To 2013



Dogbane with pulp painting / silkscreen demo on denim (yes, photo is me, ‘ 90s)

You didn’t think I’d head into the new year without an odd search engine terms roundup, did you?  Actually, this year, though there were more searches and more terms than ever, they were largely spot-on: people came looking for me; for artist and writer friends and for places, shows, classes and events I’ve mentioned; for tools, machinery, fibers and techniques; and there were an unprecedented number of searches for specific artworks (a pleasingly wide range of titles, too).  There were less odd searches than ever before, so I’ve only chosen a mere 21. My biggest blogging surprise of 2012 came when WP added ‘views by country’ to our stats on February 25; people from 72 different countries have checked in since: wondrous!

  • Balbo Vacuum
  • drive through liquor lottery yes
  • whi does my audiologist tell me its worlds best hearing
  • should I cut my kozo fiber is using beets
  • why does my FEOT vibrate
  • related: bark press oldoftware
  • my foot beater
  • Law regalia, excelsior eureka voith valley
  • ‘bound with onions’
  • Lupe Lupe Lupe Dog
  • picture rolled diplomats
  • art benzedrine inhaler hooray
  • nemesis wrestling women
  • time travel in eye
  • i need quotes jay
  • insect artist
  • call me back virgin
  • translucent car mould
  • braces ‘one short leg’ girl
  • always new think logo

.…aaaand, my 2012 favourite:

  • Art Using Buckets

I’m off to use my buckets to empty the bronze beater of a fine wee batch of 9 hour abaca. Thank you each so much for visiting.  I wish us all a happy, healthy, rewarding and utterly creative 2013! Hmmm…let’s call it the Year Of Major Breakthroughs, yes?


Yammering Seagulls (out with the old)


My favorite spot-view from the upstairs studio for snow-watching… 

A small amount of snow came to Chicago. Winter!  And today, some lovely sun as well, though it’s making the snow leave. Our family holiday changed again and took place on Wednesday, not Friday, and it was lovely. There has been (as always) Too Much To Eat.  For instance, college friend (and potter) Michelle might have sent some preserved Citron all the way from Columbia (SC).


…and the detail of the back porch tortured but beloved evergreen and little grey house bird sanctuary.

In between festivities, I’ve been working away at cleaning dogbane in small increments. I never did harvest any this past fall; the stems I’m stripping are left over from what I collected way back in February. Resting all that time seems to make the (dry) bark removal a tad easier. I’m fascinated with this native fiber. Next fall, I’ll try an adaptation of Lillian Bell’s processing method, but for now, I plan to usher in 2013 with a batch of winter dogbane and a couple of other fibers. I’m beginning a period of simply, freely experimenting, with no expectations or end goals: just me, the studios and all that they have to offer. (And Paul has volunteered to cook our dinner!)

I am so looking forward to 2013. 2012 was absolutely excellent and exciting in many ways, but just a tad too eventful. Or, I’m glad I did everything (but medically-related stuff), but wish it had all been more evenly paced. Looking back, one thing I haven’t written much about is that my second Saturn return ended this year, finally: now I supposedly am able to become a crone, an elder.


Something else I haven’t written much about: back in the spring, I let go of something that I had been enmeshed in for over two years. Letting go was my decision alone; it was pointed out that I had the right (and reasons) to continue on, but the unmitigated negativity the situation exposed me to and its dulling drag on my energy* made me want to free myself. Doing so quickly proved to be an excellent choice. However, a specious online article was published within days of my decision. I’ve struggled, off and on, with a desire to address that article ‘for the record’ since I became aware of it.  It was / is intentionally deceptive, of course: a personal narrative (likely published as a favor) rather than a remotely accurate report, and a prime example of the rancorous energy I dealt with for far too long; something like it was to be expected. So, other than finally acknowledging that yes, I am aware of the article (so please: don’t send any more links!), I choose to continue to rise above it, and to trust that people (at least anyone I would want to interact with) are perceptive enough to form their own opinions.


One stem’s worth of fiber and an accurate self-portrait.

And that is that: old, sad business out! I continue to look forward in so many ways: the immidiate future begins in the studio with the new year, in a spirit of unbridled experimentation, of – yes, I’ll say it – play. Which seems to me to be the ideal path to take towards acquiring the wisdom of elder-hood.


