Monday, December 26, 2011

for the barnyard

 A Christmas morning treat.

These seasonal spice cookies are heavy on the molasses and loved by all the critters.

An occasional cookie hasn't hurt anyone yet, so they were a perfect sweet indulgence.

We mixed in plenty of veggies, too.

Friday, December 23, 2011

a little holiday science

Winter solstice occurred yesterday, Thursday, at 12:30 a.m., Eastern time.

Yesterday I engaged in, overheard, and (thanks to social media) read quite a few conversations regarding holiday tradition.

The call to remember your "reason for the season" has been a softly pleading voice for years, but I think this year may have been the biggest backlash against black Friday and holiday gluttony I have witnessed so far. I'm happy to believe it's because a conversation has escalated that does more than demand answers about the distribution of wealth and access to opportunity in this country, it demands we ask ourselves about our personal choices. Do they reflect what we want to see in our our children?

People are asking what the holiday really means to them. Many are not in the faith they grew up with, or have found meaning and purpose without religion. Parents are questioning the customs of their childhood...which to keep, which to leave behind. That's a lot to chew on at a time of celebration.

What the Solstice reminded me of is this: Science may offer an undeniable unifying element. We are all finding joy in the darkest days of our year. We are anticipating the return of the light. It's at this time that we depend on sharing, giving, and lifting each other's spirits. Family history and faith find their home here. Finding common ground does not mean leaving behind your faith, and you don't need to believe in anything other than humanity to celebrate.

When in doubt, nature has an answer.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Tonight I'm thankful that I have time to paint. It's hard over a holiday, but big A has taken the kids for a movie night while I work. 

Thanksgiving was the quiet, cozy, fragrant day I hoped it would be...that is until we broke into a dance party to shake off the comfort food. Many things I'm thankful for drifted through my mind as I stirred, mashed, splashed, and kneaded...

The ginkgo trees in October


good food

the forest

meeting new animals while adventuring


these guys

this guy

that I have this little space to share

that you're taking a moment to check in

that somehow I've carved out the time and space to pursue my work

that the occasional "f*** it" doesn't keep me down...that I never forget the list...that it keeps growing...

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Artist Statement (and the subject of Love)

I don't meet many artist who enjoy writing about their work; as essential as it is, the artist statement is often a thorn in our sides. The purpose is to offer a platform from which the viewer can explore the work. My approach is usually to be as brief and straight forward as possible. I grumble and edit and end up with words on paper that introduce people to my work.

When I sat down to write about the paper people, the task was more difficult than ever. I prefer to have my hands tell the story, but the collection must travel with a statement. Two words came to mind, a title perhaps: necessary luxuries. The Paper People were here to be a little bit braver about the things we crave need, but for some reason, can't quite deem essential. They challenge our habit of keeping secret that which is most human.

private collection Philadelphia

private collection Washington DC

One day, after quite a while of having only a few lines I would commit to, I came across this quote by visual, conceptual, installation performance artist, Helene Aylon:

"Because there  is a fear of sentimentality, love is not very often addressed -- and it is really the one motivation in all of our lives."

Well, there you have it, I was afraid to say it's about love. I was afraid of setting that word out to sail in a sea of misconceptions. For me love is
                               bolder & more brilliant than my words can convey. I would prefer the paper people say it for me. As Jean-Paul Sartre put it, "There is no love apart from the deeds of love; no potentiality of love but that which is manifest in loving."

private collection Indiana

So, as these pieces greet the public, they will be accompanied by the sparse words that came to mind on the first day I started ripping up newspaper...a question more than a statement:

What would we share if we didn't fear?
Which simple pleasures have become necessary luxuries?
The explorations of the paper people.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

jack-o'-lantern for dinner

The no waste Mamas

Having to take your own trash to the dump puts you in touch with your waste very quickly. I'm happy to say our schedule has changed over the past year; there's very little that is not composted, fed to chickens, or recycled. I'd like to say it's our drive to be green, but I know big A and I are happy to avoid a smelly trash haul whenever we can!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

one new sculpture

Here are some pictures of one of the new sculptures. You can see more of the Paper People here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween and Tarot for Children

Halloween was a blast, despite the fact that my youngest spent Mischief Night in the ER getting stitches in her finger. She was quite adamant that she did NOT need any help tackling the largest pumpkin she could haul. I applaud her determination, but next year I have the feeling she'll take me up on my offer plead to help.

