2016 was a very tough year. No matter which "side" you were on in the brutal election season, it was tough on all of us. The results of the election devastated and terrified me, and many others, on behalf of the future of our people and our planet.
But I cannot move forward or act effectively if I continue to live in this place of devastation and terror.
So, my word for 2017 is: ACCEPTANCE.
Now before those of you who share my political views take umbrage, please bear in mind that "ACCEPTANCE" DOES NOT IMPLY "APPROVAL" or "AGREEMENT." But if we are to take right action on any situation, we must first see the situation clearly as it is. In other words, a gray sky is gray, even if we would prefer it to be blue. The traffic jam we are caught in is indeed a traffic jam, no matter how much we'd prefer to be speeding down the highway. Do we have to like it? No. Agree with it? NO. But in order to deal with it, we have to accept that it is what is happening in this moment. That's where we are.
So, now what?
I've been pondering this and looking for good resources on acceptance. Tara Brach's books, like True Refuge, are on my reading list. I am observing how consistently people confuse Acceptance with Agreement. They are NOT the same. Acting from a place of denial or blind rage produces terrible results, and is one consequence of not being willing to face things "as they are" in order to choose the best possible action.
I know whereof I speak. I've just spent the entire last month refusing to accept the way things are in my life. With predictably ineffective and poor results. It's time to face reality.
I hasten to add that I have a l-o-n-g way to go to achieve any sort of acceptance, but I plan to be focusing on it. 2017 is going to be a challenging year for me, not just because of the election results but because I am relocating after many years in one place. I need to remember what one good friend was saying to herself yesterday: "Stay in the now. Stay in the now. Stay in the fucking NOW." (She was talking about her acceptance of her own temporary medical issue, but it applies 100% to me as well.) Anyone who knows me and has been around me lately knows how far away I am from achieving the wisdom and peace that acceptance can bring.
The Buddhists have the best perspective on this, and here are some short online pieces that I have found useful. You do not have to be Buddhist to appreciate these thoughts:
1. Support yourself through the learning process
2. See things for what they really are
3. Take things less personally
4. Don’t confuse acceptance with a statement of preference
5. Get used to the way things actually are
6. See acceptance as the ability to relax around things
7. See acceptance as something you do for yourself
8. Recognise that something good comes out of acceptance
9. See challenges as part of a story that is cool in some ways
10. Recognise that flaws belong to the nature of things
11. See flaws as the price for an overall package you can accept
12. Imagine how much worse some things could have been
13. Start to laugh at things more often
14. Practise detachment from thoughts
15. Practise simple contentment with the present moment
16. Remember that nothing lasts forever
I'll be focusing on Acceptance this year, which means I hope to be clearer and more effective at seeing when things need to change (and when they don't), and how best to act to change them. My meditation practice will help, and I hope my friends will feel free to remind me of this focus when I lose it.
“Sometimes you just have to regret things and move on.”
― Charlaine Harris
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)
Dropped by to see a good friend today--she had major reconstructive surgery on one foot last week and will be in this position for a while:
There's nothing like a good dose of tangling to set off a cast. She can now be a fashion maven as she scoots around on her knee scooter. At least until she gets her new cast next week.
This morning, while waiting for news on The Big Project (which is dragging on and on...will I ever get a go-ahead?), I forced myself to tackle a Little Project I've put off for decades: Sorting through a huge pile of tangled, jammed-together embroidery threads.
I made a start. But it's a scary one.
I am now mired in "Lower Slobbovia," as my family used to refer to any wildly messy space. Have a look (but you may want to look away quickly):
And here's the scariest part: I could not fit all of Slobbovia in this picture. Even when using the "Panoramic" option on my iPhone, this is only HALF of its length! The rest of the mess is unseen and continues to the right.
(Slobbovia is a very large place.)
This was a first fast sort, using the ROYGBIV method (Red, Orange, Yellow, etc.) and dumping all the white, black, neutrals and un-categorizable color mixes on the far right.
Now I have to move on with another task, leaving the Lower Slobbovia thread-mess parked on my desk. I deliberately put it there because I know I cannot leave it there long. I'll be forced to deal with it. I've been postponing this for decades (yes, decades) and it's just ridiculous to have let it get so out of hand. Hopefully I can find a system that will enable me to store and find colors much more efficiently for future punch needle embroidery projects.
Speaking of which, my good friend Patt reminded me that I had designed and made this punch needle piece back in 2004 for her wedding. I'd forgotten it and appreciate having this photo for my gallery. Thanks, Patt, for sending this!
Anonymous quote which I should adopt as a motto:
"My room is not messy. It's an obstacle course meant to keep me fit."
Apparently I would rather do anything but straighten out the ghastly mess of embroidery threads crammed together tightly in a bag (my so-called "method" for "storing threads" for punch needle embroidery). See my last post...Hah! It's all catching up to me now, and I'm avoiding, avoiding, avoiding...hence I'm writing two posts in one day.
