Sunday, May 30, 2010

small things that have no words

Do you remember the little chick from the last post? I am very sorry to say he didn't make it. Our best efforts could not stoke the spark of life; we hiked into the woods tonight to bury him.

We had a conversation about birth and what miracle it is when everything comes together just so to form a healthy thriving baby and that sometimes, despite our best efforts, that fragile life slips away. What a gift it is for children to spend time with animals, It gives us an opportunity to talk about the biggest topics of feel them and digest them.

As a child I had special prayer that I always recited when I laid an animal to rest, here it is -

Dear nature, hear and bless
Thy beasts and singing birds:
And guard with tenderness
small things that have no words.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

calling the chicken underground

My son's class hatched chicks this week, one of the chicks took a long time to come out, in fact I believe the teacher let them help it along (probably not a good idea) She took a long time to stand and didn't open her eyes for a day and a half. Her feet are crooked and point in. For all of these reasons she was having trouble getting food and water with the group. My son was hand feeding her in class and found out the farm didn't want her back...well, guess where she is now.

This is all very, Charlot's Webb, but we can't keep another chick. We will care for her until she is more self sufficient, but we would love if she could find a loving home. She came from a brown egg - that's all I know.

Are you in love yet?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

motmots for community building

I've been having a long distance love affair with a country for years. The pioneering spirit, rough untouched forests, and simmering politics keep me fascinated with learning about Nicaragua -- well, we're finally going to meet.

This journey has been a long time in the making and is important for so many reasons. Two of our childrens' grandparents are from Nicaragua and this experience should be part of their childhood. They will experience beauty, they will peek at luxury in a foreign land, and they will see tragic poverty. My husband has traveled to the country many times as a child and teen - I have never been.

I'm excited and nervous, the considerations are different than for other places we have been. Here are some things that I imagine might happen:

1. I freak out at the airport and refuse to get on the plane. I am terribly afraid of flying, the last time I was such a stress ball for hours on end that I couldn't stand up straight by the time I got to Amsterdam.

2. I decide we can't go home and send Armando back home to tie up the loose ends. I fall in love with being anywhere new. I have a strange mix of gypsy and homebody, this plays out by having an insatiable desire to move to new places -- I'm thrilled by being somewhere new and I'm "home" at the same time (I'm currently living the longest I've ever lived anywhere)

3. I become overwhelmed by the need to do something - this could get heavy, and I'm wondering how I will digest it. We don't plan on staying in tourist areas, we want to see it all.

5. well, I imagine a lot of stuff......

A little more about # 3 - I was given a pamphlet about a charity called Center for Development in Central America http://http// I checked them out and it seems like they are doing some very good work. While I was weeding the garden today I was thinking about the beautiful motmot, the national bird of Nicaragua and how I should try to create it in paper mache. The amazing colors are similar to the birds I make now. I've decided to make motmots and donate half of the proceeds to the Center for Development in Central America. On the website they break down some of the costs of helping citizens with starting businesses, converting to organic farming, and community health care - you would be surprised at what you can do with a relatively small amount of money!

The paper mache motmot is being conceived as you read this, I will post some images soon.

Here are some of my other paper creations to give you an idea of where I'm going with this http://http//

Monday, May 24, 2010

art classes

This summer I will be offering art classes in my home and in the Wissahickon for ages 6-9. The schedule is as follows:

July 6th and 7th, 10:00 - 1:00
Paper mache animals
$35.00 for both days, materials and a healthy snack included.
July 13th and 14th, 10:00 - 1:00
Drawing and painting the landscape - plein air. We will be walking in the Wissahickon and packing our supplies and lunch. Wear comfortable shoes, bring a backpack and pack a lunch.
$50 for both days, materials and a healthy snack included.
July 19th and 20th, 10:00 - 1:00
A second plein air session.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

the first strawberries

The young chickens are very playful! If I am weeding or picking they like to get a running start and hop up my back and on to my head....this needs to stop.

The first strawberries were picked this evening; here's a simple and delicious salad idea that really shows them off:

Any delicate green will do, but I prefer mache. Slice the berries in half if they're small (most homegrown ones are a bit smaller than the tasteless behemoths in the grocery store) and toss with some cubed semi-soft cheese. Throw some ribbons of basil on top and then splash with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. This salad really is the essence of summer!

Friday, May 21, 2010

purpose & ice cream

I believe it was Kate Moss who said, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" Although this may be an effective mantra for keeping bony, I can think of a few things that might give skinny a run for its money.

I try to be good, but here are the top three offenders in the kitchen right now.

1. goat cheese

2. sunflower seed butter - I know, you wouldn't think sunflower seed butter right away, but sometimes I get a craving for spreading it on Fuji apples that must be satisfied.

