Friday, December 31, 2010

Welcome to the New Year

"Snow Bird"

Tomorrow we'll welcome the new year.  I love that as each year begins I feel like my slate is clean, that everything is a possibility, that whatever I did wrong last year will be replaced this coming year with good decisions, good thoughts, good deeds and good work.  Resolutions aren't really something I worry about but I always have goals I want to reach in the coming year, and dreams that I want to come true.

During this coming year I plan to focus on punchneedle and doll making as my art forms.  I'm excited and have drawings and pictures and ideas fluttering all about my studio.  Hopefully some of them will alight long enough to be brought into being.

Here's a big New Year's toast that this coming year is bigger, better and more wonderful for all of us.

"When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love". - Marcus Aurelius

Monday, December 27, 2010

"Words" - December BJP

For the past eleven months I have reached into my word jar and pulled out a word from which I've created my BJP.  During this past year I have learned the meaning of words to which I've never given much thought.  I've tried to match beads and fibers and fabric to reflect the word that I was creating.

This month of December brought the end of the 2010 BJP and rather than choose one word, I decided to honor all words.  A word can mean many things to many people, it can bring sadness and happiness, confusion and enlightenment even war and peace.  I've realized over this past year that for the most part I don't even think about the words I'm using -- they just roll out of my mouth (hopefully after having passed through a thought process - but sadly not always) and end up floating around the room.  Do you ever sit in a room with a lot of people and imagine each word spoken to be a balloon which rises from the speaker and hovers over the room?  It gives a whole new image to the words we use, the words we hear and the words we write.

I'm thankful for this past year of beading.  I was inspired by the many other BJP beaders and their lovely creations.  My heart sung when I saw the intricate work and the amount of time that went into each and every piece. Thanks to all of you who shared your work this past year (and the years before) and now we'll look forward to seeing a whole new year of beautiful beadery.

"I was reading the dictionary.  I thought it was a poem about everything". - Steven Wright

Friday, December 24, 2010

Yuletide Wishes

"White Is In The Winter Night" - Enya

Have you seen the mistletoe, it fills the night with kisses
Have you seen the bright blue star, it fills your heart with wishes

Have you seen the candlelight, it shines from every window
Have you seen the moon above, it lights the sky in silver

Green is in the mistletoe and red is in the holly
Silver in the stars above that shine on everybody
Gold is in the candlelight and crimson in the embers
White is in the winter night that everyone remembers

Have you heard the boys outside, when all the girls are skating
Have you  heard their sweet hearts cry for all this time they're waiting

Green is in the mistletoe and red is in the holly
Silver in the stars above that shine on everybody
Gold is in the candlelight and crimson in the embers
White is in the winter night that everyone remembers

Have you seen the children playing, tiny hands are frozen
Have you seen them hurry home, when suddenly its snowing

Green is in the mistletoe and red is in the holly
Silver in the stars above that shine on everybody
Gold is in the candlelight and crimson in the embers
White is in the winter night that everyone remembers

Have you heard that bells are ringing, ringing out their story
Have you heard the choir singing, Glory, Glory, Glory

I wish each and every one of you all the gifts of the season.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice

Once again we come to the shortest day of the year, which seems like a strange thing to celebrate.  BUT once the winter solstice is reached, like a promise of warm days to come each day gets a bit longer.  As the temperature goes down these winter days I know that each day will be a bit longer until we reach the summer solstice and the longest day of the year. 

This is my 'nesting' time.  Like a small sparrow I snuggle into my studio nest.  I watch the outside from my warm, cozy inside area.  This is a wonderful time for creating -- nothing is calling me outside, time slows and warmth is treasured. On this day the universe is giving me a present of light and warmth to come - and while I wait for it I'll try to live each of these winter days in comfort and joy.

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn't show". - Andrew Wyeth

Friday, December 17, 2010

Inspired Dolls

Have you ever seen Akira Blount's figures? Here is one of my favorites titled “The Sky Isn’t Falling Chicken Little”. Akira is an artist living and working in Tennessee but she often exhibits her work here in western North Carolina and I have seen many of her pieces at Ariel Gallery in Asheville.  Recently a friend and I visited Ariel Gallery and happened to meet Akira's husband Larry.  Akira and her husband Larry work together to create these absolutely lovely pieces. What a fun visit we had.  Larry talked to us about Akira's attention to detail.  She is not adverse to taking something apart, many times, to get it 'just right' and it truly shows.  You could look at her figures over and over again, each time catching sight of a detail that you might have missed before.

