Going to the Opera with Mom

August 23rd, 2015
Shadow self with Lulu

Shadow self portrait with Lulu

I didn’t expect to like the opera.  I was actually dreading the thought of sitting through two and half hours of Rigoletto.   I grew up hearing  Opera, my mother loves it and would play her records or listen to it on the radio on Saturday afternoons.   But I never really thought about it, it just was.

I went to the Metropolitan Opera for the first time when I was in my twenties.  I was open to it, wanted to like it.  And I went many more times after that, mostly with my mother.  But the last time I was there, probably about five years ago, I finally admitted to myself that I didn’t really like opera.   I listen to music with my emotions.  So it’s a totally personal experience, no matter how good the music is, if it doesn’t touch me emotionally, I’m not really interested in it.  I can appreciate that it might be good, or important in a historical sense, but it still doesn’t make me want to listen to it.

But the Opera was coming to Hubbard Hall, the theater and arts center in Cambridge and I thought my mother might like to go.   She’s 86 years old now and is horrified at the way the Met has set many of her favorite Operas in contemporary times.   The last time she saw Rigoletto on Live from the Met on TV it was set in an elevator in Las Vegas.  If you want to see a pissed off 86 year old woman, just ask her about it.   So I told her they didn’t have elaborate costumes or sets at Hubbard Hall, but I  heard the Opera was good and she was eager to go.

I was already concerned about getting drowsy during the performance but when Jon got us seats in the front row on the floor, thinking it would be easier for my mother, I started to feel a bit panicky.  But then, a miracle happened.  The performance began and it was simply amazing.   At times the singers were standing a foot away.   I could feel the vibration from their voices coursing through my body.  I could feel the emotion.  I could see and hear that the voices were actually coming from the people singing.  There’s often so much distance between a musician and the audience.  Whether it’s  physical distance or over production, even using a microphone alters the experience.  At the Hubbard Hall Opera, the singers were standing right next to us, not understanding the words made no difference at all, their beautiful voices were power and emotion.  There was also a live orchestra and the space was so intimate it was as if we the audience was part of the performance.

I was awed by this performance.  Glowing from experiencing it.  In all the years growing up listening to   the Opera, and all the performances I saw at the Met, I have never experienced anything like this.  My mother had a smile on her face for the whole two and half hours of it.  I could always appreciate my mother’s love of the Opera but for the first time I think I may have experienced it the way she does.

After I drove my mother home, I thought of how I never would have gone to the Opera that afternoon if not for her.   I was really just going because I thought she would like it.   I don’t see my mother as often as my bother and sister do and don’t get along with her the way they do.  So I thought this was something nice that we could do together.   I thought it would make me feel good to do this for her.  But what I found made me feel even better was that she did as much for me, just by being who she is and loving the Opera, as I did for her by bringing her there.

Three Elephant Quilt

August 21st, 2015

Elephant quilt

I got into my studio not sure what I wanted to do.  So I lit my candle and folded some fabric that was lying around and then I knew I wanted to try my new idea of making a quilt back.  I was looking through my shelves of fabric, unsure where to begin.  Then I thought of the elephants.  Someone gave them to me a long time ago.  It  was when I was in my studio at Old Bedlam Farm.  She asked me to use the elephant fabric to make a quilt for her mom. (I think it was her mom)  So I did.  It was called Sister Elephants.  She told me to keep the left over fabric (and had sent me a lot of other fabric too) and I’ve had it since.

This is how the back of the quilt idea really worked.  Until today I was  a bit afraid to use the elephant fabric.  It was so special and I didn’t want to waste it.  But, because when I’m making a quilt back, I feel less pressure, using the elephant fabric came easy.  (I’m not sure if this makes sense to anyone but me, if not I’ll try to explain it better)

So I laid out the elephant fabric then used the same technique that I use when I make a quilt back.  That is, I look for fabric that loosely goes with the front of the quilt.  Since there is no front of the quilt, I looked for fabric that went with the elephants.  But it had to be fabric that I’ve had for a long time.  Either because I was saving it or because I just never found a place for it in my work.  The other thing I do when I make quilt backs is use big pieces of fabric.  And whole pieces of fabric.  I don’t cut a smaller piece from a larger piece of fabric.  I use what works color wise and size wise.

