Thursday, December 31, 2020

Hope for 2021


Ten years ago, as part of an online group, I started choosing a word for the year instead of New Years resolutions. I like doing this and have made it my practice since. I make a small artwork to hang in my studio to remind me of the word. 

For 2020 I chose “And...”. In retrospect it seems like a reckless choice, as if inviting the chaos that ensued, but I had plans and a sense of excitement about 2020.  We had a trip to Mexico planned. We were looking forward to celebrating our 50th Anniversary, with our family in Hawaii. I had a renewed enthusiasm about my art practice and was planning to take some classes and learn some new skills. We did make it to Mexico before COVID 19 reared it’s ugly head, but most everything else was cancelled and we joined everyone else in hunkering down, waiting for a vaccine, for an election, for things to get better. But, of course, it all got worse as the pandemic grew, the country erupted over racial inequality, schools shut down, the economy tanked, the election brought drama, and the human toll of all of it became almost overwhelming. 

For 2021 I, unsurprisingly, chose the word “Hope”. There is a vaccine. There will be a new President. There is cause for hope.  But, make no mistake, my “Hope” is not joyful or shiny and bright. Too much has happened for that. It is a cautious, beseeching kind of hope, because we’re not out of the woods. It is a conditional Hope because we’ve lost what can never be regained. It is a Hope steeped in mourning and regret. I feel we will never be the same. This year we have lost more of our fellow citizens than we have ever lost to any war or natural disaster. When I think of our personal pain in losing our cousin Phil, of the big laugh, the big mustache and the big heart, and multiply that by the more than 300,000 souls lost to the virus, I wonder how we can even consider Hope. But we do. We must. 

So, here’s to 2021. Surprise us. Justify our Hope!  We’ve had a bad year, but I think, maybe, we’ve learned a few things too. Despite it all there have been sweet moments. I’ve had a lot of studio time and gotten a lot done. Here is a sampling of my 2020 art. 

And a rare, sweet moment, with our daughter and grandchildren last week. A nice way to end this awful year...

Friday, September 11, 2020

What we remember...

It was 15 years ago today that I started writing this blog. For quite a few years I posted very regularly, recording a lot of the minutiae of my life—daily walks, art projects, travel and the small things happening around me. Then Facebook came along and the little day to day stuff ended up there, instead of on the blog, but I hung onto to the blog for the things I most wanted to remember. It was always my backup memory. Ray would say “What was the name of that wonderful old hotel where we stayed in Cheyenne?”  A quick search of the blog brought up, not only the name and the date, but photos and the story of that trip. I’ve never kept a journal until I started blogging and it became my journal. 

I’m interested in memory—what we remember and what we forget. Can memory be trusted? It astounds me sometimes how two people, remembering a shared experience, will remember it so differently. There are times, in my life, that I tell myself, “I MUST remember this”—how it looked, or made me feel. Or I just know, “I WILL remember this.”  

Right now, in the seventh month of this worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, I wonder how this time in our lives will be remembered.  I wonder, especially, how my grandchildren, and other children will remember it. Will they remember the hardship of missing school and friends, the boredom of that? Will there be pleasant memories of the adults in their lives efforts to compensate for what their children are missing? Are they fully aware of what is actually happening in the world outside their own small worlds?  Even I, old as I am, have a hard time taking it in. Will I remember being afraid? I don’t think so, even though I’m sure if this was fiction I was reading I would imagine the characters being in terror of the threat of death by way of a highly contagious virus. I look back on the past seven months as something of a blur of days, pretty much one the same as the next. I think of the only real change within our home being the basket of masks and hand sanitizer by the front door at the ready for the occasional foray out into the world. 

Every morning I sit in my chair with my coffee and my iPad and I view the world from here. I am often angry at the poor response our government has made to our safety. I am often angry at the foolish actions of stupid people whose actions are prolonging the epidemic. I wonder if my main memory of this time will be my anger, but then I am moved by the goodness of so many, by the creativity and cleverness that has been born in ways of coping and thriving through all of this and I am entertained and distracted by the vast well of humor that the sheer awfulness of the moment has inspired. I live for the next Randy Rainbow video! So life in the time of pandemic is a mix of rage, and inspiration with the wonderful grace of at least one good laugh a day. And it has become a kind of “normal” that I never envisioned. Ray and I often remind each other how lucky we are—for health and security and family— things it is too easy to take for granted. On certain days, not too often, I look up from the iPad and the enormity of what is happening washes over me and I really feel the horror and despair of where we are. I feel the tragedy of all the death and suffering. It is huge. I don’t want to remember, but I know we will never forget and I believe the perspective of time will allow us to understand just how tragically significant this year has truly been. And, may it be only this year and not an ongoing condition. 