*today’s blog title is a phrase I was repeatedly -and literally!- accused of writing during that situation; time to finally do so.

Happy Merry Peace and Warmth



Final backyard kozo tally: 1 pound, 1.5 ounces / 496 grams.

I do love the holiday lull, the quietened inbox that happily brings good wishes from friends, and also the company of nearby friends and friends who are temporarily in town.  I spent the weekend with two lovely folks in the studio, reminding me a bit of a pre-holiday baking session, but with fiber and the beautiful bronze beater instead of cookies and an oven: very nice. I wish for many more such days.


Festive (and huge) flax bubbles.


Apparently I still feel a seasonal need to scrape bark: cleaned dogbane in progress.

Paul and I jumbled communications, he referring to Christmas as the attending celebration, and me as December 25th. I just discovered today that we’re home tomorrow; not at the family gathering which will take place on Friday.  That’s an unexpected gift: no horrendous holiday traffic and a day to do whatever we please.  So, we ran out and got festive but stress-free food fixings, and it’ll be a warm, relaxed day tomorrow: cooking things up in the kitchen and in the studio. And we still have the family to look forward to as well. That’s merry!


I wish you all the words in today’s blog title, whatever and however you celebrate! (And I wish some of you were here to share this lovely peaceful brand of merriment.)

Moving Towards Light


This is how I chose to spend part of the day before yet another alleged end of the world (and also a much-touted, named winter storm which only appeared in Chicago as wind and a light dusting of snow); apparently it was important to me to go out with an entire harvest of cleaned kozo.  I also hung some of the ears in a temporary spot, where I can contemplate them before the next few are altered and installed, at least one (but hopefully three) sometime soon, after the holidays.


A few ripples from Miami are beginning to reach my inbox, some bringing odd but interesting possibilities, things I have never even considered. (And a nice, if surface-y online response). Much more importantly, officially declaring a six-month hiatus from Scrambling After Things is already proving to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made: peace has come creeping in, and is spreading its warmth and light, all magnified on this sunny winter solstice day.  I wish you all the most wonderful holiday season you can imagine!


 Chicago’s Solstice sky.

Quite Quiet

…and quite content with that, though not at all about the sad state of the outside world, particularly in light of the recent shootings. Children. Teachers. There are no words, or rather, there are far too many words, and never enough actual dialogue, never enough change.

On the personal front, I’m now deeply into re-thinking Just About Everything; beginning to formulate a new paradigm. The world may not change, but we can, individually. Hence: some silence. Which may continue for awhile.


In the realm of trivial blogthings: I decided to clean, dry and weigh the kozo. Scraping has been accomplished in little spare-time bits; one more session (today or tomorrow) will finish it.  Cleaning is tedious, but is teaching me things about growing and harvesting the next batch. During our yard sale, I sold most of the extra paper-slitting knives I kept for years for my classes, but saved two of these shoe knives. One of them is now a dedicated scraper; it works great for quickly lopping off the nodes left by tiny branches and for leaving most of the green bark. If I were going for the traditional clean white inner bark, I would need something slightly sharper.


There’s still a wee bit of lingering end-of-year paperwork, though most is now done and out. After last week’s series of sunny, relatively mild days, my gardens and outdoor work spaces are more cleaned-up and ready for winter than they’ve ever been …but I also wonder: will there be a winter this year? (No, not because of the Mayan calendar, but climate change).


Judging from the parent Morgan kozo, I expected the bark to stay green when dried and some of it has; the rest has dried to an almost-black, and then there are some pieces with tonal variation between the two. Interesting.

Into Quietly


ZIA is currently at Aqua Art Miami with Anne Hughes and John Vlahakis.

Ahh. Now, I’m tying up the ends of 2012: paperwork for some summer classes, writing a few final reports and recommendations, and beginning some web site updates (after one entire day doing Absolutely Nothing. Nothing! I wasn’t sick, I read, drank lots of tea, kept the hearing aids off and stayed away from the computer. It was bliss).

I’ve decided to initiate an idea that began to insert itself into my consciousness last July: I’m thinking I’ll try to stay home for six months. If I do travel, I’d like it to be for personal pleasure and enrichment (such as a couple of get-togethers with artist friends that are currently under discussion). Of course, if some too-tempting opportunity pops up, I reserve the right to change the parameters, but I am now, officially, not pursuing anything within that time frame (even as I begin to schedule previous 2013 commitments). It feels right, right now, and freeing.