3. Ben & Jerry's Willie Nelson's Country Peach Cobbler ice cream - no explanation needed.

This is not a diet blog, but I have noticed something interesting that ties this weight thing back into my usual topic. When I'm on a roll creatively I never think about my weight. I was working on a double portrait this afternoon, things were coming along nicely and I took a break to clean some brushes, I also went in the freezer and grabbed a spoonful of peach ice cream -- a little jiggle in the jeans? Big deal. I was also happy with just a spoonful - Balanced mind balanced body.

I hope my daughters never waste their peace of mind on obsessing about their weight. I had times as a teenager when I did. What I know now is, if you find something you love and you feel confident in your abilities there's really no need for the mind to wander about looking for power over weight, or people, or possessions...there's a peace to purpose and it's my job to guide my children there.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

shake it till your label falls off

It's not all about dirt, chickens, and kids around here. Last night we went out downtown with a couple good friends for a postponed birthday celebration. We shared delicious food we didn't have to cook and took our time to really savor ants-in-their-pants little ones to speed the night along.

Earlier in the day I chaperoned a field trip, primed and sanded panels, weeded the garden, helped clean the garage, did homework and served dinner to the kids. After this I contemplated backing out of our plans. This has been happening lately; feeling tired and over scheduled. In fact it has brought on the painter's equivalent of writer's block, the dreaded, "What is it I'm supposed to do with this paint brush?" feeling. It doesn't go anywhere good from there. Well, I can say that a night out dancing did not leave me tired for the battle with the block; It left me feeling more like myself, my mind is solving problems in a new way, and my husband and I enjoying a renewed appreciation for each other. Dancing is great for tuning-up the unspoken communication.

Am I a believer in the healing power of dance? Why yes, yes I am. While I was outside in the garden with my man this morning I was wondering about why we're so detached from the very things that keep us feeling young and alive? Many people are more likely to seek professional advise regarding their lack of energy, or trouble with their relationship before they just go do the things they always knew they loved. I'm thinking it might have something to do with our "life style" obsession. Everyone is subscribing to websites, watching TV shows, or reading magazines that offer the guidelines of a "life style" I've seen this escalate over the past ten years. Many of them will offer the label "free thinker" but require that you follow strict laws of fashion, diet, and parenting style. It seems it's a thin line between belonging to a community that supports our positive growth and one that restricts us. We're saying "that's not me (anymore)" far too often...moms are famously afraid of judgment and I think this is why they're endlessly targeted.

I believe dance is the perfect antidote for our self imposed limits - blood flows and is replenished with oxygen and nutrients, synovial fluid circulates flushing out pain and stiffness, and our mind is stimulated. We share, without words, with those around us and we hear our own quiet thoughts more clearly.

Dance is the language of the soul" - Martha Graham

So, shake it till your label falls off!

Monday, May 17, 2010

at ease

People become attached to their burdens sometimes more than their burdens are attached to them. - George Bernard Shaw, "Family Affection" Parents and Children, 1914

I recently purchased the print above by Sam Wedelich as a gift for my husband. I absolutely adore it. I imagine these little doodle people come to him in much the same way as my paper people come to me.

Sometimes I hear someone cutting loose and exclaiming, "You only live once!" maybe they ordered cheesecake for dessert, or splurged an expensive pair of shoes....two things that would get me feeling pretty giddy myself. The thing is, those words can have quite a chilling effect, they spur me to recalibrate and assess whether my actions are bringing me closer to freedom, or wrapping me up in complications. Oh, what a delicate balancing act!

What happened to human beings that caused them not to treasure being at ease? Heart disease, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and the decline of the family...all caused by stress, but somehow we refuse to help each other out of this.

It happens to be one of those quiet days when I allow myself the time to ask, why? before I do another thing.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Salad Saturday & Art Star Goodies

Just got in from wandering through Art Star Craft Bazaar. It was a beautiful afternoon and we took our time talking to the artists and going...ooooo and aahhh....Of course I reminded myself we are on a budget.

I was put in charge of picking out one piece for the house, my son and I chose a great print with the words of one of my favorite songs by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, "Home is Wherever I'm With You." The same artist made book plates, which I have been looking for. You can see Melanie Linder's wonderful work here - I was also in love with all of the beautiful dresses and bibs sewn by Julia Copeland - And at some point I will buy a dress from Rachel Sherman -

Well, enough about shopping, on to Saturday's salad. I was craving red wine vinegar for some reason, so I made a Greek salad. The flavor combo in a Greek salad is one of my favorites. I found some other ingredients that complemented the flavor and boosted the health factor. In the end it was a salad that could hold up as a meal - Bib and red leaf lettuce, red onions, cucumbers, tomato, wheat berries, edamame, olives, and feta cheese. The texture of the wheat berries was perfect for the Greek salad, they also added protein, lots of fiber and essential vitamins and nutrients...perfect salad to end the day.