How will I feel when I read this next year? In 5 years? Maybe in 10 years 2020 will be a blip on the radar or maybe it will have been the year that changed everything. 

And so it goes...

Friday, July 31, 2020

Still at Home with the family treasures...

Now it’s the end of July and the COVID virus rages on around us as we stay safely at home. The days pass surprisingly quickly. Ray works in the yard, futzes with his sprinkler system, sorts books donated to the used book store where he volunteers and this week he is processing the large crop of garlic from the garden. He has been drying some, chopping and freezing some. The house reeks of garlic, but I know we will be happy to have it when we’re cooking good serious soups and stews this winter. 

This time at home has been an opportunity to attack some improvement projects, like painting the kitchen. A couple weeks ago Ray found a guy to come in and repair some ceiling damage that happened years ago, but we’d never been able to get anyone in to repair it. That necessitated moving my great-grandmother’s China cupboard out, away from the work area. I had to box up all the treasures inside and today I cleaned everything, inside and out and put it all back in place and wondered, not for the first time, why we save the things we save. I can assure you there’s little of much monetary value in there. 

This piece of carnival glass came with the cupboard. My mother seemed to remember that my great grandmother either won it in a drawing at the movie theater or it came in a box of laundry powder.  The China cup, below, was her father’s mustache cup. It is quite worn and chipped. 

Here’s a treasure!—an old, unopened bottle of Coca Cola with the name of my hometown, Pocatello, Idaho, molded into the bottom of the bottle. My dad did a lot of work, designing and building machinery for the bottling plant in Pocatello, and the manager of the plant became a good friend. 

And here’s a miniature version—another relic of my childhood. 

Faded 4- leaf clover in an old dish

Old Chinese tea cups from second hand stores. They remind me of the old Chinese restaurant in Pocatello. I loved that place...

OK, here’s something that might be valuable—a commemorative plate for the coronation of King Edward VIII of England in 1937.  “Long may he reign”. Remember how that turned out? 

Found an identical one currently for sale on eBay, asking $60 or best offer...

Well, seriously, why do we keep such things? Going through them this morning I started out planning to cull out a lot of worthless “junk.” I ended up putting it all back. It was nice to think about other times and the people connected to all these things. It felt good to wipe down the wood and clean all the glass of the cupboard, that was a prized possession of Cora Lee Shelton, my great grandmother, in this house on the Colorado plains so long ago. That’s Cora with her family. My grandmother, Clarice, is the little girl with the horse. 

When she died the cupboard went, with my mother, to Idaho. When my mother died it came to Oregon with me. Putting it back in place and handling and placing each piece took me out of the moment this morning and let me feel my connection to people I loved and times past. Those dear people, long gone are treasures and these odd, collected bits my only material connections to them. I hope someone in my family will want the cupboard someday, and love it, as 4 generations, so far have. As its current guardian I’m happy to keep it safe. It’s nice to see it sparkle again. 

Still at Home...

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

What I did on my Coronavirus vacation (so far...)

Here we are, well into our third month of staying at home, doing our best to avoid getting, and, or spreading the virus. Since we’ve never done this before, I think we’ve all had to figure out how to “do” quarantine. I am reading that everybody responds differently to such unusual situations. Some people have talked of being depressed, hopeless; some of my art friends are having trouble focusing, or feeling creatively dry. My initial feeling was restlessness and indecision about what changes to make and wondering how long this would all last. But meanwhile I had some projects in process to work on and I found spending time in my studio was a very welcome distraction from the onslaught of bad news coming in. I can spend time in my chair, in my house, catching up with online life and news, and I do, but I seem to make sense out of the senseless by having a project to work on and see through to completion. Perhaps that is just my lifelong habit and only now am I realizing it is also my way of pushing aside stress and worry and creating a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Clicking through my phone photos this morning illustrated to me just how hyper-productive I’ve been. 

