My Painting on the Dining Room Wall

December 21st, 2014
The dining room wall

My dining room wall painting so far.

It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything quite like this.  The painting I started on our dining room wall is like one of my drawings, but very different too. It’s completely intuitive.  I worked on it by staring at the wall until  I saw something, a color, or shape or image on the wall.  Then  I would paint or draw it, then stop and stare and wait until the next thing came along.

My plan to use the fabric stamps didn’t work, the wall was too hard and uneven.

So I used paint, permanent marker and pencil.  I’m not done yet and I find the process obsessive.    I stopped painting because I was tired and the next idea didn’t come, my head was fuzzy.

I probably won’t get to work on it till after Christmas.  But I keep wanting to go back and look at it, to see what’s next.  It’s drawing me in.

We’re going to Boston tomorrow for a few days.  Visiting some museums.  I might bring an idea back with me for my wall painting. Although I’m already thinking of cave paintings and that “dog face”, on the left, that came from the shape of a plaster repair.  How they would repeat an image to show movement.

But it’s late, and I still have to pack…..

A Hen’s Piece of Earth

December 19th, 2014

hen finding dirt

When Jon moved his car this morning, the hens were on it.  The only patch of earth not covered in snow.  They spent some time, scratching around it, looking for something good to eat.  I doubt they found anything alive, but I bet it felt good to them just to have some mud under their feet.

The Painting That Is The Dining Room Wall

December 19th, 2014
The Dining Room Wall

The Dining Room Wall

The first time I thought about painting on a wall was after seeing the movie Carrington,  about painter Dora Carrington.  She painted murals on the walls of her house. I was moved by the paintings and the freedom she had to be able to paint whatever she wanted on the walls of her house. Because even though most of us have that freedom, we wouldn’t even consider doing such a thing.

So last weekend, when Jon suggested I do a painting on one of the walls of the dining room, I felt two things.  One, nervous and excited at the thought of it and two, that I  really, really married the right person.

When it comes to fixing up houses I still have a bit of the old voices running through my head.  The ones that say there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.  The right way being historically correct and perfect.  The wrong way being everything else. But with Jon’s suggestion of doing a painting on the wall, those old voices  vanished Poof ! and they were gone. Instead of hearing the voices,  I was seeing the ruined wall paintings of Pompeii, all the  crumbling frescos  I’ve seen in every Art History book.  And pretty soon, I knew what I wanted to do.  Not all of it, it’s not like I have it planned out, but some things were very clear to me and I trust the rest will come as easily.

So this is what I know.  First I want to clean the rest of the pieces of wallpaper off, get down to the different colors of paint and  patches of raw plaster.   I’ll wipe the wall down with warm water to clean it.  That will also get rid of the excess Durabond, that I used to fill the nail holes. Now the nail holes are bright white, and I’ll use them as points of reference.  Maybe painting them all one color and seeing where that takes me.

I have some wooden fabric stamps that I got at an antique shop a few months ago.  They have flower designs on them.   I don’t know if they’ll work on the wall, but I want to try and use them. I like the idea of having a repetitive recognizable image, reminiscent of a stencil, but not a stencil.

I find the wall already really interesting to look at.  That crack coming from the “cloud” in the upper left corner, exploding into a patch of off-white.  And those random splotches that look almost black in the photo but are really a khaki green.  To me they look beautiful next to the blue green of the old painted plaster.

I think to the right, just above the “explosion” I want to draw a tree, probably in pencil. Maybe with a shiny gloss finish over it.    I can see the tree  breaking out of a rectangular shape.  Inside the rectangle the branches are bare, out side they have leaves.

And then, I’m not sure.  I’m planning on  using  the paints I have.  A couple, lime green and aqua blue, that I got when I bought the fabric stamps and then the colors we have left over from painting the house when we first moved in.  And some yellow that we’re using to paint the other walls in the dining room.  If I find I need another color when I start painting, then I’ll get it.

That’s what I have to start with, and that’s mostly how I’m going to do this painting.  The same way I always work.  Taking what I have and adding on to it. Like making  a quilt where I start with one piece of fabric and one thing leads to another.  I hope to get started on Sunday.  I’ve never done anything quite like this before, but the nervousness is all gone.  I just can’t wait to get at it.