Here are some of the items she uses in her work – cloth, wood, metal, clay, natural materials, found objects and here are some of the techniques she uses – needle sculpting, dying, woodturning, carving.

This kind of work humbles me – inspires me – and never ceases to amaze me.

"The energy and beauty of nature has always sustained me". - Akira Blount 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Going to the Birds

I have always loved birds – and especially bird images. Thinking about John Audubon drawing the birds that he found in this strange, new world gets my heart racing. How patient he was, how talented he was to search out these beautiful creatures and then capture them for eternity.

When I was beading full time I tried several times to make a beaded bird. For some reason this skill eluded me. I would try for awhile, then hate what it looked like and tear it all out. I had bead upon bead that I had collected for just this purpose only to find that I could not ‘do’ it. Sometimes you just have to set something aside and accept that this particular challenge cannot be met.

As I discovered punchneedle that nagging thought of creating a bird came back into my head and heart. Once again I was trying to create my very own bird art. I used a simple bird pattern and added spirals to the body for design and decoration. The only challenge I had this time was when it came time to put it together. I think that my whole body was one big stiff tension headache as I carefully stitched the two sides together. But ‘spiral bird’ went together and I had done it!!

I’m not totally happy with this first effort (but don’t tell the bird). He seems too ‘drab’ in his colors and there are other changes I would make (such as adding a few special details) – but he is finished and hopefully he will be the first of many more to come.

"Would it be possible that I should not in any degree succeed? I can scarcely think so. Ah delusive hope, how much further wilt thou lead me"? - John James Audubon

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Long Goodbye

I have heard Alzheimer's Disease called 'the long goodbye'.  For seven years we have watched as my mother-in-law Theresa battled this disease.  She passed away early Wednesday morning.  Missing who she once was has truly been a long goodbye.

She is at peace now as are her family.  I will be away for a few days as we travel to California to celebrate a life that was so very dear to us.  We will gather together, tell stories of what was and remember her as she would have wished us to remember her - a strong, loving woman - wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. 

I wish her sweet eternal dreams.

"For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity". - William Penn 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter's Grey

There was a fog all over the forest - slipping in amongst the trees.  It always seems so magical to me, like a veil dropped over familiar sights making them less clear.  Fog seems to soften everything.

This fog brought thoughts to me about this time of the year - the winter colors (or non-colors) of grey and white, of silver and black.  A time when the color spectrum seems to be narrowed down to only a few shades.

I've gathered together some floss which will somehow make itself into a winter homage.  I haven't yet decided just how this will happen or what I will do with it but I know that I will celebrate this time of the year when bears hibernate and people do too.  When I snuggle down in my studio and put hand to stitches.

The fog comes on little cat feet.

It sits looking over harbor and city

on silent haunches and then moves on. - Carl Sandberg

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Making a "Memory"

The inspiration for this art doll figure came to me from a friend who showed me her art quilt made to honor Alzheimer's patients.  It was beautiful and sad and wonderful and poignant.  Sadly my Mother-in-law has been an Alzheimer patient for many years.  All of my feelings for her were unleashed into the desire to create something of my own to reflect the pain of this disease.

BUT, I found that as I worked on this figure my thoughts on 'memory' went in another direction.  Thinking about memories I realized how much they are with me each day and wondered why I would remember some things and forget others.  Why would a moment when I was four years old and in the park with my Mother come into my mind but something that was probably much more important happening more recently disappear from my thoughts.  What makes a memory?  Why do we remember some events and forget others?  Why do some memories come back to us when we least expect them to? 

All of these thoughts swirled through my head as I added stitch after stitch to "Memory".  What started out as a 'sad' piece of work had turned into a whole batch of thoughts on what 'memory' actually is.  The one true thing that I learned as this piece of fabric became what is it, is that each day I am making new memories.  Some of them will become a part of me and my life and others will drift into nothingness.  Today I have a task to make each memory something I will delight in coming back to in a year or two or three. 

"Yesterday is but today's memory, and tomorrow is today's dream". - Kahlil Gibran

Monday, November 29, 2010

Into the Swamp

Come along with me into the Congaree Swamp.  We'll walk the boardwalk (so as not to get muddy and wet) and see what lies within this place.

Bald Cypress trees put their roots down into the water becoming huge trunks looking somewhat like an elephant's leg.

Cypress 'knees' surround the trunks of these trees.  They serve to aerate the trees. To me they look like pieces of clay formed into conical shapes at the foot of the trees.

The water is dark and full of nutrients throughout the swamp.  This is an environment that is unique to place and works together to create a magical, mystical swamp forest.