I just finished this embroidery last week, but haven't begun to think about the framing for it yet:
I bought the pattern around 2011 from the Paisley Studio in New York state, and completed the bird that same year--and then dropped it. As I've been saying for a while now, punch needle embroidery projects are keeping me sane while I'm waiting to find out whether I'm going to be starting The Big Project (stay tuned for more on that). Since The Big Project will take up all my time for months to come, I'm afraid to start any serious textile work so I'm basically knitting and punching tiny pieces.
Thus I am finishing up all the half-done work from the last several years. Two weeks ago I pulled out this piece and began to think about a background. Below is Sarah's initial photo that came with the pattern:
I admired her technique and colors. I stuck to exactly what she did, with none of my usual tendency to make changes. The big difference is in the eye of the birds--my bird looks a lot more surprised than hers! That's the difference in how we each handled the eye. Her bird looks meditative--mine looks a lot less settled, right?
The work was so much fun, but once I had it complete I could see it needed a background around it if I were going to frame it. So five years after finishing the bird, I finally punched the background using Valdani cotton thread. I'm pleased with the results, although in my own photograph above I notice that many subtle colors in the background simply do not show. It looks like a much "busier" background in the photograph than it does in person.
Sarah has an Etsy site HERE. I don't see any punch needle embroidery patterns on it as I'm writing this, but that doesn't mean she doesn't still sell them. Check with her if you are interested.
I loved her title for this piece, "Through My Window," and enjoyed thinking about being able to see a bluebird out my own window as I punched. It would never happen where I live now!
To round this off, here are some bluebird quotes. I particularly enjoyed the contrast between the last two...
A man who never sees a bluebird only half lives.
Edwin Way Teale
The bluebird carries the sky on his back.
Henry David Thoreau
An optimist is someone who figures that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's the bluebird of happiness.
The Bluebird of Happiness long absent from his life, Ned is visited by the Chicken of Depression.
[While I am in an enforced rug hooking and tangling "lull" for a while, I've been working with punch needle embroidery because it's quick and most of the pieces are small. This is a post on rediscovering my first two pieces and on how I learned.]
Many years ago now--could it have been around the year 2000?--I learned to do punch needle embroidery from a very kind friend and teacher named Linda. I remember how desperately I wanted to learn when I saw her work! At the time, we were both visiting Shelburne VT for the Green Mountain Rug Hooking Guild annual show (still a fabulous, classic, not-to-be-missed show; it's huge and always has classes running at the same time).
I begged Linda for a quick tutorial and we met the next morning for breakfast at a now-defunct restaurant in Shelburne. While we were waiting for our food, she whipped out a sample and taught me in less than ten minutes. I will be forever grateful.
At the time she was running a small business and writing two books on the topic. I believe the books (superb) are now out of print but I've heard they may be coming back as e-books for Kindle. She had a number of patterns for sale and also made frames for punch hooking. I think some of her adorable patterns may still be available here. Although you will have to check to be sure. Fortunately, gripper frames and Morgan Hoops--which both work well for punch needle--are now widely available from other sources if you google them.
The above Crow Pattern--a lapel pin--was the very first punch needle project I ever did, and it's one of Linda's designs. Here is another one, done around the same time and also one of her designs. It's also a pin.
Linda's first book was called Miniature Punchneedle Embroidery and her second book was titled A Passion for Punchneedle. I highly recommend the first book for beginners and the second one for "experienced beginners" and intermediate-to-advanced punchers. Her directions are clear and well thought-out and you cannot find a better teacher in print. Secondhand copies of the books are often available. I would love to see them reprinted but at least the Miniature Punchneedle Embroidery (first book) is available as an ebook here. The instructions are superb, and it's packed with projects.
Meanwhile, I have continued punching away in spare moments, although my emphasis shifted to punch needle rug hooking for several years. Happily I reconnected with Linda recently. She's still punching, and is also a gifted rug hooker and calligrapher.
While I am waiting for a "go" or "no-go" on the Big Project (the one I'm not yet ready to talk about), my attention is scattered and I hesitate to start another rug. So, I'm working on punch needle projects on a tiny scale. After finishing several of these I was left with tools and threads in a mess and this morning I began a tidying-up process.
That's when I found these two pieces above. These tiny treasures I had completely forgotten popped out of a long-unopened box to delight me.
Big thanks to Linda for her teaching and friendship over the years.
And now...back to the challenging task of sorting out threads. Here is just a partial glimpse of what I'm facing. No wonder I can't find anything...Wish me luck!
Here is the completed piece I embroidered to cover the ugly logo on my fleece jacket. It needs a bit more tweaking and then I can take it off the frame, trim it, and sew it into place.
Until I do that, I won't really know if my idea has worked, so my fingers are crossed. Although I'm experienced at hand sewing, I'm often too impatient to do the best possible job, and this time I hope to go slowly and carefully and get it done right. I'll post a photo of it on the jacket once that's done by adding it at the end of this post.
