March-ing onward

Apologies for the 3 week disappearance, though I can’t imagine that anyone, anywhere waits with bated breath for these posts. I just needed a dose of hibernation and radio silence. Nothing untoward happened except for something midway between a mild bout of flu and a bad cold last week.  Nothing particularly great happened either, except a lovely, highly effective, out-of-pocket visit to a fantastic massage therapist who really, really helped the hip and back problems, and released a few other knots I didn’t even know I had. Slow progress was made on many different types of rather dull work, I now have nine shows scheduled for 2015, and out in the world a nice person I don’t know curated a page of my work on a social media platform I don’t participate in (thank you.)


The only thing I seem to want to write about from the past three weeks is pup training. Since February 16, Chance and I have been Out On The Sidewalk (!) several times on short walks, with varying degrees of success, but no trauma and only a wee bit of drama. (The first thing that frightened him was ideal: a snowman. I was able to coax him over to sniff; it’s made from something he loves.) We’re taking it slowly, and have gotten up to about ⅔ of the block before SUVs or people or dogs go by and the big scary world starts to rattle him. Some days we just watch the world from the porch, only technically outdoors, where he gets big rewards for ignoring troubling things on cue. On too-cold or crap weather days we work on leash finesse indoors, and other things. We conquered one huge fear using the paper studio: Hose Horror. Last summer, the mere presence of the hose made him hysterical. I had to shut him indoors to water the garden. Now he lies down, intently but quietly watching while I spray water into buckets in front of him: papermaker’s pup etiquette. Chance loves his daily school session as long as we change it up, which keeps it good for me, too. On days when one of us feels impatient or cranky or has the flu, we do a review. Sometimes, like yesterday, Chance chooses the lesson. He repeatedly shied away from the harness, which is unusual. Instead he sat quietly, maintaining eye contact, asking “Please, can we do anything else?” I got out his travel crate and he instantly snapped to attention, tail wagging. He was delighted to show me how calm he could be lying inside while I zipped parts closed, moved it and myself around. He repeatedly entered and exited on cue, then voluntarily stayed inside for long periods while I wrote this. There were helicopters going by overhead and I think he welcomed an extra-safe enclosure, his collapsible cave. Works for me, and he was quite proud of himself, too.

AnneshowI’m about to enter a studio marathon phase and to start seeds for the spring garden, and tomorrow and all through the weekend, Chicago will actually have temperatures above freezing, hooray! All in good time to close out the end-of-winter-hibernation with a ritual hair-shearing. I’m looking forward to Anne Hughes’ Saturday opening at ZIA with Matthew Schofield, and especially Aimee’s excellent return to Chicago (and my alma mater) next week!  I’m really happy for Shawn Sheehy, whose trade version of the amazing Welcome to the Neighborwood is now available. Check out the video!

SAIC lecture

Cool, quiet.


I suspected this might happen, which is why this particular ear stayed home.  But now that I see it in progress (it’s happening very slowly and the whole thing is still quite sturdy), I am intrigued by it; thinking of new interiors, of deliberately encouraging (and loving the connotations of) “ear-splitting”…

Now, after four months of relative chaos, we are in the thick of our situation, which is characterized by making day-to-day life only merely unpredictable. My solution for that – which so far is working – is to only schedule a few days ahead, and to focus on adaptable work. Right now, that consists of a lot of backed-up office and house maintenance (yawn), and some slightly more interesting work on the paper studio itself. But also spending a good bit of time out with the dogs daily, walking Lupe, training and ball throwing sessions for Chance (who loves to retrieve, relentlessly and most enthusiastically) in newly cool, crisp fall temperatures (actually, a wee bit too uncharacteristically cool: it’s like late October, which seems so odd with the trees still green and tomatoes, peppers and herbs still ripening). It’s good, and the quiet afternoon work needs little mental attention and allows for some pondering time.


I had a quiet but good birthday on the 9th; all the texts and e-mails and FB greetings were lovely, as was that day’s balmy beautiful weather, before the cool came.  I spent most of the day outdoors, made some good short-term decisions, and celebrated those and the new age with a late-night dram or two, and then we confidently dove into what we had to together the next day.