Sometimes I look up to see the bright blue sky above.

And looking back down, the dark water makes it appear that there are two forests that I am walking in. The one above and the one below.

"During all these years there existed within me a tendency to follow Nature in her walks". - John James Audubon.

Friday, November 26, 2010

With Needle and Thread

Here I am, with needle and thread taking small stitches on the body of an art doll.  This fabric just called out to be embellished with various stitches. 

Lots of running stitches (of course) some French knots, a feather stitch or two and a variation on the star filling stitch.  I'm using the book "Elegant Stitches" to guide me.  Loving a challenge as I do -- I'm thinking that each upcoming piece shall contain at least one new-to-me embroidery stitch.  Now that should make life interesting.

"Such a small thing -- embroidery -- but what a lesson it has to teach!" - Judith Baker Montano

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Oh So Thankful!

This is what greeted us recently as we parked at the Asheville Arboretum.  Fall at its finest - red/orange maple leaves glowing like the sun.

And around a corner another brilliantly red Maple tree.

We wandered on and found this tree.  I have no idea what it is, but its shape was so perfect.  The leaves were a warm golden tobacco color.

Even the bonsai trees were putting on an autumnal show. 

This group of autumn trees brings with it my Thanksgiving wishes for you - this is a beautiful world.

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns". George Eliot

Friday, November 19, 2010


It is my goal and desire to have balance in my life.  Not too much of one thing, not too much of another.  Sometimes its hard to keep that balance - life throws something at me that has to be attended to or that absorbs my every waking moment and the balance is thrown off.

I've been working back and forth between art doll creation and punchneedle creation.  I have noticed that the difference between the two tends to bring a balance to my art life that it didn't have before.

Art dolls are a very 'active' enterprise.  Beginning with just an idea - making a pattern (or two or three or four) - figuring out fabric and threads and attachments and stitches can take a lot of energy.  And then the doll is begun and throughout the whole process, down to the last stitch my mind is going and my hands are doing many different things. I may be painting fabric or stitching fabric, I may be attaching trim or finding just the right button but my mind and hands are always on the move. 
Punchneedle seems to be just the opposite.  Once the design is settled on and drawn onto the fabric it is time to fill it in.  In and out goes the punchneedle - the only thing that stops the process is the rethreading of the needle.  I usually work with music in the background.  The other day I was working on punchneedle and there was a particular piece of classical music -- it came to the forefront of my attention because all I had to do was punch in and out.  I even got going 'with' the rhythm of the music.  I realized then that punchneedle is my 'quiet' art while doll making is my 'active' art.

How nice it is to have that balance, to be able to go back and forth between art forms that I love - feeling energized by one and mellowed by the other.  I think, for right now, that the scales are even for me.

"Flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate". - Chuang Tzu

Monday, November 15, 2010

"dalliance" - November BJP

When I drew the word 'dalliance' from my word jar I wasn't even sure what it meant.  Pulling out my old dictionary I looked up the definition - dalliance: a trifling away of time; dawdling.  There is a second definition 'amorous toying flirtation' but since I'm happily married I decided to skip that one!
I love the whole idea -- 'trifling away of time; dawdling'.  Often my days are filled with to-do's that have a time stamp attached.  Clock watching becomes the norm.  And even when there is nothing on my calendar for a day I find myself checking the time asking myself if I have 'time' to do this or 'time' to do that.

And so, with this November BJP I decided to completly 'dawdle' my way through it.  Amazingly, it finished up quite quickly and now I'm wondering if my clock watching might indeed make each piece seem to take forever.  Without any time frame this bookmark just sort of appeared beneath my fingers.

The colors, fabric, beads and thread that appear in this BJP are completely different for me.  I stitched beads along the pattern of the batik fabric - which happened to be flowers.  At first I wondered what in the world I was doing - using pink and green, wandering all over this fabric without a plan (or a time frame).  But it soon took hold of me and became what it wanted to be.  I had to include a clock face to the design because after all we are talking about time.  But I tied that clock face up in fibers to keep it in its place and to tell it that the fantasy surrounding it had taken its powers away.

I'm hoping now to continue my dawdling and wait to see what comes out of this non-time sensitive period.  Hope you're all getting a chance to dawdle a bit too!

"Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable". - Carl Jung

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bits and Pieces - Doll-Wise

There are four different doll 'ideas' that I have -- names and themes that I have come up with.  Its time to put my imagination into motion.  The patterns have been created. The fabric has been chosen.  The fibers and some accessories have been stacked.

