Wednesday, December 30, 2009


It's all over save for the little party hats, and once again, I'm relieved. Not that I dislike the Christmas season. It's just that this is the second year I have managed to be sick. Christmas 2008 was such a viral disaster in this house that we skipped it altogether. This year everyone came to my house, so skipping Christmas wasn't really an option. Ibuprofen and adrenaline got me through the day, and hopefully I have not given any of our 18 guests the gift of flu.

It was a lovely day with family and good food, and when everyone went home, I went to bed and stayed there for the best part of four days. Today I finally felt well enough to do a little work in the studio, and to walk the dog on the path overlooking the links. It was blustery out, and the water was a dark gray-blue today. I never tire of staring at the sound as I walk. It is different every day, and always beautiful.

In the studio, I finished beading the grid piece, which makes me happy. Now I can get a backing on it, and move on to other projects that are simmering in my imagination. I have Plans.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Here are some quick photos of an undressed puppet. I made the heads from papier mache (newspaper strips and liquid starch) over balloons. Then I added features with Celluclay. Chins were wadded up newspaper taped into place, with a "skin" if Celluclay molded over that. Arms were crudely carved from pink insulation foam and covered with the newspaper strips and starch. Thumbs were a separate piece of carved foam taped and toothpicked on. After the heads and arms were dry, I painted them with a fairly thick layer of Liquitex modelling paste, then sanded them a bit smoother when that was dry. After that came a layer of gesso, and a bit of color to emphasize the features.

I made the neck hole a bit larger and jammed rolled up cardboard in to make the neck. I devised a way to cut a hole in the back of the head, and stick a dowel handhold in. Inside the head cavity the dowel also jammed through a hole I cut in the "neck" tube. there is also a smaller dowel that threads up through the neck and into a pre-drilled hole in the handle dowel, up inside the head. This was because the heads are fairly heavy and I wanted to make sure that the handle would not become loose when they were being used. Then I filled the heads with that spray foam insulating stuff from the hardware store. I figured that would fill the hollow heads, and lock everything in to place, and it worked like a charm. When it gets hard, it is almost like styrofoam. What useful stuff! That is the orange gloop you can see. The shoulders are made from two pieces of corrugated cardboard with holes, jammed up on the neck. The upper arm segment is a tube I sewed and sandwiched between the shoulder pieces. I stuffed it lightly, sewed an elbow joint, and shoved, glued and gaff-taped the hand/arms into the ends of the tubes. The shoulders are hot glued together, and to the neck. I also sewed the arm tube to the shoulder on each side just to make sure it didn't shift. The "working" hand has another dowel attached. I drilled a hole, shoved the dowel in, and hot glued. All pretty funky and non scientific, but it works.
When they were finished I propped them up on the bar stools in the kitchen, and gave Mr. B a bit of a turn when he left for work at 5 AM the next morning.
Below are the puppets with their "handlers" on stage.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Another Play

Another play under my belt, or maybe I should say out from under my belt. The Salvation of Iggy Scrooge opened last Friday. The set was less complicated to paint, but I was still up to my neck in it, because I built the puppets. This play is a rock and roll take-off of Dickens' Christmas Carol, and we decided to have the parts of the children Want and Ignorance played by puppets. Although I spent many years as a dollmaker, and have extensive papier mache experience, I'm just not much of a puppet person. The director (a former puppeteer, for all you Murphy's Law fans) wanted puppets built life size in a bunraku style, so I spent a lot of Googletime looking at construction methods. Bunraku puppets are really pretty darn cool! But alas, ours needed to be operated by one inexperienced stagehand each, so the ones I built were perhaps more of an homage to bunraku than the real deal.  I took some construction photos, and will post them as soon as I gather them up in one spot. In the meantime, here is a rehearsal shot of our play, which opened to rave reviews, by the way.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Here is a sample of my other creative outlet. This is the set of Theatre Northwest's recent production of A Streetcar Named Desire. Designed by Greg Carr. Painted by yours truly. Yes, it's a lot of work.

More Grid Series

This one is still a work in progress.

I had to set it aside while I was painting the set for A Streetcar Named Desire, but this week it has been calling to me. Again, on painted brown shopping bag. The black motif on the bottom is actually black plastic shopping bag machine-stitched on. I cut stencils for this one, and stamped on top of the stencils. There is needle lace in the squares on the top head. I do carve all my own stamps and cut my own stencils.

