I Am Enough, Thinking Big

I’m calling her I Am Enough.   

Today I went into my studio unsure of what to work on.  I was thinking I should make more potholders to insure some money coming in next week.  But before breakfast I picked up the book Ninth Street Women, Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler:  Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art, that Jon bought me yesterday.

I can’t wait to start reading it.

I’m familiar with the art of these women, but have read little about their work and it’s influence on painting.  I was looking at the photos (I always go to the pictures first) and in one Helen Frankenthaler is standing in front of one of her paintings.  She’s really small compared to the canvas which is hanging from what looks like the ceiling of a warehouse.  The painting has two shapes on it, one taking up much of the canvas the other small and bleeding off the canvas.

I was awed by the photo.  That’s thinking I big, I thought.

It reminded me of one time when I was in art school and I had cut out a bunch of shapes I was working with in my painting class. The shapes were about half my size,  and I was using the wall in the painting classroom  as my canvas to hang them on.  I was up on a ladder when my painting teacher walked in.

I just expected him to tell me that I couldn’t use the wall or to be careful on the ladder or not to get paint on the wall.  But instead, with a smile on his face, he said,” It feel good to work big doesn’t it?”

I never forgot his encouragement or how good it actually felt to have all that space to myself even if just for a little while.

So when I walked into my studio this morning, and saw my goddess, hands on hips, staring straight at me, I said to myself “Think big Maria”.

Big isn’t just about size, and “thinking big” is a state of mind.

Always lingering in the back of my mind when I make a fabric painting is the thought that no one will buy it.  That I’ll have done all the work and put all the time into it and then,  when my health insurance  comes due, I won’t have the money to pay it.

That’s the essence of small thinking.

I’m calling my goddess I Am Enough.  A phrase I’ve used in my work in the past, but is once again relevant to me.  She is standing by herself, hands on hips, determined and sure of herself.

I’m almost done with making her.  Today I worked on her skirt, cutting some of the stars in half from a part of the same quilt she is stitched on, to define and decorate it.  I still have to sew down the pansy chain on her pubic triangle, festive and fecund as it is.

The wall in my studio isn’t close to the size of the wall that was in my painting class.  But my I Am Enough goddess is big in attitude and meaning,  if not in size.

Long Shadow Sheep, Thinking Of Wool

Suzy and her long shadow

Soon I’ll get an email from Deb at the Vermont Fiber Mill letting me know my wool is ready.

It’s a big and special batch this time.  I dyed more wool than usual, for the first time will have barber pole wool (a twist of natural gray and white) and I’ll have some natural wool too which I think works nice combined with the dyed colors.  I kept Suzy’s wool natural for Wendy who lost her wool in one of the California Wildfires last year and I’ll have a small batch of Zelda’s wool, some of it already spoken for.

Because there was so much wool and I got a lot of it dyed, it cost more than usual.  But my wool has been selling well so I’m feeling pretty confident it will be a good investment.

Then in October, we’ll shear the sheep and do it all over again.

Kim and her long shadow

Bigger Than The Parts

I had such a hard time getting started in my studio this morning.  I knew I should be making more potholders for my Etsy Shop, but it just wasn’t working.

So I cleaned up. I put all the fabric I left on my worktable on Friday away and swept the floor.  Then I meditated and did some yoga.

It took about an hour before I found the dragons.

They came from a wraparound skirt I bought years ago.  I’ve used other parts of the skirt  for other pieces that I’ve made.   I had these two pieces of the skirt, with dragons on them,  left and they seemed to want to be together.

As if they were guarding something.

When I found the dark purple velvet with the red stripe though it, I knew it was a beginning of a new quilt.

Alchemy I kept thinking to myself as I sewed the fabric together.  I’m creating something bigger than the parts.

After I took this picture, I figured out what will happen next on the quilt, but didn’t have a chance to sew it together.

I’ll get to it tomorrow.

Grazing The Back Pasture, Thinking Of Chloe

I took the sheep into the back pasture to graze this afternoon.  I haven’t been back there in a week or so.  Because it’s been raining so much there’s plenty of grass for the sheep and donkeys in the side pastures.