I stuck to my “rules”… mostly.  Because at some point this quilt back became the quilt front.  That was unavoidable I guess.  Don’t know how to stop it from happening.  Not unless, when I make the back I like it more than the front.

Anyway, I don’t think I’m quite done with this.  Maybe a strip along the sides and I still have to sew the piece along the bottom. But I do love the way it came out so far.  And I think the process really worked.  I do wonder what will happen with the back though.  Something to look forward to on Monday.

Potholder for the Bedlam Farm Open House in October

August 20th, 2015

potholders today2

I can’t believe the Bedlam Farm Open House is only about a month an a half away.  I’m all out of potholders, so today I made a batch.  I’ll drop these off with Kim and make a batch each week for the next few weeks.  I’m planning on making some Goddess Banners too.  Not sure what else I’ll have.  For an incomplete list (there’s a few more artists that will be a part of the exhibit)  of  some of the other artists who will be there in October click here.  There’s also information about what else is going on and places to visit in the town of Cambridge while your here.

The Victorian Lady and The Goddess

August 19th, 2015
Victorian Lady and Goddesses

Victorian Lady and Goddesses

My friend Kim gave me the linen with the Victorian Lady and the little girl appliqued on it.  So beautifully made and I wondered what I would do with it.  But yesterday I had no doubt when I pulled it out of my shelf.  That little hill they’re standing on was begging for some of the ancient goddesses found in tombs.  And all the death symbols that went with them.

And then, of course, the Goddesses of life wanted to surround them.  The Goddess next to the girl is crying the sacred life-giving fluids.  This Victorian woman and her daughter have the Wild Woman in them, even it’s being held down with manners and corsets .   I don’t think they’re shocked by what they see and feel, but are in awe and wonder at the connection that they feel to the earth and the Goddess.

All the drawings and symbols came from my Language of the Goddess book.   Jon scooped me and posted a picture of this wall hanging on his blog this afternoon.  It’s sold.

Victorian lady and goddessesdetail

Pricing Art, Pricing Me

August 19th, 2015
Dancing Goddesses

Dancing Goddesses is sold

Pricing my art has always been a difficult thing for me, as it is for many artists.   Although I run my own business, I wouldn’t call myself a good business person.  Every time I tell someone how I don’t have much of any inventory, that I’m selling my work usually as quickly as make it, they tell me then it’s time to raise my prices.

And this is exactly what I’d tell someone else.  Actually I got to say just that to a friend today who has so many clients she’s doesn’t have enough time to see them all.  Common sense right, she may lose a client or two, but she can work less (actually take a lunch break) and make more money.  Easy for me to say, not so easy for me to do.

Last week I was having an email conversation with Janet who bought my Intuition Goddess Quilt.  She told me that the first piece of art she ever bought was one of my wall hangings.  When she told me she was interested in my quilt and asked the price, I had to think about it.  I had never made a quilt like that before, so I priced it the way I usually do, by what felt right to me.   ETSY has a whole system for pricing work.  I don’t remember exactly what it is, but when I heard it I remember thinking if I went by it my work would cost thousands of dollars.  Great, I thought, if I never wanted to sell anything.   It makes sense to figure out how long it takes me to make a piece, and how much the materials cost.  But that’s a literal sense of its value.  It doesn’t take into consideration everything else that goes into the work.   Everything that makes it uniquely mine.

I think of the story about the artist who is commissioned to draw a fish.  He tells the man he’ll have a painting of a fish for him in six months.  When the man comes back the artist takes out paint and paper and in five minutes paints a beautiful picture of a fish and tells the man it’s $1000.  When the man protests that it only took the artist five minutes to paint the fish why is it so expensive, the artist opens his closet and thousands of paintings of fish come tumbling out of it.  Six months of learning to paint a fish in five minutes.

So I go by feeling.   But sometimes I wonder where the feelings are coming from.  Because when ever I think about how much I should be paid, my ideas about self-worth  are right there.  And I have to admit, no matter how many pieces of art I sell, each time I put one out there, I wonder if anyone will want it.  And I think, they might want it for $75 but they won’t want it for $100.

