Monday, December 13, 2010

What Color is Your Town today?

Not my own town today, but let's just call it my adopted town for a day. Each December my mom's friend Lucy hires a coach, emails her friends (who all share the cost) and we all head to Leavenworth for one day of lunch, shopping, and camaraderie. The trip over the mountain pass is always serene, chilly, monochromatic beauty.
But when we arrive, we are greeted with every color of the rainbow in a snowy Christmas town. I rarely purchase anything beyond lunch, afternoon tea and pastry at the bakery, and perhaps some gluhwein just before the tree lighting, but I happily tag along with everyone else. It's a day of simple indulgence, picture-taking, and time spent with family, and for me, better than a spa day could ever be.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 6, 2010

More Life in These Parts

We are continuing work on that bath, although bad colds, bad weather, and a little theatre project for Mr. B took precedence for a bit.

This weekend he spent time constructing the lovely cabinet, which meant I got to help. Drawer fronts, cabinet doors, and shelves are all nearly ready for the finisher, lovingly sanded by yours truly.  I love wood. I love it when it's still on the tree, I love lichen-encrusted branches blown down by the wind, and I love wood sanded to a satiny smoothness and finished to let the grain take star billing.

I also love painting faux wood, as many of you know, and I'm sure my affection for the real thing has helped me a great deal in my painting of the faux thing. Here are a couple shots of one of my favorite projects, the set of Theatre Northwest's production of The Final Toast, a Sherlock Holmes play written by my friend, the late Stuart Kaminsky. The first shows the fireplace as I was working in the shop. The second shows it on stage, where, yes, all the wood, including wainscoting and floor, was faux painted by me. I think it is some of my best work so far.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Book Arts and a Bit of Weather

Last Saturday was a Puget Sound Book Artists' "Page Turning Event" at the University of Puget Sound Collins Memorial Library. We could bring our latest creations to share, and careful handling was invited. How great to not only be able to feast your eyes on such wonderful work, but to be able to pick it up and look through it as well. Most of Tacoma's Art at Work activities happened earlier in the month, and that might be why we did not get a huge turnout, but frankly I was happy with the less-than-huge crush of people. It gave me more of a chance to schmooze. I took my two little books made of hemp paper to share, and left elated and encouraged by the feedback I got from other book artists.  It's a great feeling to glance across the room and see someone carefully turning every. single. page. of Midnight Haiku. Wow.

My friend Lynne Farren volunteers as an art teacher at a local school, and here are some of the colorful books her students made. Aren't they fantastic?

  On the home front, we've had a bit of weather today. May I go on record as saying that this is about the saddest chaise I have ever seen? 

Ruth Gordon once said, "Never, under any circumstances, face the facts." Which is why I'm holding out for at least one more 80 degree day before 2010 is over.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Local Conditions

Please check out my friend Chandler O'Leary's blog, which is here, to see her latest artist book, called Local Conditions. And if you would like to see this amazing piece in person, it is on display in Tacoma at the University of Puget Sound Collins Memorial Library through January 21, 2011. This piece is truly something.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Progress Report

Remember this? I haven't forgotten it either. Still working on it. Very slowly. It is, however, progress, so no complaints.

Old Mr. Cauliflower Ears was certain I leaned this pinboard against the piano bench just for him. Well, of course I did. The fact that it was next to the french doors and therefore the best source of natural light on this stormy day was merely a bonus.

And I think the Tiger Chair is just about there. A coat of protective varnish and a couple of little brass chair braces to fix the tiny wobble, and we shall consider this one finished. And then we will remember to screw the seat on. And THEN we will consider it finished.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Seventeen Buddha

I finished my little Seventeen Buddha book today. It was the second experiment using the hemp paper. The front and back covers are hemp paper laminated to paper towel (ordinary kitchen variety). I wanted to strengthen the hemp a bit for the cover, and the paper towel was the correct colors since it was the one I used to wipe my brushes on as I painted the pages. Laugh if you want to, but I like it.  I used acrylic wax varnish, of which I am a huge fan,  for the lamination. The cover decoration is another piece of hemp paper left over from the previous hemp book project. The Japanese stab binding is done in the traditional hemp pattern using silk ribbon. The back cover has snippets of thread trimmed from the stitching inside laminated to it.
I carved a medicine buddha print block,  printed, sprinkled embossing powder, and hit the pages with a heat gun before painting them.