I'm ready to go.  Thanks for joining me on this fall into winter journey!

“Art is not about thinking something up. It is about the opposite – getting something down. The directions are important here.” - Julia Cameron

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fiber Arts Show

Last Friday night was the opening reception for the Fiber Arts show in Hendersonville.  This show was held at our local Arts Council.  

Our community is rich with fiber artists -- those who quilt and weave -- those who stitch using embroidery or punchneedle or cross stitch -- those who felt wool and silk -- those who create fabric collages and art dolls.  What a place to live!!!

There were three of us from the InspiredArts Guild who had submitted pieces to the show.  Happily each of us won a prize.  How wonderful was that! 

Elynn Bernstein, our resident felter, won 1st prize in wearables.  She created a lovely felted vest.  I'm only sorry that I don't have a picture of her vest - I'm showing instead a couple of her felted hats so that you can see samples of her beautiful work.

Peggy O'Connor won 2nd prize in 2D with her piece "Gulls' World".  This fiber picture has it all.  Embroidery, beading, dyed ribbons, texture, color and a beautiful theme.  Peggy loves the ocean and her work often interprets her seaside dreams.

Lastly, I won 2nd prize in 3D with my "Pomme Fairy" art doll.  I was thrilled and I think Pomme felt the same way because I just know that I spotted an extra twinkle in her eyes as they laid that red ribbon at her base.

All of us create because we love to do it. All of us love the process, the hours spent pounding felt or stitching tiny beads or putting our hand to whatever is in front of us.  Receiving an award is like icing on the cake.  I'm so happy to be involved with this talented group of women.  All of our members are artists in their own right - but much more important to me - they are my friends!

"Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies". -- Aristotle

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Beginning Punchneedle

Finally, after a couple of months of delay, I have been able to devote some time to the craft of punchneedle.  I had dithered away a lot of time trying to use reverse punchneedle for doll faces.  After that didn't work I decided it was time to get started on an actual piece of punchneedle art.

My plan (if you can call it that) was to take an existing picture and copy it into punchneedle.  The picture had to have shading so that I could practice that technique and the technique of using varigated threads.  Also it had to be simple.  At this point in my punchneedle adventure 'complicated' was not a word that I needed to hear.

So off I went using this picture by Nicole Marley.  I promise you Nicole (if you're reading this) I will only use this picture one time, for my use as a 'practice' piece.  And I thank you for your lovely art which definitely fit my criteria.  I did eliminate the grasses because I was trying to keep this as simple as possible.

I learned so much while doing this project.  I learned how to blend the threads and colors, I learned how to fix mistakes (of which there were plenty) and how to go back and fill in, because I had a tendency to not space closely enough.  I learned to keep track of the thread I'm using so that if I have to go back I know what shade was used where.  I learned how to do blocks of color in a space and then go back and fill in around it - achieving a shading effect.  I learned not to judge a section by the first few rows. The colors in the actual piece are much deeper and more vibrant than my little camera could capture.

Punchneedle is very meditative and I very much enjoyed 'filling in the spaces' with thread and color.  The whole project went quite quickly once I got started.  But saving the very best for last was to turn the frame over as I went and to see those loops creating a picture before my very eyes.

"You don't know how much artists go through to make it look so easy. It's all in the practice". - Lauryn Hill

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Book Keeper

She is the keeper of books.  The one who preserves rare old print.  The one who loves to turn the printed page with her well worn hands.  To see the words laid out on a piece of paper. 

She loves to be read to out loud. To listen to a loved one's voice reading pages from a much worn book.  To read out loud a book to a child, even if it means rereading it so many times that the words have been memorized.

She is the one who asks for quiet in the library (not because she doesn't enjoy a good conversation, but because each book is a sacred text to her).

She is the one who curls up in a chair facing the sun and reads for hours, never once thinking that she might be 'wasting' time.

"He that loves reading has everything within his reach". - William Godwin

Friday, October 29, 2010


Its that time of the year - that last days of October when the ghosties and ghoulies come out to play.  When pumpkins cheer us with their light from within.

When a visit to the graveyard makes me think of the hauntings that could go on there if I were to remain into the night - which of course I won't, not being a fan of those ghosties and ghoulies!

Here's to a Happy Halloween for everyone.


A gentle breeze rustling the dry cornstalks.
A sound is heard, a goblin walks.
A harvest moon suffers a black cat's cry.
Oh' do the witches fly!
Bonfire catches a pumpkins gleem.
Rejoice, it's Halloween!
-Richard Anderson


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