The Halloween costume I mentioned in the last post was inspired by the character, Prunella on the Arthur show.

Prunella is a a peach colored rat who is interested in yoga, fortune telling, and paranormal phenomena. In one episode her sister, Rubella, makes a cootie catcher as a gift for Prunella's half birthday and claims that it can tell the future. We made cootie catchers after watching and started talking about other ways people play with telling fortunes. The cootie catcher gives very definite answers, maybe you remember from grade school, things like:

no way
for sure
you can bet on it
not in your dreams...

Just like in the episode, some people around here were not too thrilled with the cootie catcher's answers. I remember feeling the same way about my magic 8 ball. This got me thinking about  Tarot cards; the way they act as a Rorschach test of sorts, and allow you to explore aspects of life without pushing definite answers. I looked up "children's tarot cards" on-line, not sure if I would find any. It seems that others had the same idea because there was a list of results for various ways the tarot deck could be re-imagined for children. These days the tarot deck could incorporate anything from astrology, Kabbalah, runes, I Ching, you can see how children's fables and storybook characters could find their place in the major arcana. These cards deal the human condition and their titles might remind you of fables, or Shakespeare characters. I see it as a good way to explore the human condition with the child leading the way. There is no need to lend belief to the occult to use the cards; the Tarot has been a source of inspiration and creativity for individuals simply by sparking their imaginations.

I decided to ask my kids if they wanted to illustrate their own set. After taking a look at how diverse the decks are, they dove in with their own ideas about what strength, justice, earth, fool...might look like to them.

My daughter went from curiosity about Prunella's cootie catcher, to dressing like a fortune teller for Halloween and doing "readings" (which consist of selecting some cards and then telling a story around them). The tarot deck is a work in progress and I will post some pictures soon if I get the artist's permission.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

git r done

I know, I know, but tell me, is there any other phrase that sums it up like that?

I did take that time I was looking for. It meant putting anything unnecessary on hold for a while. "Necessary" is relative to the can only pass on party invites, movie nights, hiking (and apparently blogging ) for so long before weariness and imbalance sets in.

The goal was reached. Commissions were completed, two new sculptures are nearing completion (one inspired by this negotiation with time) 

detail of work in progress

and I'm almost ready to stock the Etsy store. Soon you will see holiday ponies in addition to the jointed birds

Around the farm we've been getting ready for the cold weather. We moved the goats and pony to the back field. We were originally going to put electric fence back there, but ended up digging posts and making a paddock around the the little run in. I've heard how goats can be used to clear out land. After witnessing them go to town on the briers, burs, and honeysuckle I'm happy we didn't bush-hog the area first - they had it cleared in three days!

The October snow really surprised us. I was reminded how much more energy it takes to do the chores in the mud and snow and believe me, I can wait quite a while for flakes to fall again.

The weather brought on the animals' appetites. I saw three adolescent raccoons walking down the road looking for grub. The hawks are loud and bold, coming down from the mountain and taking on the annoyance of the crows in the pines. This morning we thought we lost a kitten to the birds of prey. After having two hens carried off, we now know that anything crossing the field on a clear day is up for grabs. Luckily we found Chaplin in the carriage house. This makes me worry about predators. I need to have two new coop doors made soon. I think I'll put the word out to barter for this service. We can't stand to take a loss like we did last year.

Here's a peek around:

Pip, the turkey is reaching maturity

We have roosters now ( this is a Golden Laced Polish)

and the kids are getting ready for Halloween. This year one of the costumes is inspired by, Prunella, from the Arthur show on PBS. Maybe I shouldn't be divulging this (some of us think we're too old for it) but everyone in the family loves Arthur. We watch together on Saturdays. The Prunella costume has inspired an on going art project...more on that later...

Monday, September 5, 2011

chronos and kairos

I need studio time desperately! Not just 10 minutes here, or a splendid 20 minutes there, I need uninterrupted hours. Right now I've settled my bum in the chair for a few while I wait to pull a quiche from the oven before heading out to clean the stalls and check on the new dairy goats; later it's a trip to a farm with big A and the kids....all things I'm happy to do. But a clock is ticking on some deadlines. There's something I've noticed about opportunity, it seems to build like a wave and when it arrives the power can only be put to use by a series of (sometimes difficult) choices. Why couldn't the art shows, the wholesale account, and the commissions have been spaced evenly over six months?