Then I stitched and added the torn silk. This kind of stitching is quite meditative, so it was important to me that I finish each of the seventeen pages before moving on to the next.
Some of the printing is clear, some is not. This was intentional, as was the decision to leave the backs of the pages in open view.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Life in these Parts

I have been a big fan of designer Cressida Bell since the day I discovered her. Granddaughter to some of my favorite painters, our shared interest in Tibetan tiger rugs only sweetened the deal for me. I bought her book about decorative painting as soon as it was published in the mid 90's, and have adapted her leaf designs to fit hand painted gifts for family members, but always in the back of my mind was that desire to do a big project based on designs from the book. This year I found the perfect project: a chair for a charity auction. Northwest Furniture Bank is a group of volunteers who collects and warehouses furniture, then distributes it, through qualified member agencies, to natural disaster and fire victims, domestic violence victims, and to certain other families in need. Next March they will host their second fund-raising Chair Affair, and I will be one of the contributing artists to donate a chair. I found an unassuming little chair at Goodwill for $4.50 and am transforming it into a Tiger Chair. It has been a bit of work, but a lot of fun. I painted some canvas to recover the green naugahyde seat, and am embellishing that with running stitch.

I may add a little something extra, in the form of a small tiger bag. It's a design that has been floating around my head as I work on the chair.  I find that when I am wallowing in artistic doldrums, it sometimes helps to apply myself to a more "crafty" project such as this chair. The painting frees up another part of my brain to dream up new projects.

In other news, our main bath looks like this right now. Buh-bye 1970's lime green bathroom! Work progresses, but those of you familiar with remodeling projects know how important it is to maintain a sense of humor in times like these. Especially when one is doing most of the work one's self, one's only other bathroom is the size of a postage stamp, and conversations are rife with terms like "sweat-soldering" and "junction boxes."
We have discovered that a large glass of wine at the end of the day helps immensely.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What Color is Your Town Today?

In June, the view from the dock at the bottom of 6th was blue and sparkle, full of promise. Even in the Pacific Northwest you can safely promise a few brilliant, warm summer days. Summer here, though beautiful, is more about the sense of touch to me: the warm sun on my upturned face, the cool breeze ruffling my hair.

But Autumn? Autumn is visual. It's all about the color. Even the blue water is swirled with gold and softened with mist.

Huh. I just noticed the bug silhouette on that oak leaf. Interesting.

Monday, October 11, 2010


My good friend Paula is, among many wonderful things, a creativity coach, and as such is interested in what inspires people. She asked me a question the other day that got me thinking. What do I gather around me, besides raw material, that gives rise to that first idea? Lotsa stuff, apparently. Some treasured since childhood.

Rocks, shells, beetle wings, a tiny origami turtle atop a set of plaster teeth, pictures cut from magazines, feathers, arrowheads, petrified wood, mysterious vertebrae, a Oaxacan rabbit...

...and a lot of books.

Wait. Are those Usagi Yojimbo comics, you ask?
Why yes. How clever of you to notice.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Another Little Job

I've been sidetracked again with another painting job at Broadway Center. It's unrelated to the floor painting a few weeks ago- just serendipitous that both are here. At the time we were painting the floor in the 915 studio, a water main burst on the 3rd floor of the building housing the Pantages, damaging walls and flooring all the way down to the lobby. Mr. B's company was awarded the contract to do the repairs, and since I sometimes do faux painting for them, here I am once more. I'm happy to do it. I like my coworkers, enjoy being downtown, and love this theatre.

Drying out the walls involved carefully removing some of the decorative plaster, so when the plaster went back up, it was my job to artfully patch any divots and screw holes before it's all repainted.

 Most of the work I am doing is up in the mezzanine.  Here it is, shrouded in protective plastic and masking paper while the repaired walls are primed and painted. Three shades of "white" are used on the walls, and next it will my job to paint the extra decorative wash on the plaster molding. By the time Broadway Center is ready to open its 2010-11 season in a couple weeks, this theatre will be back to her gorgeous old self.

And yes, I will be on that scaffolding. For as short a time as possible.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Midnight Haiku

I finally finished the little book. And I learned a few things along the way. The hemp fiber paper, as you can see, absorbs color in a very nice way. The paints I mainly used were liquid Dye-na-flow on wet paper. Hemp paper is not strong, but it tears with a lovely fuzzy edge. You have to stitch into it carefully to avoid big holes, but if you want holes, they are easy to make. I like the paper very much despite its delicate constitution. Next time I think I will try a Japanese binding using individual sheets rather than sewn signatures.

The book is about 2 ½ inches square by about ¾ inch deep. There are 6 signatures of 6 pages each. I bound them by the sewing over tapes method, and the tapes were made from some marbled tissue paper, folded into quarter inch tapes. The cover is covered on the inside with more of the marbled paper, and the outside is more painted hemp paper with beads. No big surprise there. I put beads on everything.

I have been reading many books about journaling, and making journals, and making visual journals, and all the other variations that are all the rage right now. And what I have come to discover about myself is that while I like looking at the journals, I am not terribly interested in reading them, and I am even more disinterested in jotting something personal down where others might read it. However, sometimes writing things down is quite good therapy. In this book, I did write about a particular period of time that warranted some serious retrospection/introspection, and I got around the privacy issue by writing it so completely illegibly that three days later even I could not figure out what it said. So here is the little book called Midnight Haiku, accompanied by several shots of my paint-encrusted fingernails. Bonus!