Patti Smith At The Vatican, Dealing with The Walker

December 18th, 2014

I feel a little bit like Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas, but then I had a blanket and sucked my thumb until I was ten, so I guess it makes sense.  Tonight I put Patti Smith between me and The Walker and came to understand Christmas in a new way.    I must have heard the song Oh Holy Night sung a million times in my life, but I’ve never heard it sung like this before.  Patti Smith makes it personal.  She’s warding off The Walker, singing the truth about darkness and hope.

Deb, Just Like Her Ma

December 18th, 2014


As you can see, Deb takes after her Ma. She too is a messy eater.    She always talking too.  Not the strange “burps” that Ma used to make, but her won distinctively loud baa.

Potholders For Sale

December 18th, 2014



Peace Potholder (Sold)

I still have a few happy Winter Light potholder for sale.  They are $15 each + $5 shipping for 1-2 $7 shipping for 3 or more.  If you see one you like just let me know at

fish tank

Fish tank Potholder (Sold)

Angel Fish

Angel Fish Potholder

Dog in a fishtank

Deep Sea Dog Potholder (Sold)

Neno’s Tablecloth Quilt

December 17th, 2014
Neno's Tablecloth Quilt

Neno’s Tablecloth Quilt

It all started with Neno’s aprons.   A couple of years ago Tess emailed me and asked if I would make a quilt from her grandmother’s (aka Neno) aprons.    Tess spoke so lovingly of her Neno, I couldn’t refuse.  I called it Neno’s Apron Quilt.   Then Tess decided to drive from her home in Baltimore,with her family and pick up the quilt at the Adirondack Museum in upstate NY where I was doing a demonstration one Saturday.  And that’s how Jon and I (Jon came with me) met Tess.  I don’t know how long she stayed talking with us, but it seemed like hours.  And I mean that in the best way.  We just connected.  Jon encouraged her to start a blog (he told her she had a lot of opinions and would be a great blogger).  Soon we were getting to know and love Tess even more through her blog If You Don’t Mind Me Asking  (Turns out Tess is a great writer).

So when Tess asked me to make a quilt from Neno’s Violet Table cloth for her sister Mary’s 50th Birthday, I was glad to do it.   Yeah, it may have taken me a year to do it and Mary is almost 51, but that’s one of the great things about Tess (and Mary apparently), she trusts the creative process.  So she was willing to wait.  Now the quilt is all done except for me stitching the name on it and signing it.  Happy Birthday Mary!

The back of Neno's Tablecloth Quilt

The back of Neno’s Tablecloth Quilt

Neno's Apron Quilt, hanging in my Studio Barn at Old Bedlam Farm

Neno’s Apron Quilt, hanging in my Studio Barn at Old Bedlam Farm


The Darkness of Christmas

December 16th, 2014


Winter at Bedlam Farm

Winter at Bedlam Farm

Last week, Mandy and Athena and I were having lunch at the Round House Cafe and Mandy started telling us about this book  she read when her kids were kids.  It was a young adult book and the part she was telling us  about was this person (but not a real person, more like a spirit person or some other kind of mythical being) called The Walker.  The Walker would walk around outside during the winter months and spread a cloud of gloom where ever he went.

In my mind I saw this stooped, hooded being, walking through the snow in the cold night.  And at that moment I finally understood what Christmas was about.   The Walker is Christmas embodied. And how we celebrate Christmas is the antidote to The Walker.

I know Christmas is a religious holiday for many people, but it never was for me.  When I was a kid we celebrated Christmas like a lot of people.  It was completely over the top.  It went on for months.  When I got married and left home, I carried on the family tradition.   At the height of my Christmas Madness I was even making my own wrapping paper (red and green Christmas Tree potato prints on brown kraft paper).   In reality, I was probably just creatively starved and all that pent up creativity went wild at Christmas time.

Then when I was in my early  forties,I realized that the holiday had become an empty ritual. Or maybe it always was and I was just seeing it clearly for the first time.   So I broke tradition and got rid of all my holiday decorations.  The Spode dishes and Christmas Villages with tiny stone walls and mirrors for ceramic people to ice skate on, the homemade Manger, the candles and lights.  Sacrilege where I come from, I was afraid to let anyone know.  I was paring down to see if I could get to the heart of the holiday.  The first year I didn’t have a Christmas tree I felt a little freer.

