I’m on a bit of a new journey professionally. In the last year or so I have become more connected with the quilt guild world. They are an organized bunch and set aside time and money for speakers and teachers. Now I’m doing a bit of travel in Northern California mostly, to share my talents and hopefully inspire others to try new things in fabric and surface design. I have two lecture/trunk shows that I do; one is a surface design for fabric artists overview and the other is a deeper dive into designing your own fabric using photos taken with a smart phone. I’ll be sharing these techniques in Fort Bragg with the Ocean Wave Quilters and I felt like I needed another example for them to touch and see. To that end I started wandering around The grounds of The Bishop’s Ranch looking for inspiration (if you have been here you know that’s not hard to find). The lushness of the saucer-sized nasturtium leaves grabbed my attention first and and snapped a few close up photos. Then the bright and happy calendula flower beckoned next. The green and yellow orange spoke to me of bursting new life and an idea began to form. How about a mandala of spring life? The butterfly that had been fluttering around the edges confirmed my suspicion that I was on the right track and asked to be included in my design. I took my photos home played with them a bit in a few of my favorite photo manipulation apps then printed my designs right on my home printer within minutes I had my own fabric to begin designing my backyard mandala. Thankfully my son has a math brain and with a bit of calculating he easily helped me figure out the angle I needed to create an octagon. A lot of machine stitching later and some sore fingers from embroidery stitching through lots of layers I finished my ode to spring.
Take a moment today to acknowledge the wonder of nature around you, Find some way to let it influence your day and allow creation to sing it’s sweet song in your ear.
I have creative mixed media classes coming to spark your artistic fire and fuel new ways to make and create go to my website to see more.
Friday’s are typically my one “free day” no teaching, no class I’m taking, I try not to schedule meetings, I like to be in my studio (not withstanding the computer time doing the blog) anyhow it’s a relief to not be scheduled. I tend to be very productive on Fridays it’s a day to explore and let my ideas wander where they will. So today my thoughts are wandering to my garden, and that’s the beauty of a “free day” I CAN wander. Yesterday I taught watercolor painting to second graders until 2:30 then did a collage workshop with a women’s group that is on retreat at the Ranch from 3:30-5:30, tomorrow I corralling group of 17 mixed age kids for the morning for a Ranch group, then volunteering in the afternoon for a preschool event where I am on the board…Sunday I lead an all day encaustic collage workshop – so you see this really is my one “free day”. That long litany is to say today I am going to follow my bliss. The warm, lengthening days and the racks of vegetable starts outside of every store from the local grocery to the hardware store is compelling me to get a little dirty today. I have harvested my worm castings from my worm bin, I have made a vague plan for plant starts to buy, but I am easily swayed by the rakes of plants at Harmony Farms. Today, this one free day, I am ready to be seduced, and more than willing to get down and dirty…garden here I come!
This triptych is one I did of my first ever asparagus. I planted these last fall. Everyone warned me that I wouldn’t get anything to eat for a couple of years but these little babies were full of surprise! The warm days are leading them to bolt but my they were tasty (if tiny) and I look forward to next years bounty!
This week I set myself the challenge of reining in the vast expanse of drooping draping bulb tops in my yard. I will admit that part of my motive in setting this challenge on my blog was to kill two birds with one stone: bird one, get a grip on my burgeoning spring yard, bird two, do something artful for the blog. Right away I set at it with a will. I began braiding the bulb tops. Straightening and stroking each bundle, braiding and binding the chaos of green. As I set about my task I thought about my childhood and my mothers ritual of washing we girls hair in the kitchen sink. We would lie on the counter and she would wash our hair as if we where ladies at a salon. After we would sit on a low stool and she would tediously untangle our hair and braid (or put it in sponge curlers) for the week. This musing got me about three feet into my flowerbeds. So I thought of my horseman dad, who is an expert braider, who has stories of braiding the tails of pack ponies and polo ponies alike. That musing got me about two feet further on my mission to subdue the riot around me. Next I thought about the last time I had braided all these bulbs, it was when my 14 year old was 3 or 4 years old and content to wander the yard with a train or two in hand making every board a train track, every rock a station. It was a lovely time in my life where my focus was the wanderings and wonderings of an emerging little person, a slower version of life, slow enough to braid yard after yard of fallen foliage with the soft toot-toot of Thomas the Tank engine mingling with the buzz of bird and bee. Ok that musing got me about 3 feet more. I had barely taken the curve of the flowerbed!
Two hours in now I began to question my sanity, but as one who always takes homework seriously (even self imposed homework) I vowed not to quit. I did take a break however, and on that first day of braiding went to have lunch in the refectory here at The Bishop’s Ranch with other Ranch staff. I explained my personal challenge to the table of diners and they all decided to take a fieldtrip to my yard after lunch. The reactions to my mania where varied, Cass, who is the Care taker here as well as a master gardener took one look and exclaimed “No Way” and walked off muttering something about knotting up bulbs would suit him fine. I don’t blame him since while I can measure my bulb tops in yards he would more likely measure those drooping around the Ranch in miles. Cecilia, who works in the office questioned me on the purpose of braiding did, it help the bulb in any way? I explained that keeping the tops until they dry helps the bulb but braiding or knotting or leaving them lay makes no difference to the bulb. Her response was “So you’re just showing off then!” I stammered and stuttered a bit while I pondered my answer. I thought about saying it’s all about beauty and art and wabi-sabi blah, blah, blah… but in the end I said, “Yeah, it’s about showing off”. Her response surprised and delighted me “I’m going to do it along my driveway where my neighbors can see it!” Maybe we all like to show off every now and then.
I’ve put in hours each day this week and did not manage to completely control the chaos of fading foliage, but that’s ok, it’s been time well spent. Meditating and musing, laboring and lingering, over time past and time spent, content to contain if not control.
When does exuberance turn to chaos? I am not speaking of the recent events in the Middle East, but let’s take a moment to think of the people struggling there (pause) and I’m not thinking of the recent tornadoes in the South, but let’s take another moment to think of the people dealing with natures chaos (pause), I am most definitely not speaking of the royal wedding and it’s thousands of merry makers (no pause necessary enough time was spent on that) but what I am speaking of is my garden. I know what you’re thinking, what trivia what twaddle… and it’s true in light of what’s happening in the world, but I’ll try to make a metaphor of it any way. Here goes, back in January and February when the bulbs were all bursting forth with joy and promise, I was so relieved at their coming so comforted by their emergence and assurance that winter would not stay and spring would indeed come, I can scarcely believe the exasperation I now feel towards them. These self same perky harbingers are now drooping and draping all over the place serving only to block the way of summer beauties and I might add lend safe haven to invading troops of snails and slugs. I guess that is the fickle nature of nature itself, always reaching towards the light, stretching, growing, dying, and stretching again. An endless cycle tied to the planet in her course around the sun. And what, you might be asking at this moment, does any of this have to do with art or this blog? Well, I think it is part of the ongoing discussion about wabi-sabi (on the web-page there is a link there to a couple of definitions of wabi-sabi on the right sidebar). The beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete defines wabi-sabi and so my drooping, dying bulb foliage is lounging in the wabi-sabi realm. How do I respect that aesthetic and the need of natural things to run their natural course and wrest chaos for the border of my flowerbeds? Ah, there is the crux of the problem; I’ll share with you how I solve it on Friday. Until then, as always I encourage you to share your thoughts, how do you tip toe on the balance beam between order and chaos?