I generally employ an "irons in the fire" approach, but I have the feeling I'm going to need to make some cuts, some purposeful cuts, before the load is lighted by dropping a ball....AND remember that there's an abundance of time for the things that truly matter. Where did I read that idea put so succinctly?

Let me check...

Okay, found it.

"Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life."

— Brian Andreas

Thanks for sharing that one, Amy!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Good Practice

"Mommy, are you sleeping out there?" I heard my daughter call from the back door. My eyes were open; she must have picked-up on the stillness. What is it about sitting down by the chickens that slows my breath and nudges my mind past thought? I watch it come over the kids sometimes...the eyes seeing everything and nothing for a moment as they hold a bird and listen to the sounds of the flock.

The same thing is experienced sitting within a herd of horses, or cows. After initial observation, the mind accepts the movements and sounds as a sort of rhythm. Even the occasional squabble rolls into the pattern. You are aware of it all, but without surface level thought. Could we say it's a moment of transcendental consciousness?  I think time spent with the healthy herd or flock can ease us into this state of relaxation. The dramas of the human experience are reflected in the animal kingdom; we can see them cycle and resolve, but aren't pulled into unnecessary action or judgment. We are invited to share the time and space without attachment. Good practice.
Seven Roosters – Japanese Woodblock Print by Hokusai. Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎, 1760 – 1849)


Thursday, August 18, 2011

one year

"A change of heart or of values without a practice is only another pointless luxury of a passively consumptive way of life."

- Wendell Berry

Today I noticed a sweater hanging on the hook in the hall; it was pulled out on one of the first chilly evenings spent star gazing in the back yard recently. This reminded me that in September it will be one year since our move. We've made it through a cycle.

I am thankful for the inner push that wouldn't quiet till it had come home. I used to feel that I struggled with impatience; I don't feel that any more.

What a year on this little farmette....small steps in the right direction.

Children going slowly and syncing into place

wearing out their boots

growing things


"It is possible, as I have learned again and again, to be in one's place, in such company, wild or domestic, and with such pleasure, that one cannot think of another place that one would prefer to be - or of another place at all." - Wendell Berry

Friday, July 22, 2011

a (children's) book I love

Here's a book full of whimsy, truth and charm...

I'll Be You and You Be Me written by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Maurice Sendak - Harper, 1954.

Ruth Krauss speaks the language of childhood fluently. Her playful way with words delivers a punch disguised as a dreaming pony, or a dancing rabbit. Krauss' partnership with Sendak is creative chemistry on paper. Delicate words and delicate drawings containing a force below their surface.

Sendak once explained, "I said anything I wanted because I don't believe in children I don't believe in childhood. I don't believe that there's a demarcation. 'Oh you mustn't tell them that. You mustn't tell them that.' You tell them anything you want. Just tell them if it's true. If it's true you tell them."

I can see that Krauss must have felt the same way; together they tell the truth, but they tell it in a language that belongs to everyone.

The book is a delight and joins my list of essential children's books.

I think that I'll grow
up to be a bunny
before I grow up
to be a lady.

When I read that I knew our home couldn't be without it!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

heartily lusting

for some of this fabric

It's our first year here on the little farm and I've been spending a lot of time outdoors creating garden beds, planting, weeding, and caring for the animals; I have'nt been spending as much time on the interior. I love to design interiors, so when I took a moment to look around I realized we needed to give things a lift. One of the major projects on my list is reupholstering a love-seat that I've been holding onto for a while because of its exquisite shape. Until I have the funds to purchase the fabric I really want, we'll continue to live with its shabby charm.

I'm looking to do something similar to this:

The designs above (which are out of my price range) are by Josef Frank, an Austrian-born architect, artist, and designer who later adopted Swedish citizenship. Together with Oskar Strnad, he created the Vienna School of Architecture, and its concept of Modern houses, housing and interiors.

Here are some quotes to give you a feel for his aesthetic:

"Every human needs a certain degree of sentimentality to feel free," Frank said... "Away with the universal styles, away with the equalization of industry and art."

“The living room, where one can live and think freely, is neither beautifully harmonious nor homogeneous. It has come about through coincidence, will never be complete and can within itself absorb whatever the residents’ varying needs may require.”

To get the full scoop on Josef Frank you might want to look here


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