With thanks to Hanny Waldburger, CZT, for her tangle Pearl in Balance, which enabled me to design this. The final size is 4.75" x 2.25" (more info on the tangle in my first post on this topic) and until I started working on it I wasn't sure if I could get the detail using punch needle embroidery, but it worked well.
In the spirit of the title of this series, "Traveling in Unknown Realms," I took the photo above and used it as the basis for two of my favorite iPhone apps. First is a photo from the Kaleidoscope App, a nice closeup of a rotated section:
I like the view of the individual loops in that photo, even though the design has been manipulated.
Finally I ran the original photo through the Waterlogue app:
Unknown Realms, indeed.
"Making art is like swimming underwater in a blindfold." --Darby Bannard
All my life I've been interested in textile arts. Weaving, handspinning, quilting, beadwork, embroidery, and rug hooking in all its forms. I started traditional rug making with a hook in the early 1970s, but put it aside for nearly 20 years, the first ten of which my life was in chaos. The next ten, I was just too busy.
But in that "next ten"--the 80s--I tried out small, quick pieces using crewel work, needlepoint, cross stitch, and quilting.
Today I visited with an old friend whom I met in the early 70s and who has lovingly stuck with me ever since. She is a gift in my life. We don't get to see each other often, but we did today. While I was at her house I remembered doing this cross stitch embroidery sampler for her. It's now 35 years old! Finally, today, I got a photograph of it.
I'm so happy to see it looking as good today as it did a thousand years ago. (Ok, 35 years ago.)
I definitely used a pattern--I did not design this but I wish I could remember who did. I'd love to give the designer credit.
Every time I see this piece, it's like visiting an old friend--just as I actually did this afternoon. If you read the words ("I love apples; I love apples; I love apples...Cobblers and Cakes and Strudels and Pies; Yummies for the Tummy, A Feast for the Eyes," etc.) you won't be surprised to hear that while I visited with P today, she was chowing down on...wait for it...a large apple.
We had a discussion on a great place to buy local Honeycrisps. She still loves apples as much as she did 35 years ago.
And I love her!
Thanks for being my friend through thick and thin, P.
"We didn't realize we were making memories. We just thought we were having fun."
After two days of experimentation, I think this is going to come together. I think it's going to work. This is how it looks so far. There's a lot of tweaking to do and plenty of punching left to get it finished.
One thing I did not say in my post yesterday about the design process for this very small piece: Without my training in Zentangle®, I would never have been able to draft this design (which is a simple variation of Hanny Waldburger's tangle called "Pearl in Balance" as I mentioned yesterday). While I'm not claiming it's the world's greatest design, it is something that would have been impossible for me to come up with as recently as 4 years ago. Zentangle has really enabled me to wade into the Unknown Realms of the design process in a manner that I couldn't even conceive of before learning to tangle. I am grateful every day for what I am learning in my Zentangle practice. Not to mention how calming it is.
Time to sleep, but tomorrow I'll be back at this. Exploring, exploring.
I've ripped out and re-punched several of these tiny areas four or five times already.
"The trick is to keep exploring and not bail out, even when we find out that something is not what we thought." --Pema Chodron
Boy, doesn't that sound fancy!
Especially since I'm only sitting right here in my living room.
But in fact, I feel like I am indeed traveling in unknown realms, as I blunder my way towards a huge project I'm considering. I haven't yet said what it is, but it's something that most people have already done long before they reach my age. It's not my intention to be cagey about it, but at the moment all I'm willing to say is that it's going to take a long time--if I even take the plunge--and it's likely to use up all my energy for a very long time. Months, if not more. Sorry to be mysterious, but until I've decided, "I'm in!" I just don't want to disclose it.
Alas, I can hardly think about anything else, and that's pretty limiting.
But that's not the only unknown realm I'm traveling in. In an effort to keep some creativity going despite the distraction of the Big Project, I've been working on very small textile pieces, all of them punch needle embroidery. Today I was attempting to design a 2.25" x 4.25" piece that I want to use to decorate a fleece jacket. I want to embroider something that will cover up an ugly logo that's currently on the left front side of the jacket.
Design is always an Unknown Realm for me. Always.
This was my first idea:
And my second idea:
And then i played around with the first idea:
So then later this afternoon I decided to pursue the first idea and see if I could turn it into a pattern. I spent the last hour or so doing just that. I want the motif to be slightly to the right of center. All punch needle embroidery is done backwards, so a pattern needs to be reversed.
Here's the resulting pattern. Now the big question is: Can I actually pull this off, or is it just too detailed?
The bottom line is I don't know if I can make this work, and won't know until I try punching it.
Which brings me right back into the Unknown Realm, where I am eternally a rank beginner (just as I am with the Big Project) and where everything is an experiment. Just like life.
Life is 'trying things to see if they work.' (Ray Bradbury)
*** The Pearl in Balance tangle stepouts are HERE. Thanks to Hanny Waldburger!
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