What I’ve been doing...
  • Making art. I can’t show yet the quilt I made for the newest Cloth in Common challenge, but it is done and will be revealed at the end of this month. I also made a 12” square piece for the SAQA auction in September.  My latest everyday saint – St. Corona. She, of course, is wearing a mask, which is removable. I am grateful that I have a large stash of fabric and art supplies, because I am not out shopping for anything. By chance, I had purchased some tiny, but very strong magnets for another project and ended up not using them. They proved to be the perfect thing for making Corona’s mask magically removable.  

I also made a small portrait of my granddaughter for her March birthday.      

I made this bird, with a copper beak, to submit for a High Fiber Diet Show. I wonder if that will still happen. 

I finished a penny necklace I had started several months ago, for myself. 

  • Making clothes and mending, hemming and altering old clothes.
I’ve had the fabric and pattern for this top for more than a year. Finally made it. 

I bought the fabric for this jacket in Mexico in early March. I wonder when I’ll ever get to wear it. 

  • Connecting online. Meetings and get togethers on Zoom, sharing with groups on Facebook. I designed a Stay at Home craft project for my grandchildren. We worked together on FaceTime and they made little (3” x 3”x4”) collaged houses with an LED tea light inside to give their mother for Mothers Day.

I created a pattern and directions for this as pdf files. If you want a copy click here and send me your email address and I will send you copies—
  • Made masks. 
I wore this one on my outing to the eye clinic. Going out in the world is scary!

  • Cooking, cooking, cooking.  I think everybody is doing this! Rightly or wrongly, food is comfort!
An especially pretty bacon, spinach, cheese frittata 

Ray’s birthday cake. 

  • Painting the kitchen. I’ve had the paint samples for close to 2 years. We were going to do this. We kept putting it off and putting it off. This week we did it! The new golden color is so warm and inviting. 

I hung my New Mexican hearts up with the Mexican Skeleton on the newly painted wall. 

  • Cleaning and organizing. One thing leads to another. Painting the kitchen meant I wanted it put back together in a more organized way, which meant I needed to reorganize some cabinets where I could store things I no longer use frequently, and dispose of a lot stuff I no longer want or need. I’ve cleaned out drawers and closets and piled up clothes to donate. A search for a specific photo reminded me that I have never gotten back to my project of organizing 50 years worth of photos. 

And so it goes. I am looking forward to getting back to our normal life, but it doesn’t feel safe. I am alarmed by the anger and impatience of the noisy minority who are pushing to put aside all caution and endanger the slow progress that has been made. I hope I can relax and be patient and maybe slow myself down a little. We ponder a road trip to a place where we feel safe and at peace. Perhaps...  

When will we all feel truly secure again?  We do what we can do. I busy myself, you sleep more, or read more or pace the floor. I feel softer toward everyone—more forgiving, more tolerant. I feel that from nearly everyone. Will we, in hindsight, view this time as cursed or blessed? Will we come out of it bitter and grieving or somehow better than we were? I don’t know. In the midst of so much death and illness and anger and petty snarling, we are also seeing courage and generosity and kindness of a sort I’m not sure we’ve seen before. Are you as confused and conflicted and bewildered as I am? I know only one thing, for sure right now. That is that staying apart has brought us together. Stay safe...

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

100 Days

I just finished an online project called “100 Days of Creativity”. It’s a program of the Studio Art Quilts Associate’s (SAQA) that I am a member of. Members who want to participate simply upload a photo of something creative they have done that day to an online album. It is a great source of inspiration to look at daily and a little incentive to share our work in an informal way. I first participated last year and shared random images of what I was working on. For this round I decided to use the opportunity to explore decorative hand stitching/embroidery and created an irregular grid of 100 rectangles to fill a day at a time. I cut the grid from painted and fusible-backed non-woven fabric and fused it to a piece of natural linen. The grid is approximately 12” x 13.5” and each rectangle about the size of a large-ish postage stamp. I had saved a clear plastic, zippered case (I think a tablecloth came in it) that seemed just perfect to hold my threads, equipment  and the work in progress. 

I tried to try something different each day. I worked randomly, starting near the center and tried to be mindful of how that day’s cell (I had started to think of them as “cells”) related to the ones it was adjacent to, varying the weight and color for a balanced composition. 

Some cells took only 10 minutes or so to complete, some took an hour or more.  Some of them really made me happy. Some of them are pretty ugly. 

