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half empty

"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."  -- Herm Albright

I am trying to keep a "glass half full" perspective when I feel like indulging in a serious bitching session.  Enough said.

While looking through my photo stock, I came across this magnolia seed head taken in my mother's backyard late this past summer.  Isn't it wonderful?  I would like to try it in needle felt as a large pendant or an even larger sculpture, say around 2 feet.  I love the layers with a hint of blush and the tiny brown curly cue tips.   This seed head has heft.  It screams genteel attitude. 

Magnolias are glorious trees.  I miss them living here in Chicago where the ugly silver maple reigns supreme.  I think magnolias and I think south as in the Deep South.  Though I grew up in the Midwest, I grew up in Missouri - a border state.  The Civil War may have ended over 140 years ago but there is still this invisible line dividing the country.  To my relatives in Alabama, I'm a Northerner.  To my friends in Chicago, I am oh so very Southern.  Ask my former Chicago public school students and they will tell you that I am downright hick.

Well, this hick chick is getting an unsubtle hint from a very demanding papillon that I have been away from home far too long today and should get off the computer. 

I'm knitting again.  Finally.  It's a sweater for myself.  So, with a little wine, a puppy in the lap and needles in hand - it is time to write off this day and unwind.

gnome home


"Drab Habitation of Whom?
Tabernacle or Tomb—
Or Dome of Worm—
Or Porch of Gnome—
Or some Elf’s Catacomb?"
    --  Emily Dickinson

Okay, so not the cheeriest of quotes, but it seemed to fit the image.  Believe it or not, there isn't a ton out there on gnomes.  It's beyond me considering that Pink Floyd and David Bowie had one hit wonders with their songs about them. 

A friend sent the above pic for my birthday knowing I am quite besotted with my gnomes.  I have several who live in my garden protecting me from the dreaded snotgurgle.  Snotgurgles are evil, ugly creatures who ooze you know what.  I mean really, how disgusting. 


have your cake

"My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start.  So far today, I have finished 2 bags of M&M's and a chocolate cake.  I feel better already."  --  Dave Barry

Forget scented candles, the house already smells of vanilla and sugar.  Sitting on the dining table is a gorgeous two tiered cake that Sweet Pea made at school.  It's a dummy.  Strictly for practice, no eating allowed as only the icing is edible.  The flowers are made of gum paste, but they aren't very tasty. (Shhhh, I snipped off a teeny weeny piece without her knowing....)

And in the fridge we have yet another wedding cake.
This is the house where you can definitely have your cake and eat it too.  Did I mention that there are still two cakes in our freezer from late this summer?  I admit to the fact that I am finally getting tired of eating so many sweets, though the pate de fruit and coconut ice cream are in separate categories.  They don't count as they are made from fresh fruit.  I know, my logic is astounding.

In my opinion, pate de fruit is at a tie with chocolate truffles for most scrumptious gift from the gods.  One bite and sweet summer fills the mouth.  Mom recently sent me her Harrods Book of Jams, Jellies & Chutneys by Rosamond Richardson.  There is a whole section on "fruit cheese" which doesn't sound nearly as elegant as pate de fruit, but is essentially the same the thing.  The book is out of print, but well worth the search for it.  There isn't a clunker recipe in it. 


"Why can't we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together? I guess that wouldn't work.  Someone would leave. Someone always leaves and then we have to say good-bye. I hate good-byes. I know what I need. I need more hellos." -- Snoopy

Charlie Brown was my best friend.  I don't remember his real last name, just that his first name was Charlie, so I called him Charlie Brown.  He lived next door to me when I was no taller than the kitchen counter. 

One year for my birthday he gave me a Snoopy as big as me.  When Charlie moved to London, Snoopy kept me company.  We had tea every afternoon.  Charlie sent me a post card several months after he moved.  My first Snoopy, my first friend, and my first postcard.  I don't know where he is today, but I still remember Charlie Brown 37 years later.

Snoopy moved from my bed to my daughter's where he lived until just a few years ago.  I hadn't thought about Charlie in a long time, but saw this image and the memories came flooding back to me. 

The image is of a sculpture made entirely of canned goods.  Engineers, architects, and designers compete yearly to create "canstructions" that eventually make their way to various food pantries and soup kitchens.  Art with a heart, my favorite kind.  

hushed footfall

"As a flower, as a fire, as a hushed footfall
In a long forgotten snow."  --  Sara Teasdale

I rushed home and cut back the strawflowers, dill, and rose geranium.  I had gathered the last of the lavender on Sunday.  Snow is coming.  I've been lucky.  My little garden has a microclimate that outsmarts Jack Frost for weeks into November.  But tomorrow is it.  No more grace period.  So there I was racing around in the dark and in the rain to gather the very last harvest of the year.  I am relieved to let go of the responsibility of a garden for a few months, but I am going to miss the daily peace of puttering about watching bumble bees flit from flower to flower.