Seeing the way the wildflowers are growing in the in back pasture made me think of Chloe.

That’s another reason there’s plenty of grass this year.  Chloe ate a lot.

A few days ago a friend asked me if I ever missed Chloe.

I told her I did.  Chloe has such a big personality, she’s hard not to miss.   She filled a very special place in my heart.  And when she left, that space inside of me remained intact.

I feel more of a whole person having lived with Chloe for those few years.  I have no doubt she healed something inside of me.  Being able to take good care of an animal that big, including knowing when it was time to let her go and finding her a good home, gave me a sense of confidence I’ve never felt before.

And now, whenever I go to the hardware store in town and see Donna, I hear stories about Chloe.  How she walked right through the portable electrified fence.  How she gives pony rides to Donna and Treasure’s children and grandchildren.  How she loves the other horses at her new home.  And I when Donna tells me these stories, I can see in her face, and hear in her voice how much she loves Chloe’s big spirit.

The back pasture has a wild almost abandoned feel to it now.   I wade through the flowers,  Yarrow, Bergamot, Wild Oregano, Bedstraw,  all kinds of Clover, and  so many more  I can’t identify, the insects a constant hum.

It’s hard to believe that one pony could make such a big difference.

 

 

“The Daylight Of Conscious Thinking” What’s with the Red Boot?

Detail from the Wedding Ring Quilt
Detail from the Wedding Ring Quilt

“…I’m finding it fascinating what you are doing with this. But for the life of me, I don’t understand the big red boot (Cinderella’s shoe)…how did this idea come to you, and in red??…”

Sandy  left this comment on my blog and I told her I was just thinking about the same thing myself.  And Jon’s  blog post Portraits of Creativity. Writing Class. Portraits of the Soul  is one of the things that got me thinking about it.   In it Jon writes “unconscious forces announce themselves through words, they reveal the nature of our existence.”   This applies not just to words but to any form of self expression such as the images that I use.

I don’t plan what I’m going to do when I begin working on a piece like Wedding Ring Quilt.  What I do is hang the quilt and see what comes to me.  The image of a boot was the first thing I saw.  I had no idea why or what it meant, but I trusted it.   First I filled it in with pink and orange fabric.  But when I looked at it, it wasn’t right.  Right for what?  I still had no idea, I just knew it was the wrong color.  So I made it the “right” color.  And red boots have shown up in a lot of my work.  They’re part of my visual vocabulary.   I think the idea is a combination of Dorothy’s red shoes, my  own red shoes and the red boots that one of the women (I don’t remember her name) wears in one of the stories in Alice Hoffman’s Blackbird House.  They’re partly about defying the norm. 

But the question of  where did the idea come from is just what Jon is writing about.  Why did I see the boot, why did I think of paper dolls and want to incorporate that idea into the piece.  They came from  inside my unconscious.  And to keep this unconscious flow going,while I’m working on the piece I don’t want to think of it too much.  I don’t want my conscious mind forcing it into a direction it’s own direction.   When I look at the piece it’s going to tell me what it’s about.  I’m not going to dictate that to it.

So when Jon writes “unconscious forces announce themselves through words, they reveal the nature of our existence.”  This is exactly what is happening.  This piece is telling me about myself.  Once I bring the images into the physical world I can look at them and delve deeper into understanding their meaning.   And it’s not always easy to do this.  Sometimes what comes up is disturbing, not something that’s easy for me to admit about myself.  But I know understanding and dealing with these things is the only way to grow and move on.  And I don’t want to live in the dark anymore.

And when it works, I’m not just talking to myself.  What my unconscious has released and what I’ve brought  into the light, has the potential to connect to a hidden part in someone else.  So when I read a Mary Olive poem and cry, but don’t understand why I’m crying, that ‘s  just what’s happened.  And if I think about it, if I can figure it out, I bring that unconscious part of myself into the light.  And something about me is revealed.  And I know myself a little bit better.