But still, even without the decorations, like in The Grinch, Christmas  came every year.  There must be something beyond the ritual, I thought, which the more I participated in the  lonelier and emptier I felt.  I really wished it would just go away. I stopped going to my mother’s on Christmas Eve (more sacrilege) and Jon and I would take trips instead, or stay home, with the animals, on the farm.  That was better, but I was still haunted by the echos of the past and trying to figure out what Christmas was really all about.

The only thing I could figure was that during Christmas, this dark and cold time of the year, we humans need light, we need  hope.    So we create a festival to get us through to get us through to the longer, warmer days.   And that made sense to me.  But it was still missing something.  Maybe the Christmas story, the myth, the magic.  And then, here comes Mandy with her story of The Walker.

The Walker, similar to the Grim Reaper, but not absolute.  The Walker, who spreads gloom. And our response is good cheer, candles and lights.  Gathering, singing and eating to ward off the darkness.  And it works, The Walker goes away, for a little while anyway.   Naming the darkness that accompanies the festivals of  Christmas makes that darkness less mysterious, less scary. It makes it known and so easier to deal with.  I don’t have to run from it anymore, or try to cover over it with excess.  It’s just The Walker.  There’s no avoiding him, you just learn to deal with him.  He comes every year, no matter what, just like Christmas.

Tess’ Violet Tablecloth Quilt

December 15th, 2014

tess' table cloth quilt

I started making the quilt from the tablecloth last week.  It’s been just about a year since I got the tablecloth and a letter in the mail from Tess.  I had agreed to make her grandmother’s tablecloth, with violets on it, into a quilt.  My plan was to have it done by January 2014.  That obviously didn’t happen, but  Tess seems fine with the timeline.  It’s one of the last few commissions I took.

So last week, I laid the tablecloth out on my floor and pulled the purple and yellow fabrics from my shelves and tossed them on the floor.  Then I cut up the tablecloth.  It was bigger than I thought it would be and I was wondering how I would use it all.  So many options, really with a piece of fabric that size, so to narrow it down, I started cutting.  Squares and strips then started with a square.

Violets, like lavender, like pansies.  They can be old lady flowers,delicate, soft and lady-like.  But to me they have an interior strength.  Hardy and prolific they will dominate a lawn or garden if you let them. And this is the part of the violet I wanted to come through in this quilt.  Because I have come to know Tess pretty well and I imagine the rest of the women in her family are like her, and like the violet.  Tough enough to be able to be soft when she needs to be.

So this is how it went….

tess' table cloth quilt 2I added some strong lines and colors, pulling it back and forth between lavender calico, deep purples and yellows….

tess' table cloth quilt 3I finished it up by bringing it back to the violet tablecloth around the edges.  Then I made the backing, centering on the piece of tablecloth that didn’t fit on the front.

The Violet Table Cloth was Tess’ grandmother’s favorite.  I like to think she’d be happy with what I’m doing  with it.

A Ghost in the Dining Room?

December 14th, 2014
Jon's photo of me scraping wallpaper in the dining room.

Jon’s photo of me scraping wallpaper in the dining room.

See it?  That oval spot of light just behind me, almost in the center of the photo?  It’s a reflection right?  Maybe from the window or off the wall paper where it’s so shiny.

But it’s also unusual enough to catch my eye.  I’ve seen literally thousands of Jon’s photos and when there’s a sunspot or some kind of reflection, it has a particular look to it, usually round and often yellowish or colored like an oil slick.

So I asked Jon what he thought about it.  He said it was probably a refection, that the focus on his camera could be thrown off by certain lights.  Then he added, “But we are stirring up an old house.”

Of course, there’s no way for me to prove that this spot is some sort of spirit presence in our house (aka ghost) but there’s something about the way it looks and feels that makes me think it’s more than an reflection.

I’ve spent a lot of time in old buildings, “stirring things up” as Jon said.  And I’ve felt and seen many things I can’t explain.  And I’ve come to trust my feeling about them too.   So I’d say something shifted when we started pulling off the wallpaper or maybe something was released.   What do you think?