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Foray into Pet Portraiture

My friends Lynne Farren and Mary Preston, both artists, have taken on the task of tree designers for the Humane Society's entry in this year's Mary Bridge Festival of Trees. Lynne's idea was to have many local artists use small 5x5 inch canvases to portray either a cat, a dog, or a rabbit, which she would then use as ornaments on the tree. According to the Humane Society, cats, dogs and rabbits are the animals most likely to end up in the shelter. I was honored to be asked, and, collector of strays that I am, said yes of course I will help out! Rather than work in my current methods, I decided to just paint little portraits of my two beloved pet friends- my 14 year old cat Spanky, and our wonderful 9 year old rescued Border Collie Cody. I have had Spanky since he showed up at a backyard barbecue in July of 1995 as a rather skinny older kitten. My son and nephew showed him how to get in the cat flap, and that was that- our old cat suddenly had a new little brother. No regrets. He has been a good (if sometimes wacky) cauliflower-eared addition to this family. He still hides under the bed when the doorbell rings, but he has made friends with a real dog. That is something I never thought I would see.

Cody came to us in (I think?) 2004. My friend Inga is a foster mom for the Border Collie Rescue people, and my partner Brett's daughter was looking for a companion for her very busy Belgian Terv. We all fell in love with gentle, reserved Cody at first sight.  Lives change, and when the daughter needed to find a new home for Cody, there was no question whether Brett and I would keep him. We already thought of him as ours. Before he was rescued, he had been abandoned and living feral for some time. He was polite, but bonded with the Terv first, unused to kind humans, unfamiliar with play and fun. Now, at the ripe old age of 9, he is still polite, but he has learned to live with a cat, and has discovered the joy of play. Especially frisbee. I am so glad we invited these homeless pets into our lives. I think we got the best part of the deal.

Anyway, here is my foray into pet portraiture. I have no plans to quit my day job and start painting pets from this day forth, but I hope whoever gets to take this tree home can see how much I love my guys.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What Color is Your Town Today?

I sometimes read the blog of a British artist named Angie Hughes. She doesn't blog regularly because she is busy making art, but in January of 2008 she wrote something that sparked a bit of creative thinking in me, and I have used this spark off and on ever since. This is what she said after a trip to the Tate Britain Museum:

The Turner watercolour exhibition is really interesting... They had a map of Europe and where Turner had visited and the colour palette he had used in each region. I was interested to see that he used lots of different pinks in Paris, I always think Paris looks pink.

If you had to choose a colour palette for your home town what would you use?

If you spend much time outside in your own town, you know that many factors determine color around you, so I like to periodically ask myself that question. Often, living here next to the Puget Sound, my colors are grays and silver. But today.... not so much.....

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tacoma Art at Work

The weekend of November 7 & 8 is the 8th annual Art at Work studio tours in Tacoma. This year 73 artists at 39 studio locations around Tacoma will open their studios and let the public see where they create. I love the studio tours. It's a chance to visit my friends, see what they have been up to, perhaps purchase a gift or two, and to discover new local artists as well. Tacoma is attracting more and better artists and fine craftsmen every year, and when you add them to the substantial talent already established in this town, you have one very fine weekend coming up.

If you follow the link, you can download the schedule of open studios and a map to help you plan your route. See you Saturday!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Grid Series

This is part of a new series I have been working with for about a year. I enjoy working on thick brown paper bags from the grocer's. So this one is about 8.5 inches wide by 29 inches high, crumpled and flattened back out, gessoed, then painted with acrylics. I have been focusing on crows lately because I love them and we have many to watch, photograph, and draw here. This crow is painted and cut out, then applied to the painted surface, as is the red branch (a scrap of fabric), the butterflies (black stencil on kimono silk laminated to origami paper that I had previously stamped and embossed), and the "eye thing" at the bottom. These elements were all glued on with something called acrylic wax varnish, and then more of the acrylic wax was put on top. The nice thing about the acrylic wax is that you can burnish it down to a lovely finish with steel wool- so it does resemble wax. Then on top of all that I beaded in a grid pattern. Then I added more beads in a non-grid pattern (see details) The grid pattern for the beads was interesting to work out. I basically pre-marked holes using graph paper and tracing paper, then pre-punched the holes with a T-pin so I would know exactly where they went. When sewing on paper it is always wise to poke the sewing holes ahead of time. The bottom "eye thing" is something I had drawn and scanned into Photoshop. I printed it on fabric and then on that lacy rice paper. I put the lacy paper on top of the printed fabric, stitched a bit, and scissor-edited a little of the lace before I glued it to the backing. It is inkjet ink but if you are careful painting it with glaze it does not bleed or smear much.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A beginning, sort of

Not so much a beginning, as time stolen to share what I have already been doing for a long time. I am an artist, a partner, a cook, a mother, a best friend, an educator, a book and music lover, a theatrical charge artist, and a blogger for my theatre company- sometimes more of one than the other. This blog will mostly be a record of my own work, with some links to things I love. And that's about it!