Toad Needs A Name

August 28th, 2014


I almost stepped on him when I went out to close up the chicken coop a few nights ago.  Then, this morning, he’s in the watering can on the back porch.  Toad lives in the garden but lately he’s been coming up on the porch.  He’s obviously too big for the chickens and cats to lunch on and is making himself at home.

Now that Jon and I are realizing toad is here to stay, as a permanent resident at Bedlam Farm, he or she, (I can’t tell the difference when it comes to toads)  will need a name.  Jon was thinking George, but I’m partial to Eleanor.   Actually this is one of those things that we could use some help with.  So if you have a good name for our new toad, let us know.  (  click here for a picture of him in his natural habitat)

Dance With Me

August 27th, 2014
Self portrait in lions mouth

Self portrait in lions mouth, NYC.  Next time I’m in New York, I’m going to roar back.

There are two flights of gray  wooden stairs leading up to Athena’s Music Sanctuary.  They are old and creaky.  The building itself is a Victorian era factory, now  mostly inhabited by artists and healers and  other self-employed locals.  Other than the stairs, it’s usually very quiet.  But today I was greeted by the sound of Athena’s music when I stepped through the front door.  I followed it through the hallways, louder with each step.  She told me she turned the volume down before I got there, but I her smile said she was happy to have her music heard throughout the building.  So was I.

It’s Wednesday, the day Mandy and Athena and I meet for lunch and meditating or dancing before that.  Mandy had a last-minute appointment and Athena banged up her knee in a bicycle accident so I assumed we wouldn’t be dancing.  But Athena had another idea.  “I’ll play piano” she said “and you can dance”.    A year ago I couldn’t have done it.  A part of me wanted to tell her not to watch me, but I didn’t.  I actually just loved the idea too much.

So Athena played and I danced.  Maybe moved is a better way to put it.   Her music was rich and full of emotion, her vocals not words, but sounds.  I could feel what she was playing and my body responded.  Sometimes I felt like I was swimming under water, fluid, the space around me tangible with sound.  A dance partner that  molded to my movements.  Giving up my feelings of self-consciousness, knowing I was in a safe place, I danced until Athena stopped playing.   And I knew something special happened in that old factory building in my small Upstate NY town.    A new level of trust and creativity sprouted between friends.  And then we talked about spreading the joy and  imagined a room full of people dancing around Athena’s music.  Not professional dancers, but people who want to move their bodies in a form of self-expression. People who want to toss away their self-consciousness in a safe and healing environment.  People who want to dance.

Portrait of Jon at the Washington County Fair

August 26th, 2014
Jon at the Washington County Fair

Jon at the Washington County Fair

I’ve never done it myself, but I’ve been at museums and seen people with easels and paint coping a painting.  This is what you do, in one way or another, when you admire an artist, you copy their work and eventually (hopefully)  it beings to morph into something unique to you.

That’s what I’m doing when I take those reflected and shadow self portraits.  I’m trying to copy Vivian Maier’s work.   And technically I know I’ll never get anywhere near Maier’s photographs.   But, luckily,  I’m not really interested in the technical part, I’m interested in the content.  Which makes it all much easier and much more fun.  I can just tap that button on my iphone and not have to worry about the rest.

I was actually trying to get a self portrait reflected in a puddle at the Washington County Fair when I took this picture of Jon.    A perfect portrait really, of him and his camera.  And I thought there was something noble in his posture, almost sculptural, like one of those bronzes you see in the town square.  There’s something painterly about it too in the soft edges and blurred features.   It turned out better than what I was trying to do.  Actually, I can’t even imagine intentionally trying to get a picture like this.  But then that’s usually how it works for me, the more I let go the better it is.



Linen Napkin Notebook: A Dream Or A Thought

August 26th, 2014

horse-lampI just got done making this and I’m not sure what to say about it.  I think it’s the closest I’ve come to translating one of my drawings onto fabric with my sewing machine. It’s interesting because my drawings came from my Streaming Pieces and now, this is a result of my drawings.

Like my drawings it seems to illustrate a moment or thought or dream. Something I don’t have words for.  Unlike my drawings the “page” isn’t filled with images, yet it still feels finished to me.

So there it is, something new.  I’ll sleep on it, maybe even dream it, and see how I feel about it tomorrow.



Finding My Way Back To Me

August 25th, 2014


Painting  the last wall of my studio.

Painting the last wall of my studio.

In my mind I see Alice tumbling head over heals into a giant, dark and endless, can of paint.  That’s how I felt yesterday, tumbling, tumbling,  even as I balanced barefoot on the seatless chair, my ladder, to scrape the paint from the eave of my studio.  The flakes falling on my face and in my hair, the familiar sweet taste in my mouth. There was no joy in painting that protective coat of sunny yellow on the  final wall of my studio.  Just the drive to get it done, to have it done.

And with each dip of the paint brush, I fell deeper into the dark hole as I was assaulted by memories  of when I spent a big chunk of my life painting.  Painting whole houses inside and out.  Painting by default, not because I liked doing it, but because it was something I could do. I call it my “other life” my “last life” the one where I gave myself away.  The one where I wasn’t known and let other people define me.

And each memory brought me back further, deeper.   Back through time, I relived the deterioration of my first marriage, and the beginning of that same marriage when I couldn’t stand up for myself.  And back further to a time when I saw the marriage as a way  to get away from the home I grew up in.   The place where my feeling of worthlessness, shame and aloneness, where the anxiety and panic that ruled my life for so long, began.

And I painted on, determined to get it done, determined not to have to finish it another day, knowing I might not be able to get myself to do it again.  And with each brush stroke, falling deeper and deeper into the darkness.

