I am heartbroken over losing a good friend to COVID 19. She had a long, gruesome struggle and it's finally over. At some point about two weeks ago it became obvious that she was too damaged to come back to us, but the struggle went on. And on. And on. Horrible. She finally died last week and I have to say I was relieved on her behalf. Now the grief sets in.
But, there are still plenty of other wonderful people in the world. One in particular--my 97 year old next door neighbor--called me last evening and told me she wanted me to come over to her property and cut myself a bouquet of her lilacs, "Since you don't have any on your land." I went over this morning and did just that. She even loaned me her garden shears. I adore her, and she has absolutely no idea that I just lost a friend. But somehow, she reached out anyway. It just made my entire day.
You can imagine--I hope--the fabulous scent spreading through my home from her marvelous lilacs. Thank you, Erm! Kindness makes all the difference.
I've learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel.
“When I say it's you I like, I'm talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.” ―Fred Rogers
Normally I don't do any type of tangling on representational art, but I made one exception for this small project yesterday. It borders on being too cutesy for me but what the heck. It's the product of a webinar I took from Zentangle® headquarters in lieu of the large multi-day seminar they had to cancel due to the pandemic.
We'd all like to "fly away" from our current global situation. I am lucky to be healthy so far, but have at least one sweet friend who is battling for her life at the moment. Everyone fighting this (and really that's all of us, even those who aren't sick) is under stress. I'll Fly Away is an old gospel song done by many choirs and artists since the 1930s. It's in the repertoire of the hospice chorus I sing in. Since I finished this tangled balloon, I've been hearing the song in my head. If you click on the link above you'll hear Alison Krauss's version, recorded for the film, O Brother Where Art Thou, which had such a great soundtrack.
Here's the same piece photographed this morning in better light and on a white background. Amazing how different things can look under different light. Much like the way we view problems in life.
"Better to be busy than to be busy worrying."
I have been both for these last couple of days. A friend is very ill with Covid-19. There is nothing to do but wait. I took a break to do some Zentangle®. As always, it was calming. My prayers are going out to her.
This is indeed a silent spring, though not entirely in the way Rachel Carson envisioned in her book. I mean the term literally: traffic is down, people are staying in their homes, all due to Covid 19. It's very quiet out there. For all the suffering and misery it is causing, and the fear, the few benefits from this pandemic experience are mighty: the lowering of air pollution, the increased awareness of our interconnection with others. New appreciation for nature as many people are getting out on walks, not to mention sleeping longer, spending more time with kids and pets.
In honor of that I include two photos friends have sent me, of two marvelous harbingers of spring.
I always enjoy these wonderful reminders of Spring when I see them in the woods. This year for a number of reasons I won't be in the woods, so it was lovely to get the photographs.
Yesterday I got a small package with something I had ordered from Etsy. Inside were the things I had ordered, along with a slip of paper I found utterly charming:
What a fun message. And I'm sure it's true.
If you, like me, are "Staying Home to Save Lives" during this pandemic, and if you're ordering things online I hope you'll consider buying from a small business when that is possible. You know they need the help.
(And no, I do not sell online. But I do like to buy from small businesses when I can.)
Slowly but surely it's coming along, and is it ever fun to do. I am totally into this rug in a way I haven't felt about hooking in years. Fun, fun, fun.
It's all about the color, and all about using up scraps that I've had for years. No new fabric, just things I've stashed away and couldn't get to before I moved to this larger space.
In such a challenging time, when we are all in "lockdown" over this pandemic, it's lovely to work in my studio, playing with color and listening to music or simply enjoying the silence.
But I'm aware of how many people are struggling--hungry, incredibly sick, risking infection by being a front-line provider, dealing with the loss of a loved one, or going bankrupt from losing a job and/or losing a business. The fear, the anxiety, the terror. So far my health is all right and I don't know anyone with the virus; I have a home and my finances are stable. I have food, friends, love. I meditate. In short, I am unbelievably privileged; and I am very aware of it. I'm also aware that my circumstances could change on a dime, any day.
May we all be safe and protected. May we all be loved; may we find peace each day, no matter what happens. And may we look after each other with compassion and kindness.
This is a photo of a line of people about 40 long, each practicing social distancing, outside a grocery store at 8.15 this morning as I was waiting to get in to buy food. We almost never see this sort of thing in the USA. Strange times for all of us the world over. At the same time, I was grateful that food was available and I had the money to buy it. Not everyone does.
Not much to do with all the closures. Fine with me, as I get to stay home and do art. Here's more Mooka practice (Mooka is named after Alphonse Mucha, the Art Nouveau genius)
Just some of the words I'm thinking and also hearing from others as the pandemic ramps up in the USA and other countries. There's the cascade of cancellations, the hoarding of odd things (toilet paper, really?) leading to empty shelves in stores. I could, but won't, go on.