Friday, May 14, 2010

needle and thread

I love fabric...but I don't really know how to sew. Does this keep me from buying new and vintage fabric and stock piling it? No, but I know I have to cut down on my Ikea bags full of treasure.

Making fabric beads helps me cut the cord with those great vintage dresses and table clothes I bought just because of the fabric. I also get to incorporate the big box of beads and broken necklaces I've picked up at flea markets and thrift can get the essence of a whole box of wonderful finds into a single necklace!

First cut little pieces of the fabric (I also love using knits) and start pulling a needle and thread through. Go back and forth tucking, gathering, and stitching until a ball starts to form. The thread, or floss can be an element of the bead if you incorporate the occasional wrap around, or you can stitch close and try to hide it with a matching thread. Beads can be incorporated or other bits of fabric.

There are lots of books out on fabric jewelry right now like Fabric Jewelry 25 Designs to Make Using Silk, Buttons, and Beads by Teresa Searle. These books get me very exited to spend more time dabbling with new materials, but I should NOT be spending any time mastering new crafts right now. My cherished and very limited studio time needs to be dedicated to painting or sculpting at present. I like these beads because I can relax and make some while I'm watching a movie... I don't need to follow any directions, or buy any special materials. It's also great for those people, like me, who insist "There must be a use for that!"

My other favorite use for the scraps - little stuffed animals. The charming naive effect is achieved by the fact that I don't really know how to sew. The animals will parade through on the next needle and thread post.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

paintings - the holon project

I have been working on some little 4 x 4 inch panels for a group show. The theme of the installation is, holons - something that is simultaneously a whole and a part. Read more about holons here

The members of Mamacita a mother's cooperative in the arts, will be contributing small panels to make up a larger group piece. I happen to be working on some oil portrait commissions right now, so I thought I would stick with that medium and make my 4 x 4 panels miniature oil portraits. My holon is the individual - introversion and placement in community.

These guys are tiny, and they look a little strange to me blown up. Painting portraits this small is definitely something new, many of my pieces are near life size.

You can view more of my portraits here -

Sunday, May 9, 2010

mural update

Over all, I couldn't be more pleased with the change in attitude I've witnessed with these kids. It may have had something to do with requesting to work outside on such a beautiful day, but I don't hear things like: "Are we being graded on this?" and "I don't know how to draw!" anymore. As they get more familiar with the materials I'm witnessing some revisions of the original designs; they have gained confidence and are enjoying playing with color and texture. I am also happy to see many students who originally wanted to add words to explain their idea now feel that the image is strong enough to stand on its own. This is not to say that we were able to shake off the over-use of cliche, or that everyone is giving 100%, but we are getting it done and the students are engaged in the process.

To get the most out of a project like this, the mural concept should tie into the curriculum so that class time could be utilized with more fluidity. This would require planning the year before...but even then you would have to dance around the testing. I'm just happy we were able to do it despite it all.

During preparation for the final leg of this project I was lent the book A Whack on the Side of the Head by a friend. The author, Roger von Oech, is a creative thinking consultant. In the chapter "Mental locks" he explains that one of the reasons we are not more creative is because, "Much of our educational system is an elaborate game of guess what the teacher is thinking. Many of us have been taught that the best ideas are in someone else's head." When you start to think about it, so much of the way we live is centered around that very idea.

Our planet is in need of some new answers to some very old problems, the time is now to honor creativity!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

some quick dinner ideas

It was such a nice evening we decided to walk to the grocery store, this and the extra chore of adding some bedding for the chickens on this cool night left me with less time to cook than I had hoped, BUT there are a few things I always keep on hand for fast dinners - Annie's Salad dressings and Delhi Korma Simmer Sauce.
Tonight I made a salad with bib lettuce, radicchio, lots of red onions and hot portobellos on top. I love the way adding a hot element wilts the lettuce just a little. Alderwood smoked sea salt was a nice addition to the mushrooms; it complemented the earthy, meaty flavor. At the end I drizzled Annie's Shitake and Sesame Vinaigrette on top and - voila! This dressing also makes a great marinade for tofu and baby bellas.

Now, the simmer sauce is great because you take whatever you have in the house, put it in a pot with the jar of sauce and you have dinner. I usually steam a pot of basmati rice as well. Our favorite combo seems to be cubed tofu and green beans.

9 x 16

9 x 16 is the size of our city farm plot. We have flower beds in the front and a deck out back, but the portion dedicated to the micro farm is only 9 x 16 We're all learning how much we can produce in the city on this small piece of earth.