Out in the world, a nice mention from the hometown from a few shows ago. Another show came back in. One piece returned in a newly-built exo-crate, for which I thank the CVA Denver gallery staff. I’m taking its labeling as a directive.


crawling out


I was quite wrong, thinking that I was finished with the flu after two days. That was just the end of the violent phase. It lingered on in a most uncomfortable form, and, alas, has been passed to Paul. During it, more snow and cold temperatures came. The snow’s gone now, and its arrival made a good thing out of the fact that I had not yet cleared the gardens, but still: an insult.  We missed Tuesday’s pup class, neither of us were well enough. Chance returned to the vet yesterday. The rest of his stitches came out and he is no longer drugged. Fortunately I do actually seem to be getting better; someone has to direct his considerable energy as it returns, and also to begin to deal with with the total wreck the house has become with both humans ill. That will be me.


I did some rather belated reading about aging during it all. Yes, I am hitting the time when the flu strikes harder (not that I really needed to confirm what I vividly experienced, I just wasn’t capable of much else). I guess that is why people retire to warm climates.  I won’t do that, but what I will try is a flu shot for the first time next fall.  It doesn’t prevent contracting it, but supposedly buffers: you get a milder case.  Paul had one, and that’s what ’s happened for him.  Today he has no voice, and my ears are somewhat worse from the assault on my sinuses.  We’re lucky that we have many years of alternative communication under our belts. (Gardens, very soon, please. And studio. And spring: true, headed-towards-summer, no-going-back spring?)


(Let’s try this again, and get it right, shall we?)

Oh, important SUMMER CLASS addendum / update: the Morgan class is now full; a waiting list is being created, but there are other 3D courses available, including Julie McLaughlin’s Big Ass Paper Kimono class, and Tom Balbo’s pulp casting extravaganza. There was one single space left open at Women’s Studio Workshop last time I checked, and I’m afraid that’s it for me this summer. Thanks for your understanding and interest!

Laboring and Not


“Home for a month” isn’t that in its peaceful entirety this time around: there is much to do in September.  It’s more of a nice flying studio visit. I found myself in a curious internal struggle through the holiday weekend that initially wouldn’t let me let go and relax, which was all my body seemed to want to do.  So, though I made myself work, I did make sure it was pleasant work that involved moving and stretching. The weather was perfect, adding a bit of calming balm, till finally the work itself became relaxing. I cleared the gardens, staking up overgrown plants (those I plan to harvest, restricting ones I want to reseed to the area I want that to happen in, or simply keeping pathways open for a partner with wonky eyesight) and of course weeding. I beat some fiber, unpacked and moved back in, taking time to set up the studios with new things I want to think about for Ragdale and beyond. That’s essential to the life / work process I’m continually rediscovering and honing: visually capturing my own attention. That’s breathing in (home).

alight A gift from the wonderful Susan Kelly at the Morgan, this beautiful indigo-dyed scarf of translucent, ethereal Big Ass paper catches the light and wafts gently in the soft, open-window September air, below an early harvest of seasonal book beginnings.


I did also get some web work done, getting the (I believe, sane) fall schedule up, here and in the sidebar. And more towards a self-commitment. Each September I’m more grateful to be my own taskmaster now; that’s breathing out. I salute everyone who is beginning a school year in whatever capacity you inhabit (and I breathe this soft September air in again, deeply).


Fresh considerations from Haystack, Seastone Papers, Penland and the Morgan mix with things always worth remembering.


A beautiful thought from Margaret Mahan and Drew Mattot that arrived just as the summer began.

Gearing Down to Accelerate


A harvest begins.

It’s been a GREAT week at home: lots and lots done but all at a very sane, enjoyable pace.  The only fly in the ointment has been (and actually still is) technology.  Our entire system was rewired yesterday, and we’ve had 3 different SSIDs in four days; now I need to make the also-new new printer-scanner switch to the upgrades as well.  That proved frustrating, so it can jolly well wait till I return for a longer period.


Summer studio! This is also where the scroll saw work was done, on an ancient but perfectly serviceable wee machine that Paul picked up at a local garage sale.

The majority of my time has been spent much, much more pleasurably making phase two ear-fungi, trying out new structural enhancement possibilities. I was experimenting with options, and all of them worked beautifully (and two came from the garden). I did some work nailing down and fleshing out details for fall events (here’s one I’m very happy about), and decided to take on One Thing Too Many, which will make for the kind of time-crowding I swore to avoid this year. But it’s just one week in October, and the idea is irresistible.


 A good haul of stems, yes?