When I finally decided on $500 as a price for my Intuition Goddess Quilt, Janet  said she was thinking the same.  She also told me her husband was worried it would be $4000.  Something to shoot for she said.  Since buying my art, Janet had changed her mind about spending money on art.  A while back she saw a painting that she really loved for $1200.  At the time, she said she’d never consider paying that much money for a painting.  But now she feels different about buying art.

So I guess I’ll keep pricing my work the way I always have, by feeling.   I have raised my prices as there’s more demand, and paid attention to what people are willing to and can pay.    And because when I really look at how much money I make and how much I put into my work it seems wrong even to me that I should get paid so little.  Which is good for me, tells me I’m feeling better about myself.   I think pricing my work is about a balance.  I don’t want to make work that doesn’t sell.  I don’t  like to keep my work around, I like when it goes out into the world and finds its home.  So it turns out that I raise my prices when it feels right to me.   And that says everything about how I’m feeling about myself and my work.  So I guess I’m feeling better.

Chloe and Me, Knowing Who We Are

August 18th, 2015
Fate, me and Chloe.  Photo by Jon

Fate, me and Chloe. (Jon’s photo)

It was about a week ago, when I realized I was emotionalizing my relationship with Chloe.   Not only was it harmful to our relationship, but it was making me feel bad about myself.  It was damaging our interactions together because I forgot that Chloe was the pony and I was the human.  And it was making me feel bad about myself because I was taking Chloe’s actions personally.

When Chloe did those things that she often does, fussing when I put the reins on her,  not wanting me to wipe bug spray on her face,  little things like that, I started to take it as a rejection.  I was trying to be strong, but working with Chloe sometimes makes me feel weak and helpless.   Then I start to lose my confidence.  I didn’t want to ride her anymore, because I felt she didn’t want to be ridden.  I began to think she didn’t like me.  So I only did with her what I thought she wanted to do.  It was gradual, but by the time I realized what was happening, I had reduced our relationship to me giving her treats and bushing her when she wouldn’t walk away from me.

I hadn’t ridden Chloe in over a week when a friend,  expressed an interest in riding her.  She was young, but a lot more experienced than me and I thought I could learn something from her.  She didn’t even get around the pasture once when Chloe made a quick stop, throwing my friend off her back.  I saw her fly over Chloe’s head and roll, on the ground.  She knew what she was doing, how to fall and if I wasn’t so horrified, I would have thought it graceful.

Thankfully, my friend wasn’t hurt, it wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last time she’s thrown.  But it made me realize that I’ve been too lax about Chloe.  I still have the idea in my head of her being a pony kids ride, something she used to do.   I couldn’t imagine Chloe purposefully throwing me or anyone else.  Another danger of personalizing her.  I don’t know Chloe well enough to believe that.  I haven’t ridden her long enough.  Everyone who I’ve ever spoken to has told me that if I ride, I will eventually, somehow, fall off my horse.   And I believe them, but, I think,  a part of me doesn’t want to believe it.

So the next day, I decided I had to change the way Chloe and me were doing things.  I also knew that I had to be serious about me knowing that Chloe is the horse and I’m the human.  She’s not rejecting me when she doesn’t do what I ask her too, she’s just being the pony that she is.

Jon and I sometimes talk about how some people have the idea that they want to be an artist or writer.  But it seems they really just like the idea of being one, they don’t really want to do the work.  I think that’s how I was thinking about Chloe.  I wanted to have a horse, to ride a horse.  But that’s not what having a horse is about anymore than being an artist is about is about sitting in cafe’s talking about art.

Me and Chloe have started over again many times in the few short months we’ve known each other. And now we’re doing it again. Or maybe it’s not really starting over, but just what it means to have a horse.  Constant learning and changing.  Now I repeat over and over to myself and Chloe….I‘m the human, you’re the pony.  This way I remember what each of us is supposed to be doing.

And I’m seeing little victories, as each day we do something meaningful together.  Even if I don’t ride her, I put the reins or saddle on her.  So I get used to doing it and won’t be a nervous when I do want to ride.  And she’ll get used to having them on too.  Today  I hosed her down, it was so hot out.  And when I reached for her ears to wash the bug bites, she let me.   When I first got her and she wouldn’t let me touch her ears, I gave up on it.  But in the past few days, I figured out how to get her to trust me, so now she actually likes to have the inside of her ears rubbed.