With all the cancellations I've been able to focus a bit more on art. I just finished this small piece that's part of a group challenge. Meaning, a number of us are doing the same-sized piece with the same word on it, but other than that, we are each deciding on our own colors and border patterns used. It was fun to do this, and I'm doing a second one as a punch-hooked piece. I hooked this one in traditional fashion.
I didn't plan this and just made-it-up-as-I-went. And it probably looks that way! I like it though.
Today I took an online class with Joanna Quincy (a CZT from the UK) on the tangle Mooka, which I've used for years and love. But I know I can always learn tips and tricks and get better at anything, so I signed up. We did lots of fun practice and all did a similar tile. As you know if you read this blog, tangling is like handwriting and looks wildly different from person to person--part of its charm, fascination, and fun. Here is mine:
And here is the mosaic of the entire class' tiles:
Both rug hooking and tangling are incredibly relaxing, a much-needed, outrageously helpful characteristic right now. All forms of art practice can help us get through this. Read this fascinating article on the topic.
And finally, a quote from the late John Lennon which captures it all:
Nobody told me there'd be days like these;
Nobody told me there'd be days like these;
Nobody told me there'd be days like these;
Strange days indeed -- strange days indeed.
This is a short tale of trust and patience. It's been weeks since I've had time to do any drawing at all--an indicator of how over-scheduled I've been. Yesterday I had a scrap of time in the morning and thought I would do some tangling...and then noticed a curious reluctance. It had been so long since I'd picked up a pen that I was losing my confidence and was afraid to try. Not good. So I went to my desk and began with a new-to-me tangle called Avos by Maria Venekens, CZT. This was my first attempt with it. I was surprised at how tentative I felt.
I started with this, below and really did not like it:
Nope, not happy at all with this. I had to force myself to start adding color. Did not feel like I had drawn it well, even though this was a first attempt.
The internal critic was in full voice.
I considered tossing it, BUT I know from experience that Zentangle® teaches patience, persistence, and trust in the process. So I put it aside when I ran out of time and vowed to keep going later.
Last night I went back to it just before bed, and I'm so glad I did. Here's the final result:
I deeply appreciate the lessons the Zentangle process teaches about life, not just about art. A particular result may not be a masterpiece, but it's possible to love it all the same. What I've learned from the process is to keep going and trust, and things will usually work out fine. Perhaps not perfectly, but certainly "well enough."
Meanwhile, this is a lovely tangle and I hope to use it more in upcoming projects.
Finally finished yesterday, steamed one last time this morning, and hung on my kitchen wall this afternoon. For such a small rug (I think the length is about 26"), it took me way too long to get it done. But there's quite a story behind it, and while this rug is silly and funny, it means a lot to me.
Here's the story:
The original version of this pattern, which I have greatly modified, was designed by George Kahnle and hooked by his husband, Dick LaBarge. I believe it was titled, "Americus Tunafishus" and Dick dyed the wool and hooked it in red, white, and blue as a patriotic rug. I first saw the finished piece in Vermont at a rug show, and took note of it as I am a tuna fan. Note: It even says, "Loves tuna fish" under my photo in my old high school yearbook. And one of my memories of my dad is that he ate a tuna sandwich for lunch every day of his life--apparently my fondness for tuna is genetic. (I do know about the mercury danger and the over-fishing, and am pretty careful about where I get my tuna)
The original pattern is still available from Betsy Reed of Heavens to Betsy; she bought Dick & George's pattern stock from their former business, Hooked On the Creek. After I heard that Dick had died in 2018, I'm sure I bought the pattern from her late that year. It isn't shown on her website but if you ask, I believe she can bring it up. As I said, the original pattern doesn't resemble my rug much. I changed the wording and I completely redrew the fish.
Dick and George were just two of the nicest, most talented, and funniest guys I've ever met and I adored them both. I never got to visit them in Victory Mills, NY, where they lived, worked, and taught rug hooking for decades. They also had a fabulous antique store. But I was fortunate to take some classes with them in Vermont and count them as friends.
They were devoted to each other and were life partners long before it was safe to declare their relationship. I believe they were finally able to marry in 2012, just two years before George died, aged 82. Dick died in 2018 and he was 85. I swear I miss them both to this day. When I heard Dick was gone, I sat down and cried; but then I began to smile as I remembered how funny he and George were, and all the good times we had in their classes.
I knew I wanted to hook a rug in their honor, and this is it.