These pieces that I make are not linear narratives.  They’re circular stories that connect and bounce off each other.  It turns out that this Wedding Ring Quilt, which is traditionally about the union of a woman and a man, in my hands has changed it’s meaning.  And I’m still not completely sure where it’s going, but since I started working on it I’ve been trying to break down the pattern of those intertwined rings.  And as much of my work is about, it speaks of women standing on their own and having a voice.   Cinderella can cover a lot more ground in a pair of red boots than she can in a pair of glass slippers.

Jon wrote “Only that which can be submitted to the magic of words can be brought to the daylight of conscious thinking Word or images, music, dance, mathematics,  whatever your medium.  It’s our voice and the way we connect with each other on a deeper level.  And get to know our true selves.

Poodle Thinking

Poodle Dreams 1

Poodle Dreams 2

I always wanted a dog.   When I was a kid, my Auntie Vee got a poodle.  He was small and brown and his name was Pepe.  It wouldn’t have been my choice for a dog, but at that point, Pepe  was as close as I came to having my own dog.  When I walked past my aunt’s house on the way home from school and Pepe was  in the yard I would lean over the cyclone fence and pet him.  He would follow me from one end of the fence to the other, then watch me as I walked away towards home.  When Auntie Vee took him to the Vet she always asked me to come with her.  The Vet made her nervous, so I would sit in the front seat with Pepe on my lap and hold him when he go his shots.

I kinda forgot about Pepe, until about a year ago I started to think that I’d like to have a Standard Poodle.  I’m not sure why, I think it has something to do with them being big and soft.  And the few Standard Poodles I’ve known were friendly, and smart and gentle (as well as big and soft).  I can’t really picture a poodle on the farm, but they herding dogs. Although watching a poodle herd seems like it would be like watching a sheep herd sheep.

Anyway, when I first opened up Laura Israel’s box of fabric and found all those poodle appliques, I didn’t think much of it.  But when I sorted through them and saw how many there really  were, I became curious.  Was this a sign?  Did Laura have a thing for poodles too?  I emailed Lindsay, who sent me the fabric on behalf of her friend Michael, Laura’s son.  Neither of them knew why Laura had so many poodle appliques, she was into Siamese Cats if anything.

I’m not planning on getting another dog anytime soon, so maybe the appliques are  omens, or maybe they are just what all my poodle thinking has conjured up.  Like Pepe, not exactly what I had in mind, but good enough for now.

Poodle Dreams is sold.

 

Fear and Money, Not Getting Small

 

 

Detail from my How To Keep Your Husband Quilt.  For sale in my Etsy Shop.

A few weeks ago I wrote about “thinking big“, not in terms of size but as a state of mind.   I wrote about not getting caught up in the things of life  that can make me a “small” person.

When I began making my “How To Keep Your Husband” quilt I was thinking big.  I didn’t think of it that way at the time, I just had an idea that I thought was a really good one and acted on it.  Unlike some of the other “big” pieces of art I’ve made, this one got its hooks in me and wouldn’t let go till it was finished.

Usually I work on a big piece a little at a time, working on smaller pieces in between.  Often these big pieces need the space and I need space in my decision-making.   And that process also works out practically, because while I’m working on the big piece, I’m also making money on the smaller pieces.

Because I dedicated two full weeks to my “How To Keep Your Husband” quilt, and haven’t sold it as quickly as I usually do, my bank account has gotten unusually low.

This is not a plea for money or for someone to buy my quilt.  That’s not why I’m writing this.

I’m writing it  because it’s the truth about a part of my life that I rarely show on my blog.  I’m writing it because it helps me to sort out the truth from my anxiety.   Because doubt, no matter where it occurs in our lives, is universal, something most humans feel from time to time and it’s too easy to lose faith.

Like so many other people, when it comes to income,  I live week to week.  I’m lucky to have a loving and supportive partner, so I don’t  have to worry about being homeless or hungry.  But my income is an important part of the our income.

This is the life I chose.

