhausted and feel like a ping-pong ball. I'm sure it will all be worth it, but this is not easy. Here are some views:
Oh, and in between all this, two wonderful signs somehow sneaked into this post. The first is my favorite sign from the women's march:
Next I saw this sign (below) in front of my friend Elizabeth's store, and promptly went online HERE and ordered my own copy to download.
That's my (current) story, and I'm sticking to it.
All I can say is, thank goodness for meditation.
I need a vacation.
I've been alluding to a secret "Big Project" for awhile now, something that's been forcing me to postpone my own work. It's no longer a secret: I'm moving. I'll be relocating soon--just haven't set the firm date yet. Since I've lived here for decades, you can imagine the level of sorting, packing, and disruption this will cause.
It will be quite a while before I'm able to take time to implement any creative ideas of my own. So I thought I'd show you some wonderful work other people are doing. I'm intending this post to be the first of a series.
Let's begin with
of Cambridge, MA and Newfoundland, Canada. Among his many other talents, Jon created these mad, wonderful sculptures from found objects.
Click on any photo to view the complete piece (only partial thumbnail photos are below) and see its title and price. Some pieces are not for sale.
If you'd like to contact Jon, you can do so at: 617-448-3079
How did I discover Jon? First, his wife is a member of my rug hooking group, the Wooly Bullies. In fact, it was Jon who suggested the name for the group 15 years ago. Yes, we are named after that incredibly stupid song of yesteryear by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs. In case you need to hear the song, here it is.
Second, Jon used to share studio space at Joy Street Studios in Somerville, MA, with a close friend of mine. When he cleaned out his studio, he left some of his work behind since he didn't have room to store it. He put some of his pieces on the walls of my friend's woodworking shop. I love the results from the way Jon has taken found objects and put them together to form these crazy sculptures!
And because I'm not kidding when I say his work is "up" on the walls of my friend's shop, let me note that it's WAY WAY up on the walls, so I had to shoot these photos from underneath. That accounts for the angle AND for the dust--they're up so high they haven't been dusted recently. They aren't shown to their best advantage, but we do what we can, right?
And now a few thoughts on sculpture...
I say that the art of sculpture is eight times as great as any other art based on drawing, because a statue has eight views and they must all be equally good. (Benvenuto Cellini)
Sculpture occupies real space like we do... you walk around it and relate to it almost as another person or another object. (Chuck Close)
When you slow down enough to sculpt, you discover all kinds of things you never noticed before. (Karen Jobe)
A great sculpture can roll down a hill without breaking. (Michelangelo)
I would like to carve my novel in a piece of wood. (Georges Simenon)
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."
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
Honestly, some days it hardly feels like it was worth it to get out of bed. Today was one of those, creatively.
All I can see at the moment is what is wrong with this rug. Not only did I get nothing done on it, but I spent part of the day ripping out what I've already done, and then allowing myself to fall into a funk.
I broke my own rule which is: Just show up and do the work. So, that's my declared intention for tomorrow. I'll get up, meditate, and then work on the rug.
I will ignore the funk, and do the work. It's the only way that art gets done.
“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who'll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you're sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that's almost never the case.”
I could have titled this post:
What I noticed today, as I really dig in to this new piece, is the initial curiosity, restlessness, and insecurity of beginnings.
Oh sure, I liked my design on paper, where it looked so neat and tidy.
But in actually starting to produce the design in wool on monks cloth, I feel all the questions and doubts rushing forward.
Will I have enough yarn?
I don't know.
Did I choose the right colors?
I don't know.
Will the new techniques I want to use actually work?
I don't know.
Will unfamiliar yarns/fabrics/techniques add to or subtract from the effect?
I don't know.
Can I really mix those two fibers in the needle?
I don't know.
Does everyone create this level of utter chaos when working on something new?
I don't know.
Can I tolerate the mess everywhere, while I get this underway?
I don't know.
Am I doing this right?
I don't know.
...and on and on. I found myself taking frequent breaks from the work. Reading a book to distract myself. Going onto Facebook. Knitting. Running errands. Taking a nap.
Avoid, avoid, avoid.
It is very hard to tolerate this level of "I-don't-know-ness." I notice it every time I start something new.
And yet...there is something exciting about it as well. The novelty, the experimentation, the not-knowing if something is going to work, and when it doesn't work, the part where I figure out what will work.
Truth is, I don't know.
This is the last installment in the series on my experience at the week-long certification workshop at the Oxford Rug Hooking School in Cornwall Vermont last week.
I'll start with some pictures again--these are from Chris H, with his permission. They are photos he took on a brief walk he took up the dirt road just to the side of Amy's property. (I did not take a walk all week--unusual--and I lived to regret it, but that's another story. Note to self: Always take at least one walk a day...)
It really was that beautiful there, and it was that way all week. Sunny, warm but not too hot, low humidity, Kind of staggeringly beautiful.