I just took a look at both their obituaries and true to form, it's Dick's memorial write-up that says it all. George's is short and contains few details, but you can get a flavor of both of them from reading Dick's.
Dear friends, I am thinking of both of you today with much gratitude for your fine teaching and the hilarity and kindness you offered those of us who knew you.
I miss you.
This is my first attempt at the tangle Khala, by Anica Kabrovec, CZT. It's gorgeous and what's known as a "high focus tangle." I have a long way to go to learn this one!
However, I've not been able to tangle in weeks. It's been totally crazy here and that will undoubtedly continue for a while. All good, just overscheduled. At times like this, it's all I can do to squeeze in any time for drawing and I truly did not want to take on anything challenging; so I treated myself to one of The Tangled Yogi's instructional videos and picked this one.
Sometimes the best way to practice is simply to copy. Even when you copy, you still end up with your own version. Thanks to the Tangled Yogi for her very accessible videos, which enabled me to do SOMETHING, even if it's not my own thing.
Hot off the punchneedle--this is a small piece (5"x15") I just finished last night and steamed this morning. It's ready for hemming. Every bit of the punching was enjoyable. The pattern is called Cupboard Flowers from The Old Tattered Flag, and I punched it in Valdani cotton thread, doubled, using an UltraPunch medium needle on a #2 setting.
Julie Thomas is such a good designer, and I deeply appreciate her creativity and color planning. Sometimes , in these stressful times, all one can do is sit down and do something simple, designed by a kind talented person who makes it easy to complete. Thank you, Julie.
Although I worked on this only two times, it took twenty days to finish it because after I got it started on the 4th of January (see below)--
--it took three weeks before I had time to get back to it. I kept looking at it with longing, but simply could not carve out the time to sit down and finish. This type of dilemma always points out to me how over-committed I am.
Here is a picture of how it looked yesterday as I picked it up again and was about 1/4 of the way through finishing it. I had put down a first layer of color on the green "leaves (top half) and was putting down a blending layer (bottom half) when it occurred to me to take a picture at this stage.
and here's another photo, different from the one at the top of the page (different lighting) of the finished piece for contrast.
It's interesting to contrast this version to another version I did (in December) as I was taking a class with The Tangled Yogi. The December 10th version was a situation where I just had to go with pencils I happened to have on hand; this one is more "me" in terms of colors and execution. I highly recommend Romi's videos and classes as I learn a lot from watching and emulating.
A video is also a great way to jump-start one's practice after a long hiatus. After I've been away from tangling for a few weeks, it's so helpful to follow along with what someone else is showing in order to rev up my own mojo. Once I've done that, I'm ready to go off on my own again.
Doing a bit of practice with Zen Gems today. I've done these before but took a class with Joanne Quincey ("ZenJo") who has a great website HERE, and who gave the best explanation of blending with colored pencils that I've ever heard. Kudos to you, Jo, and thanks. Will be practicing more. I love studying with other artists.
"Better a diamond with a flaw then a pebble without."
(supposedly said by Confucius, but if everything attributed to him was proven, he'd still be alive and talking, right?)
With apologies for the bad photography, I wanted to experiment with Lynn Meade's tangle Fassett for an upcoming class. Fassett is based on triangles. Here is Fassett done on four Bijou tiles (2x2"), each tile with an increasing number of triangles. (The class will only be doing the very first one on the far left)
And here below are the four strings that I used to create the four tiles. You can see the number of triangles increasing in each.
Fun to experiment like this.
Goodbye to 2019. I'm somewhat inclined to add, "And good riddance," but it's more complicated than that.
To the left is the result of a test patch I did today on an oriental rug pattern I've owned for years and have always wanted to make. The question is, what if I punch-hooked it? Is that possible?
Using some test skeins of 3/36 rug yarn that I dyed, I produced this.
Mmmmmm, I just don't know. I need to live with this for a few days but my first reaction is, I am not sure I like it. Best to leave it for awhile and see what my reaction is over time before I make any decisions. (These are not the colors I would use on the final piece; they are just for testing.)
It's been a long, tough year. Some things in my life have dramatically improved. And I'm frequently aware of how privileged I am on so many fronts. But the state of the planet and the political situation in our country are downright frightening and discouraging.
All I can do, I know, is try to stand up for what I believe in and at the same time try to be kind and compassionate. And I can be thankful every day for what I have and for all the good things in my life.
I wish the same for all--kindness, compassion, safety, enough food and warmth in life and plenty of love.
Let's move forward into 2020 with clear eyes, wise action, and inner peace. Thanks for reading.
Today I took a quick pencil drawing class from a friend who is an excellent artist. I knew it would be intensely focused on working with light-medium-dark values, and value studies are helpful in any form of art.