I supposed I didn’t want to acknowledge what was happening to me until the painting was finished.   Because I wanted to get it done and because I was trying to avoid what I was feeling.  But I see now that  painting was a trigger.  And I think a part of me knew it would be, a part of me needed to go to that dark place to feel the pain and release it.  Which is just what happened.

When I was done, I closed the paint can, wrapped my brush in a plastic bag and headed for the Adirondack chairs, that secret garden in our back yard.  And I started tapping, a technique I learned years ago, that has always worked for me.  And I suddenly saw  everything in a yellow haze.  I looked at  the sheep who were grazing in front of me and the flowers that surrounded me and felt as if I had just been cured of an illness.  And that a dark and shadowy past was behind me and I was in my new life.

As I shook out my hands, Jon came out of the house.  He somehow knew, he said, he could feel  something was happening.  And I told him about the darkness and I as I cried, I felt the pain, old deep  pain, without words,  rising up and I cried harder.  That was when Red sat next to me (he followed Jon out of the house as he does) and I placed my hand on the back of his neck.  And I could feel the pain and emotion draining through my arm and hand as if something in him was drawing it out of me.  And I worried about giving him to much of it, even though I knew he would shake it off, as animals do.

I’ve always seen my studio as a healing place, but never in this way.  Yellow is the sun and moon and color of personal power.  I think I went into the darkness inside of me yesterday and dug up some old and damaged ideas about myself and let them go.  And with their release came a new awareness of my own strength and a stronger sense of self.   Which were always inside of me, I just couldn’t see them.  It’s taking a long time, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be done with it, but  little by little I’m seeing the truth and finding my way back to me.




August 24th, 2014





Saving Simon Open House

August 22nd, 2014

saving Simon

Between Kim’s felted purses and Jon wonderful  Kirkus review  for his next book SAVING SIMON
How a Rescue Donkey Taught Me the Meaning of Compassion (to conveniently be released one week before the October Open House) my  insides are starting to hum and my brain is in overdrive.  There’s so much to plan and so much to do.  Jon and I decided it will be the Saving Simon Open House. Which means, along with all the other artists work,  there will be some Simon potholders for sale.  Not sure what they’ll all look like yet, but I know one will be Simon with the Hen on his back as well as a couple of Saving Simon Potholders.  Okay enough of this, I’m going to get back work.

The Artist Inside

August 21st, 2014
Pillowcase Quilt

Pillowcase Quilt

I had just enough time this morning to piece together my Pillowcase Quilt before going to work at the Cambridge Co-op.  It was special because it’s my first time back volunteering since Jon was in the hospital.  More proof that he’s getting better every day.

The other special part was seeing Kim (she works at the Co-op part time)  and telling her about all the wonderful things everyone is saying about her felted purses.  That kind of encouragement can be so important to someone when they’re starting out like she is.  And now she knows it’s not just me being nice to her.

Encouraging other artists to make and show their work has been important to me since I started doing my own work regularly and taking it serious.  I’m not sure that it’s something that would have happened if I didn’t have Jon’s encouragement.  He helped me to see that it was possible and that creativity is an important part of life not to be taken lightly.  I know how being able to do my work has changed my life.  And that by  denying the artist inside of me I was denying my true self and could never be truly fulfilled or happy.

So I’m always thrill to pass along what Jon gave to me.  Someone saying, Yes, you can do this thing. It is important, it’s your voice, it’s who you are. 

Pillowcase Quilt

August 20th, 2014

pillowcase quiltI still have to sew some of these pieces together, but this is what I’ve come up with for Kay’s Pillowcase Quilt.  It’s starting to look like a fancy dessert to me. Creamy and delicate.  Oh no, now want something sweet to eat. This quilt is making me hungry!

Kim McMillan’s Felted Purses

August 20th, 2014
Kim McMillan

Kim McMillan’s first felted purse

A few weeks ago, my friend Kim, (who sews my potholders and scarves) said she has something to show me.  Then she pulled out this gorgeous hand made felted purse.  I’ve known Kim for a few of years and she’s always working on something, from quilts to elaborately decorated cakes.  But she always told me that she had to have a pattern to work from.  That she wasn’t interested in making up her own designs.

Until now.  Until Kim’s felted purses.  When Kim first showed me the purse, and I gushed over it, she asked me to be honest and said I could tell her if I didn’t like it.  And I knew just how she felt.  (no really, I know you said you love it and you can’t stop talking about it, but you’re not just saying that are you?)

But it really doesn’t matter what I said or even what Kim said or how she really felt or how she thought I might really feel,  because a week later she made another one. (so all of that other stuff doesn’t really matter)   This time she was inspired by an antique button.  And when she told me of the creative process that went into making the purse, I knew Kim had finally found the artist in herself.  To be inspired by a one thing, one idea  and build a whole piece around it, is how creating works.  After all these years of following other people’s patterns, Kim began following and trusting her own intuition.   And aren’t we all luckier for it.

The other part that makes Kim’s purses so special is her experience and professional craftsmanship. Each purse has a carefully chosen lining to match the exterior and one of them even has interior pockets.

So my next question to Kim was if she would sell them at the Open House in October and then, selfishly,  would  she was still  sew my potholders and scarves for me.  Thankfully, she answered yes to both of them and is now being inspired (by button) to start her next purse. Rumor has it that this one might even have a strap on it.   Kim still has to figure out the pricing and all those other fun details, but she plans on having five done for the Bedlam Farm Open House. (It’s going to be a good one!)

Here’s some photos of Kim’s second and third purse.  And I’ll post more as she makes them.

By Kim McMillan

By Kim McMillan

This one of the lady and the moon was inspired by the antique cameo button.

By Kim McMillan

By Kim McMillan

And those candy green buttons got her to make these flowers.   Below is a photo of  the inside of this purse (with pockets!)…

inside Kim Mc Millan