There also was a bit of a watershed, a coming together of ideas that began with rich conversations at Haystack. I worked in the gardens a lot. They have never been better, more enjoyable, or more productive.  This week was the optimum time for a fine harvest of tall lily stems. I decided to use use their fiber for the irresistible thing I took on, and with that decision, I realized: the garden is not a separate, singular activity nor a guilty pleasure. Now that it’s established, it’s providing harvests at several times during the summer and fall. Maintaining it and harvesting the results is part of my work now. That’s a sweet realization.


Waiting to move indoors in the evening, after the pack walks.

So is the stretching and body awareness the garden work provides; the sciatica’s not gone, but it is much improved.  Today, after cooking up the stems, I have a day of total lazy indulgence planned with a friend. Tomorrow is packing and then off to Cleveland for a week (and a full class), better than restored and rested. Those things, yes, but with something more: a contented, calm excitement, something I had forgotten was possible.  It is, and I am there; I really am back.



The lull before the road


Somewhere in the sea of arriving mortarboards is our new engineer, with a nice job waiting for him, too.

The past week has been a time of mostly non-art activity, save for a whole lot of e-mail and one (mostly) pleasant exhibition opening. There’s been family time, and being very proud at our nephew’s graduation, time with friends, and too much time within health care system red tape. Getting my hearing checked and hearing aids tweaked before I return to a public summer is essential, but even though I’m never not going to be deaf, that still requires a referral from primary care, which in turn led to the barrage of yearly tests that come with being Of A Certain Age With Health Coverage: I hadn’t had them for about three years, which earned me a few exasperatedly polite lectures. Three years seems reasonable to me so I complied with almost all, even though I feel fine (and even though I’m fully aware that if I were unable to produce the magic card, no one would care. I have an uninsured friend in her 70s who has never had a single one of these tests, ever.) Just one more remains, and on Monday I can finally visit the audiologist for the thing I needed in the first place.


It was very hard to hear in the gallery; but that’s one of the things the show is about.

I will be on the road in one week. Now is prep time, checking off the list of tasks and making the list of things to be packed, all of which seems much more extensive after a long home stay. I’m actually having some mixed emotions, and a disinclination towards blogging / facebooking / web site updates or really, working at any public presence.(Hopefully, that will change next week.) I’ve liked being home, very much; I’ve enjoyed deliberately slowing down, and I have utterly valued this time of turning my full attention to Life rather than Career for once.  That is an outlook I definitely want to maintain during my travels, my time teaching, and from now on. I hope I’m ready; I’m very glad to be beginning with a residency, where I can use part of my time to form good holistic habits to carry with me through the summer.


I do know that I’ll be very glad for one of the things awaiting me: new, open ocean views.

Celebrating Everyday

In the past weeks, I’ve knocked out quite a number of un-blog-worthy tasks, and am feeling good / relieved.  One of the (important) six-months at home projects I haven’t written about was to address my health.  It’s been a long, sometimes discouraging struggle, but I am just now starting to feel good physically, as well.  And, interspersed with flooding rains, we’ve even had a couple of sunny, springlike days.  Those, I’ve dedicated to the gardens, clearing out, making way for growth.


A  fraction of winter-retted tritoma, reserved for the beater.  It’s tough, abundant fiber, the last to die off, not till midwinter.  If it makes good paper, I have a farm started from a single pack of seeds.

There are deadlines coming up, of course, but pleasant ones; and, quickly, my summer journeys. Right now I’m acutely aware that I’m in the final few weeks of this lovely home hiatus, and am thinking about the simple, quiet rituals I will miss.

One is the daily walk with Lupe dog, something I happily take charge of when I’m here.  She’s a sweet beastie who has never forgotten her training; as a city dog, she must be leashed (which is sad) and on the streets, she trots easily and gently at heel, politely sits whenever I stop.  But she owns the alleys; there, thanks to a  long retractable leash that gives her at least some freedom, she leads the way.


Chicago has 1900 miles of alleys. Most round here are, well: boring, unremarkable extensions of gridded, rigidly fenced-in midwestern city life.


We prefer these types.


And any evidence of individualism, like bamboo to hide the ubiquitous chain link,


or little inventions (this wheel makes someone’s back gate glide),


and places where the vegetation wins


or adapts.

Some days, we walk as the Pack: Paul, Lupe, me. Whenever I’m enjoying some lovely mountain, coast or prairie path, I always wish they were sharing it with me, and Lupe running free.




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!