I rarely knew what I was going to do until I sat down to do it. Most were about trying different techniques or stitches. Some reflected something I had seen or done that day. We saw a beautiful exhibit of artfully arranged insects and beetles, which inspired a beetle. Later I added another beetle just for repeated motif, done in a different way. 

There are two hearts in the piece. The first was added on Valentines Day, the second in Mexico after a day of folk art with winged hearts. 

The candle was done on my birthday. 

Toward the end of February we went on vacation to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I took the project along and faithfully stitched a cell each night of our vacation. The tomato appeared after we took a cooking class. Other “Mexican” images of flowers and plants and color combinations are sprinkled through the work as well. 

On March 10 we returned to the US and the new world of the Corona virus. We have been at home since, where I continued to stitch a cell each night. I have not consciously made the pandemic the subject of my stitching, but it is there in the thread. The one cell that actually looks a bit like the virus was done early in the process, before the Corona virus was even on my radar. 

When I got down to the last day the only remaining empty cell just happened to be top row center and it seemed like it somehow needed to sum up the project, so I stitched my house, where so much of this was made under quarantine. It didn’t turn out very well—house, trees, sky—all too much for that tiny little space, but I know what it means and it stays. 

February 1 - May 10, 2020. 100 days in my life. I didn’t miss a day. I learned a lot about hand stitching, including some of what not to do. I watched it grow and I see those days in it. I feel emotional when I look at it and think about what those days have been—wonderful and awful, joyous and really sad.  It is an instant artifact and something to keep as a reminder of what a journey of 100 days can encompass. 

And now the back, because—sigh—because everyone wants to see the back. 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

2020 — And back to the unreal world

The day we left Mexico more and more cases of Corona virus were being reported from the US. Recommendations were to wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer; don’t shake hands with anyone and avoid anyone who appeared ill or was coughing. The León airport was quiet, with few travelers. We waited for our plane, sitting far from other passengers.  At one point a group of people found seats near us and one was coughing, wetly, into a tissue as she took the seat next to me. We hastily grabbed our belongings and moved several rows away. I felt bad. It seemed rude and obvious...

At the airport in Dallas we did our best to maintain some space as we made our way through the customs process and were glad to be on the last leg toPortland. 

Once home we had to hurry to prepare for a guest from out of town. Susan Metzger, who we had met on our tour in Morocco a couple years ago was coming from Colorado to speak at our Columbia FiberArts Guild Quarterly meeting, then give a two-day workshop on creating batiks. One person questioned the wisdom of holding these events and canceled out of the workshop. The rest of us believed we could be careful and would be safe. I confess to believing, at that time, that it was not “that bad” and cancelling everything would have been an overreaction. Who knows? We were lucky. No one was infected as a result, and the class was so, so good. 

Over the two days Susan led us through the creation of two batiks—the first based on photos of irises that she had brought, and the second, a design of our own. The process is kind of mysterious, in that you are never sure, until the end, what you will wind up with. The medium is imprecise and unexpected things happen and colors behave differently from one day to the next. Though we all made “iris” pieces, based on the same photos , they were all distinctly different in the end. 

You apply hot wax to your fabric in steps, dyeing progressive colors in between—covering in each step, the parts of the composition that you wish to remain the current color. 

Susan helping Sheri decide the sequence of colors she will use to create her bird

First wax application, then the first, pale blue dye. When these are dry, more wax will be applied

Then a darker blue

Yellow dye turns the unwaxed blue areas to green

And finally a very dark, purple blue dye. 

Here’s my second piece drying at an intermediary stage where the amount of orangey red is startling! Have faith.
At the end we removed most of the wax by ironing our pieces between layers of newspaper and newsprint and gasped to see the results. Here are my two pieces. I like them a lot. 

By the end of the day on Friday, March 13, the Corona virus news was getting bad. Our class had planned to take Susan out to dinner, but decided we just all needed to get home. Ray, Susan and I shared a bottle of wine and a quiet dinner at home. 

The next morning Ray and I took Susan to the airport in a snowstorm, and then we went home and haven’t left. That was a little more than a month ago, but it seems much longer. The snow only lasted for a day and in that month Spring has come. The earth turns, the flowers bloom, the season changes. We stay home and sometimes are so sad we cry—not for ourselves, we are fine, but instead for the sick and dying, the exhausted and emotionally spent health workers, the homeless and hungry, those out of work, those grieving. 

And so it goes...