And this is how I see our relationship growing.  Slowly and steadily.  Not in a straight line, I know I’m bringing a lot of emotional baggage to the relationship and it’s bringing up some long buried issues for me.  Sometimes I question why I’m even doing it.  It would be so much easier to just give up.  But I don’t want to walk away from these things inside of me.  I want to deal with them.  And I don’t want to walk away from Chloe.    It amazes me to think that I can have a relationship with a creature who could easily  hurt or even kill me and chooses not to.  It makes me feel strong in a way I haven’t before in my life.  But so does the connection and trust I’ve seen and felt between people and horses.  And I want that too.

Dancing Goddess Potholders

August 17th, 2015


goddess potholder 2

I open the book and look for the goddess that speaks to me.  Then I draw my version of her with my sewing machine.

From "Language of the Goddess" by Marjia Gimbutas

From “Language of the Goddess” by Marjia Gimbutas

The symbols that surround her also come from Gimbutas’ book The Language of the Goddess.  Most of the Goddesses and symbols have to do with life-giving fluids and birth, fertility.   Before male Gods started creating life this was, naturally, the work of the Goddess.

Some of these images go back over  7000 years ago,  they were carved into and out of rocks.  The Goddesses and the symbols decorated pottery, and were made into jewelry.  Some are literal, a woman giving birth and some symbolic,chevrons symbolizing a beak which refers to water birds  and  life-giving water.

I make them mine and mix them up.  An alphabet out of order.  But it works for me.  Telling an old story in a new way.  My Goddesses are dancing.

goddess potholder



goddess potholder snake

I drew eight Dancing Goddess Potholders today.  I’ll give them to Kim to sew together and should have them back next week.  I’m selling them for  $25 each + $5 shipping for one or more.

Dancing Goddesses pot

Hope in the Flowers at Blue Star

August 16th, 2015
Mithra and Jon

Mithra and Jon in the garden

We spent more time with the humans at Blue Star Equiculture today that the horses.  After a spontaneous swim in the river we met Mithra in the Blue Star Garden he planted.

We tasted tomatoes, so many different, delicious varieties.   Mithra showed us one of the first sunflowers blooming,  most of its petals still folded in on itself, creating what looked like a hand making a peace sign.  And his greatest pride, a purple stingbean, that a 7 year old girl said tasted better than cotton candy.

Mithra is a beautiful soul who wants to change the way people farm, starting with healthy soil.   He told us he want’s to go back to Sri Lanka, where he’s from, and start a Soil Revolution.  Witnessing his passion and hearing his very practical plans, I don’t doubt that he can do it.




My Sheep Deb

August 16th, 2015


My sheep Deb is named after our friend Deb, who watches the animals when we go away.   Deb was one of Ma’s twins. Her bother Jake, was never healthy and didn’t survive long after his birth.   Our sheep Ma died sometime after that.

Deb, now over a year old is so much like Ma.  Yesterday I saw her out in the pasture  grazing by herself, something Ma often did.   And Deb’s big.  Bigger than the other lambs who are both wethers.  Deb’s father was a Cheviot and her mother a mix with some Border Leicester.   This year I can see  a touch of gray in her fleece, not the creamy white from her first shearing.  I think she has a pretty face, her features softer than the Cheviots.  She’s messy like Ma too.   Always getting brambles stuck to her face, last year her fleece was hellish to skirt, filled with all kinds of sticky seeds, even more than the other sheep.    I’ll be shearing the sheep again in October. It will be interesting to see how her yarn turns out.

Deb can be loud too, she came into the world baaing and in a way hasn’t stopped.  In the past few days, she’s taken up casing Fate when she’s herding along with Suzy and  Zelda.   But she generally has a gentle nature, much like her Ma.

Many Goddesses

August 14th, 2015


I opened my Goddess book and started stitching what I saw there with my own slant on it all.   I know I was inspire by the video All Creative Works Build on What Came Before…. Which is truly amazing and made me smile and want to dance with the goddess.

If you haven’t seen it already,  or if you want to see it again, click here.

goddesses detail 2