Amy is a genius as an instructor. She had the entire week so well-planned...we introduced ourselves, talked about what makes a good instructor, and set goals. And then we set about meeting our goals for the week. Amy modeled the type of teacher we all hope to be. She was completely organized, but not rigid. She was great at time management, without making us feel we were on a "regimen." She told us what we'd be learning for each day--and then we actually learned it. And she had great handouts, clear and useful. The kind of handouts we can use with our own students.
At one point, the wonderful Diane Burgess came in for an entire morning to teach traditional rug hooking to those of us who had never tried our hands at that. Diane specializes in teaching traditional hooking to newbies.
Amy even managed to squeeze in a thorough lesson on photographing rugs, something I think we all needed to learn. (She's not mad here--the sun was so extraordinarily bright that she is squinting)
Every day she gave us tip after tip, provided lots of time to punch and to teach, taught new techniques, and then ended with a hilarious graduation ceremony. I managed to photograph most of us at graduation, but unfortunately couldn't photograph myself and because Kathleen came right after me, I couldn't get her photo either.
Here are the graduation pictures. Note the kazoo in Amy's mouth as we go through the process!
Since we didn't have caps and gowns, we pitched balls of novelty yarn in the air to finalize the celebration. And speaking of yarns:
Chris dyed up these colors before coming to the workshop and they caused a sensation. I think all of us used some of his yarns in our work last week, and I also think all of us took home one of the colors. Here are the colors he gifted us with.
I got to go home with the blue one, and just today used more of it to finish one of my homework assignments. Chris raises sheep at his home, and spins; he also has the fleece commercially spun into rug yarn, but the hand-dyed yarns he dyed that are pictured above were, I think, from KnitPicks; they weren't from his own sheep. Thanks, Chris, for letting us all take one of these home.
After graduation Amy gave us each a tiny charm, as well as our diplomas. I loved the charm and am already using it on my keychain.
When I left on Saturday, I left with inspiration, with a good-sized manual for techniques, with the work I'd completed during the week, with plenty of resources, with plenty of homework ahead of me to complete the certification, and with the confidence that I could continue to improve and to pass on this technique as needed.
I forgot to mention that part of the homework is to complete a rug of our own design within the next four months. We had all sketched out our designs in advance, and one of my very favorite parts of the workshop was when we shared them with each other. I think we were all stunned by the level of creativity shown. I was impressed and inspired by what I saw and can't wait to see the completed rugs.
Because we had worked so hard, had bonded, and had so much fun, we were all pretty emotional as we were leaving. I saw tears (and had a few myself) and although we were all eager to get home after such a long time away, there was substantial foot-dragging as we said goodbye.
My thanks to Amy, our incredible teacher, and to the school manager (and dyer extraordinaire) Heidi, who kept everything organized and running smoothly while we were there.
Final thoughts on all the inspirational, dear, creative people I met last week:
"When I find myself fading, I close my eyes and realize my friends are my energy." (Anonymous)
Thanks to all of you for making this such a wonderful experience.
...This is the third post in the continuing saga of my remarkable week in Cornwall, VT at the Oxford Rug Hooking School last week, with fellow students Bob, Chris, Jude, Kathleen, Patty, and Phyllis. (That's Chris's mug on the right.) In the last post I featured some pieces that Jude, Bob, and Kathleen brought along for show-and-tell. I will pick up today with Chris and Phyllis.
But first, Chris posted these lovely photos on his Facebook page, and he was kind enough to give me permission to show them here. The first two show the sign for the school and the building:
And now let's resume the show-and-tell, starting with Phyllis:
In the next post, I will finish up with additional photos and a short description of the experience. There is just no way to do it justice. A good teacher is a powerful and precious thing--as are good companions on the way. We were very lucky.
The Oxford Teacher Certification Workshop lasted seven days this month, and was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.
It was also one of the most challenging things I've ever done.
For the first three days I wasn't sure I would survive it.
We tucked 60 hours of learning into 6.5 days, working from 9 in the morning until 9 at night, and often later.
When I hit the bed after class ended each day, I would try to read, but was soon fast asleep. It wasn't until Wednesday that I knew I could actually keep up the pace. (And in fact, it was easier after Wednesday. I got used to it.)
Am I making it sound bad? Far from it! It was rigorous--even tough--but it was superbly presented--I and my fellow 6 students were having the time of our lives and learning so much.
Amy Oxford is one of the kindest, most generous, smart, and funny teachers I've ever been fortunate to have. You cannot imagine a more gracious and supportive person. At the same time, she knows exactly how to get the job done and how to keep students motivated and working hard. But somehow, the way she does it, you never feel driven. You just want to produce.
It's a form of magic, I swear.
Here are additional photos from the week--enjoy! There will be more.
(Click on photos to biggify and to see captions)
I will stop here for the day. But consider: this was only the show-and-tell. Much more show-and-tell and much more of the workshop to come.
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 Western Massachusetts. 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