Saturday, I zipped up to Ragdale just as the annual holiday party began, and snagged the last on-site parking space.  I didn’t have time to visit the original ear installation; since the party was overlapped by the opening at ZIA, I only had about 40 minutes.  On the drive up, I had resigned myself to foregoing a tarot reading this year, but as soon as she saw me, poet & reader Josie hauled me in to her reading room (and it was a good one).  Quick chats with many friends, then back in the car to ZIA.


I arrived a wee bit late and missed one friend (who left a lovely note), but the first 30 minutes or so that I was in attendance were relatively quiet, with time for a few snaps (though I didn’t shoot the whole show by any means, and will return to document it).  I loved Anne Hughes’ installation!  The entire space looked wonderful, and I was particularly taken by her installation of Re:Morse, including the way it was lit, highlighting the translucency of the pieces.




(I talked about that with another artist, how allowing someone else to interpret your work is a risk, but one that can teach you new things, give you fresh eyes. I would probably have gone vertical in this space, but this looks so good!) Only one work sold (well, as I was repeatedly told: so far), but it was a good one.  The rest of the evening was spent talking talking talking; a lively and interesting crowd passed through, and it was a great time. I liked meeting Jonathan Ricci, who is very funny, and several of the big group of friends and family who came in from New Jersey to support him.


ZIA has also featured a nice interview with good questions by Shannon Gallagher (which took place last summer) on their blog.


Sunday, I cooked our big old holiday dinner and we had our unique brand of 3-person celebration; Monday evening, after long talks, more celebration, leftovers and goodbyes, the Bro left for home. Yesterday, I finally got my hearing aids repaired and serviced; they’d been jury-rigged with duct tape since my visit to the Smiths ten days before. (Whew.)


Tomorrow, the final show of the year opens at Aqua Art Miami; I’ll be at home, but Anne is there working hard. If you’re attending the monster Miami gathering of art fairs, please stop in to ZIA’s space!

Gifts and Outcomes


This is what I ended up with from my kozo tree, a gift from the Morgan 3 years ago. I can tell by the volume that I’ve got over a pound; how much over, I don’t know, unless I dry all of it and weigh it, which may not happen; I am eager to use it.


Next comes the finicky process of removing only the dark red bark, leaving the green, because I am odd like that and love the green bark, though it is difficult to retain after cooking and dries to a strangely tinted hue of neither green nor brown. That will begin on Monday when Bro heads back home; Sunday is our big non-holiday Holiday Dinner. (By popular vote, I am cooking a giant pot of kickass but healthy chipotle adobo chili; did the shopping for that yesterday).


These are a new gift, two lovely small moulds and deckles that had been donated to Evanston Print years ago.  Many thanks to Eileen and Vanessa! That brings me up to 10 same-size teaching moulds and deckles, and a smaller-than-what-I-already-have one, which I’ll make a permanent deckle box for.


Eco dye!  I brought this faded and discolored old fine linen handkerchief to Velma from our yart-sale remains. I thought she’d like to transform it with the eco-magic she performs regularly.  Instead, she had me create a bundle, tied up with onion skins (red and yellow), late dandelions, pieces of tin can lid and other plants, added in two strips of Arches cover as well, and packed them all into a jar filled with vinegar and water.


The Arches paper; its patterns seem more crisp, but that’s due to the fact that the linen is finely woven, translucent and gauze-like, which makes the patterns appear less distinct.  After an e-mail from Velma, advising that the short-fibered cotton paper might deteriorate, I removed the top strip on Monday.  I’d forgotten that the bottom strip was wrapped up inside the linen, but it was fine when I unwrapped it yesterday. Intriguing!  There may possibly be more bundles in my sunny window in future.

Today’s gifts are a trip to Ragdale, to briefly attend the holiday party and check out the weathered ear to see if I will repair or replace it, and say hi to two friends in residence, and then off to ZIA for the (3.5 hour!) opening reception; can’t wait to see Anne’s installation of the work!  Who knows what the outcome from those two gifts will be?

craig ricci front 2