Not only in representational art, but also in rug hooking and other textile work.
This was a tiring and very fun class and I learned some extremely useful things. One of my other artist friends talks about how drawing is highly physical work, and every time I spend a day drawing, I realize how right she is. It's meditative as well (although not so much when you are learning something for the first time, but with practice it's highly meditative). And at the same time, drawing for several hours straight can be exhausting.
Here is the second drawing from today's class:
On the left: This was a pillow top that I traditionally hooked with wool strips last year. The pattern was developed from a design on an old piece of pottery by Ruby Hill Fiber Arts in Nevada. I found it on Etsy and really enjoyed hooking it.
On the right: I wanted to punch hook the same pattern, using my own hand-dyed yarn rather than hooking it with wool strips. So late last year I tried to buy it again on Etsy. But after a prolonged and extensive search there and on Google, I could no longer find the company anywhere online. It was as if it had never existed. Finally I re-drew the pattern and changed it up a bit, and then punched it. I just completed the finishing this evening.
This developed from my interest in showing the difference between traditional hooking with wool strips, and punch hooking with yarn. They are both very similar and very different. I only wish I could have found the designer again and bought the pattern a second time, and would be happy to pay her if I can ever locate her. I really enjoyed both projects. But not the finishing. I'm fine finishing a rug, but anything involving sewing is not fun for me and finishing pillows, of course, falls into that latter category. Glad these are done!
Whew. The last two weeks have been a blur, and none of it holiday-related. I'm not a holiday celebrator (no offense to those who are--if you enjoy it all, more power to you), so most years, while others may be stressing out buying gifts, sending cards, gathering with family, I am nurturing my introverted self with quiet and reflection--I love it! But not this year. Visitors--welcome indeed but unusual for this month--a few minor health inconveniences, a couple of intensive workshops, and on and off insomnia have combined to create more stress than usual. But it's all good, and it will all straighten out.
Many projects are underway. I have been working to finish my punched pillow. First I had to un-punch and re-punch some areas, and then begin the finishing process. It's a time-taker but I hope it will be worth it. Here's what I re-punched:
I got that fix done (all will be revealed once I get the pillow completed), and now I'm into the messy process of creating and binding the back. This boring looking beige-y broadcloth was the single fabric I could find that would not clash horribly with the front. Hopefully it won't show once it's done. I'm creating an "envelope back" for the first time, and sure hope it works.
Next up: a good friend and I were lucky enough to go to a workshop with the Zentangle® folks at the Kripalu Institute in Lenox, Massachusetts, and the focus was creating a Compass Rose. I had made one before in 2016, and you can find it HERE in this blog. I wrote about the origins there as well. We used a very different method this time (no protractor, just folding the paper). All of us made small Zendala versions first and here was the class mosaic (some are missing from this mosaic):
We then moved on to beginning the actual Compass Rose. I wish I'd thought to take more pictures. I only have one "before" photo, below. Wish I'd taken pics from the folding-stage through the initial black and white stage, then adding color, then embellishing, etc. This (below) was perhaps almost halfway through. I wasn't enamored of it at this stage. That is an understatement.
We then added the North arrow and used the Embedded Letter tangle technique. I liked it a bit better but was still dubious. We added a bit of gold gellyroll as well. Still dubious. However, that was as far as we got in the workshop and I took my tile home, where it sat for over 2 weeks until I had time to get to it.
That happened today. Below is the finished (??) piece.
Yup, working and taking my time on it definitely improved things.
Finally, I took a chance on a product I saw on a Kickstarter campaign and it arrived last night. I haven't yet had a chance to play with it:
Looks like it will work great, but I've yet to take it for a test-drive.
Just too darned busy.
A good night's sleep would also help.
"Last night I dreamed I ate a ten-pound marshmallow, and when I woke up the pillow was gone."
Whatever possessed me to start and finish this 6"-in-diameter Zendala in one day? I am truly ready to fall of my perch. Tired...
This was another class from The Tangled Yogi, whose wonderful videos and fine classes you can find by clicking on her link in this sentence. She has a unique and incredibly helpful way of teaching. I wish you could have seen the mosaic (collection of student work) on this one. No two looked anything alike--coloring was wildly different. Similar, yes, but still, vastly different. The magic of Zentangle® for sure.
I advise students on the subject of color as follows:
If it looks good enough to eat, use it.
I'm a textile artist (traditional rug hooking, punch needle rug hooking, and other textile arts), long-time meditator, meditation teacher and coach, focused on learning about the interplay of art, creativity, and mindfulness every day.
NEXT INTRO TO ZENTANGLE CLASS:
My next Beginning Zentangle® class is not yet scheduled--stay tuned.
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