"True creativity often starts where language ends."  -- Arthur Koestler

Inventory began to flow into the art center today.  It was exciting.  I am dead tired, but seeing all the beautiful work kept me motivated.  It was inspiring to meet so many people with such different, yet equally gorgeous visions.   And the week has just begun!  Imagine all the goodies filling the building by Saturday evening. 

One thing I have learned from wearing so many hats at the art center is that a ton goes on behind the scenes.  I never realized how much our staff does.  There is a school with over 1000 students per term and a faculty of 65.  We have world class exhibitions every two months.  In our outreach program we are reaching an audience from 6 to 90.  And then there is the outdoor site specific installation project that changes every year.  Really, it is amazing.  I now have the utmost respect for every director of education or department coordinator with whom I've worked in the past.  I had no clue how hard they work to keep the engine running smoothly.

With that said, Sweet Pea just walked in the door.  Time for me to switch gears to being just mom.



"You often meet your fate on the road you take to avoid it."  -- French proverb

I am an artist.  Simple sentence. Complex meaning.  Since leaving graduate school in 1994 I have tried a zillion means of earning money other than the one which sent me to graduate school in the first place - to make better art to exhibit and sell.

Prior to graduate school I earned 3/4 of my income from making art.  I didn't sell it through art fairs, I took the ego crushing route of selling it through galleries. My 41 year old self is amazed by my previous incarnation as a brazen networker.  I would cold call a 1/2 dozen galleries or more a week. I followed every exhibition lead big and small. The Energizer bunny wore out long before I did.

But these days, I don't have the same level of energy despite what my co-workers think at the art center where I currently juggle a full time position with two part-time positions.  At 25 I could easily handle the juggle with the addition of time in the studio. I could switch gears in a second and not miss a step.  These days I am thankful for just treading water. I come home from work so tired that I am lucky if I can knit an inch before dozing off.

Is it too much to ask to have it all?  Can I earn money, see friends on a regular basis and still have time in the studio?  My birthday month always becomes a time for reflection, a time to take stock of what is working for me and what is not.  Working 40+ hours a week outside of the studio is definitely not working.  I must have time to think, sketch, and make.   Considering that I already have 3 group shows, a solo exhibition and another round of The Red Thread Project lined up for next year, time in the studio is soon to become critical. 

But silly me - for the winter I've lined up 20 contact hours of teaching a week with one of those courses being in art education at a local university.  University courses bury one under with paperwork.  I will also have another 10-15 hours a week of working at the art center to assist the new director of education with the transition.  But alas, I don't mean to gripe.  I'm just worried that I am beginning another year in which I focus on the income and not the art. 

Balance seems to be the primary theme of this blog.  I am flattered that fellow blogger Steph has honored me with the Thinking Blogger Award.
I don't have any of the answers, but if my ramblings help another think out similar issues, that makes the effort worth it.  Blogs are funny that way.  You put your heart on your sleeve to show to the world and never know what will happen.  What makes blogging more rewarding than journaling is the possibility for a dialog.  Merci Steph! 

A requirement of receiving this award is to pass it along to 5 others who inspire you.  Hmmmm.  I read lots of blogs and forget to list all that I read.  Many don't necessarily inspire, but amuse.  Does that count?  I guess not.  Well, look at my inspiration list and you'll get a hint, but I will narrow it to five -

Karin never ceases to amaze me with the beautiful photos she posts.  One particular entry inspired me to keep a regular art date, a day to fill up on all the amazing work happening out there.  I also want one day to have a sun filled studio like her own. 

Thinking of a space of one's own, the next on my list is Katie.  She was actually interviewed about her studio space for a BBC program.  The pics she has posted of it are lovely.  Are you beginning to get a hint that I don't have a private studio?  It is a shared space in the basement.  At times I come out of it feeling like a skinny hobbit.  But what I especially love about reading Katie's blog is her sense of humor.  You will have to dig through her files to find the funny things she did with googly eyes while at work one day.  I'm still thinking of how to plaster my own place of work with them.