It was a beautiful morning and I decided to dedicate the early hours to the garden while the kids road bikes in the ally and the afternoon to setting up some paint for everyone while I work on paper mache. Vacuuming, putting away laundry, cleaning the toilet and scrubbing the bath tub will be crammed in there somewhere.

These images are a little peak at what I found this morning in the garden/hen-house. The beans are doing great, we're growing a purple variety this year in addition to the green, we have a couple ripening strawberries, a variety of greens and few heirloom tomatoes...the brandywines are my favorite.

Remember, tonight is Salad Show-off Saturday!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Elizabeth Gilbert on Creativity - ideas worth sharing is a great place for inspiration and information. Today a friend posted a link to a video that happens to be a perfect companion to some of my recent post concerning creativity and honoring multiple intelligences.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of, Eat, Pray, Love delivers a wonderful talk that I'd like to share with you...I hope you might pass it on as well.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

belief and perseverance...laundry vs the pursuit of happiness

The documentary, Who Does She Think She Is explores the struggles mothers face when following their artistic instincts and the overall lack of representation they receive in the world of professional artists. Aside from the surprising statistics, like the fact that only 2% of the artists in the permanent collection at the Tate Modern are women and MOMA is something like 10% the artists interviewed explained how the pressures of work and family became so much at times that they made an attempt to stop creating. They thought that maybe that sacrifice would prove something - what a female approach. What they found was that it didn't make anything better; they were pretending part of who they were didn't exist and the outcome didn't help anyone.

As we go through life, we learn about ourselves and we make efforts to grow and change, but another healthy part of cultivating our evolution is to accept and protect essential aspects of who we are.

I am thankful to have figured something out about myself - If I am not producing work the parts of my brain that handle all the color, form, golden ratio, rhythm and line start to get unruly and the attention that belongs to them starts to feed on the details of my life. I become overly critical of myself and my surroundings. Why should I indulge these needs? Well, I think it's one of the things I was meant to do. When I'm letting that part of me do it's job I'm restoring balance, it's good for me and it's good for my family. There's nothing special about it, we all have that something. If we call it an indulgence to follow the call, how can we hope to have balance?

I will tackle those empty panels tonight. It will feel far better to have the next painting finished than the rest of the laundry done...believe me, nobody will notice until they're naked.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

salad show-off saturdays

Yes, the garden has begun to feed the family again! Right now we're enjoying a variety of greens. The beans and peas are looking good, the strawberries are stout and healthy and the tomato babies go in tomorrow.

Tonight we had fresh baby greens with some sauteed mustard greens woven through, topped with brown rice, beets, red onion and capers. I love making salads and salad season is upon us. I'm starting, "Salad Show-off Saturdays" send me a picture of a salad creation and I'll post. I love seeing the flavor/texture combos people come up with - it will be fun!
Oh, did you know, going meatless even one day a week will greatly improve your health and reduce your carbon footprint? Reducing the consumption of meat on planet earth is the biggest thing we can do to save the planet -- 12 billion gallons of gasoline a year could be saved if we all went meatless once a week.

Let's share some of what we come up with on our meatless days -- be it one day a week, or all seven!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

knowing when to stop - knowing when to go

As an artist one of the biggest lessons we have to learn is when to stop - how to walk away from a piece for a moment, or stop before we ruin what we're working on with second thoughts and needless reworking. Just like all the rest of it, this is a life lesson as well.

Like all the rest of you I have many projects on my plate right now. It seems like a whole bunch of them rolled on in at the same time. Many of these I am extremely grateful to have. The problem is, I have this dogged determination that at times is an asset and at times is my worst enemy. It becomes self defeating when perspective is lost, it's at those times that I begin to work when I'm tired and set time lines that push just a little too much. Good intentions are lost in the storm when time isn't taken to reflect.

So, with some cheerleading from my kids, we set things aside and the family went to the mountains for a couple days. Nothing fancy, just a change of scenery and being too far from it all to do anything about it. I think we all need that -- and don't tell me you can't find a way. Usually all it takes is some gas money and a picnic.

While we were there we took the drive to Berkeley Springs
The warm mineral waters were considered to be healing by the Native Americans. When you come out of the Roman baths you do feel different. The concept of visiting a ritual bath--or 'mikveh'--has been making a comeback. Orthodox Jews believe that Sarah regularly immersed herself in a body of 'living water'
There is something to emerging naked out of a body of water(other than your bath tub)that gifts you with fresh perspective.

Well, be it a mikveh, or a sweat lodge, let's remember rituals work for us humans. We were programmed with reset buttons...don't forget to use them!


Related Posts with Thumbnails