Helle's blog is an endless source of beauty and wonderment. Even the debris washing up along the shore she turns into a visual feast.  And you have to check out her incredible jewelry.  It is all crocheted and inspired by sea life.  She is also involved in the Crochet Coral Reef Project, so if you love to knit or crochet, her blog is a don't miss.

Kirsty's Diary Project is another don't miss.  I love the premise of completing a small work each day.  I tried to do the same back in August, but work eventually got in the way.  I'd like to start 2008 with a hat a day for The Red Thread Project.  Now that would be a fun-filled challenge!

Last one.  Well, food is another source of inspiration for me.  It's the fuel for the brain and often makes me think of creative possibilities that I would have otherwise not considered.  These moments usually arise when staring into a nearly empty fridge.  So my last inspiration vote goes out to Lolo of VeganYumYum.  She not only came up with the clever "knitted" decorations for cupcakes, but she has the courage of her convictions.  She followed her heart into cooking and didn't turn back.  When a publisher asked for compromises, she began to search for a new publisher.  You don't have to be a vegan to love her recipes, just a foodie.

But really, click on everyone posted in my sidebar.  They all inspire me in one way or another.

And Steph, merci pour les bijoux!  J'adore votre travail!


"Forget love, I'd rather fall in chocolate."  - anonymous

I need a vacation!  I can't hear you.  I need a vacation!  What did you say?  I NEED A VACATION!!!!!!

Story of my life.  I ignore my inner voice and keep on working.  Sigh.  Vacation plans for the winter holiday are on hold for the time being.  I simply couldn't justify the ticket costs to San Francisco.  And hotels, the cheapest I could find was over $130 a night and in a crumby neighborhood.  I'd rather save my money for another trip to France. 

Sweet Pea is a bit disappointed.  She needs a vacation too.  She is a non-stop baking machine.  This is exam week and she is baking from 7am to 7pm.  Actually she isn't baking- she is making all sorts of candies and ice creams, but who is going to quibble over minor details when there are similar delicious results.

Jack and Josie (the Mad Pomeranian and his side kick Monster Pup) are also in need of a vacation.  They are tired of me going out to work everyday, all day.  They prefer the schedule of me at home during the morning and early afternoon prior to teaching up north.  I admit.  I miss that schedule too.  Double sigh.  I'm really not meant to be an administrator.  Let alone an administrator juggling 2 other part time jobs, plus an art career and home life. 

Thank goodness my friend Vera is dragging me out this evening (more like twisting my pinky) to attend a French cheese and wine tasting event.  She has scored us free tickets and is acting as chauffeur.  Oui, oui!

garden fate

"People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it's simply necessary to love."  --  Claude Monet

Sometimes when given an opportunity it is necessary to grab hold and not ask questions.  I've been invited to exhibit my beaded landscapes this April.  Not only that, I've been asked to consider making a new one!  It is time to do what one of my young students calls "the happy dance." 

I am beyond thrilled.  I've been thinking about returning to my landscapes for several years, but other exhibitions and other work always took priority.  I didn't have the time to sketch,  ponder, or experiment.   An exhibition opportunity gives me the reason (like I need one) to try my hand at it after a 15 year hiatus.  The above piece "Summer Abstraction" dates back to 1991.

I want to move fully into the realm of abstraction.   My recent beaded cell structures are actually realistic renderings despite their abstract quality.  Can I render the landscape as a feeling or emotion?  This will be new territory for me. 

Of course, given my schedule, I won't have much opportunity to try until after the new year when my administrative responsibilities come to an end.  But it is lovely to contemplate while endlessly typing. 

domestic goddess

"With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come."  --  William Shakespeare

Today is my 41st birthday.  Did you know that the number 41 is the 13th smallest prime number?  It is also a Sophie Germain prime, which means if you multiply the number by 2 and add 1 you will obtain another prime number.  How cool is that!   

This past weekend I accepted my inner domestic goddess and stopped bemoaning days past.  Reading the latest Chicago issue of Timeout helped.  The feature spread was on bars and clubbing.  A page into it and I was bored.  Been there.  Done that.  Bought the t-shirt.

I spent the bulk of this weekend making jam and puttering in my garden.   Fall has arrived.  There is a crisp sharpness to the air.   Fall means I can crank up the stove without overheating the kitchen.  I put up 20 pints of pear ginger jam and tried a small batch of a new apple jelly recipe.
I cut pack the lavender to make lavender bottles and have scores of strawflower bundles drying. 
My studio is filled with marigolds, cosmos and amaranth from the weekend harvest waiting to cooked down into dye.  I swear, there is so much to do!  Thank goodness I'm a prime in my prime!