It’s not one where I get a regular paycheck or benefits.  But I do get to make the choices about how to spend my time and what I create.  That’s part of the trade-off and especially at times like this, when I get anxious about money, it’s that reality that helps keep me going.

This isn’t a lament or complaint, I don’t believe anyone owes me a living and I’m grateful for my life.  The fear is an old one, a fear I’ve always had that I can’t take care of myself.   But It’s actually  my taking responsibility for my life and decisions that gives me the determination I need to keep going.

I believe in my How To Keep Your Husband quilt.   Whether it sell in 3 days, 2 weeks or not at all, I’m  glad I made it.  My art is my voice, expressing what I’m thinking and feeling is not a luxury anymore for me, but a necessity.

And each time I get scared like this, scared about not having enough money, scared that I can’t take care of myself, it’s a chance to pull myself back.  It’s a chance to recommit myself to my art, to my life’s purpose.  I get to remember what’s really important to me and to choose not let my myself get small.

And then I get to go into my studio and make something new.

 

 

 

 

Rest Well Izzy

Izzy

Much the way Zelda was sitting in the pole barn, as if waiting for us, the morning we euthanized her, Izzy was laying down in the barn this morning.

The other sheep were with her, but I was easily able to move them out of the barn without disturbing Izzy, who stood up, but wasn’t interested in following them.

Jon had his rifle and I closed the gates leaving the two of them alone.

I put hay in the feeders and as I filled up the water buckets for both the sheep and chickens I heard the shots and in moments, Izzy was dead.

I sat with my hand on her for a few minutes as her body quietly spasmed.  I was a little surprised at how much I cried.  Maybe it was because I didn’t have as much time to prepare for her death as I did for Zelda’s.  I’m not sure why, but  Izzy’s death touched a sadness deep inside of me.

Jon had already called our neighbor Jack who said he could come by after work and take Izzy’s body to the field behind his house. The ground is already frozen so digging a grave isn’t an option.  Jack did the same thing for us when our sheep Deb died.  This time of year, especially, the coyotes will be quick to find her.

Izzy is a big sheep and even with both me and Jon dragging her from inside the pole barn to the gate, where it will be easier for Jack to get her on his truck, it was hard work.  I covered her with a canvas tarp but wasn’t ready to go back to the house.

I headed out to the back pasture, thinking I’d go for a walk in the woods, but then I heard Socks’ baa and when I turned around I saw that the sheep had left the hay they were eating and were following me.

Like a good shepherd, I guided them to the small patch of grass on the hillside where the sun had melted most of the snow.  Fate circled the sheep joyously and when I squatted down  Asher and Issachar came over to me.  Asher leaned against my back as he grazed and Issachar put his face to mine.

“Well” I said to them,  “It looks like you came at just the right time.”

Izzy with Liam in the background

Izzy was the first Romeny I adopted, when Donna, who worked at the hardware store in town, offered the four sheep to me a few years ago.  We eventually decided to take the other three because Izzy was such a friendly and easy-going sheep and she had beautiful wool.

Jon called them the “Gang of Four” back then because they always stuck together. But over the years they all just became a part of the flock and when Jon and Izzy were in the pole barn together before he euthanized her, it was my Border Leicester, Socks who stayed outside the barn till I moved her to join the other sheep at the hay feeder.

For the past six months or so, Izzy has spent more time by herself than with the other sheep.  A very unnatural way for a sheep to live.  If she were in the wild, she would have died long ago, prey to some preditor.

I am grateful we were able to give her a quick and easy death and that her body will return to nature.

Studio Space

My studio this evening

I think I finished designing my quilt today.  I’ll look at it again on Monday to be sure.

I had to move Zelda, my Doily woman out of the way to work on the quilt.  I took a break from working on her to make the quilt, and she’s not pinned down, so I can only move her by sliding her around the floor.

I made a space for her next to the dog crate and surrounded her with a couple of boxes so the dogs and I didn’t accidentally step on her.  My studio is normally big enough for me my fabric and my work, but today I could have used a little more space.

I was thinking that working a piece like Zelda is like reading a really good, but long non-fiction book and making a quilt is like reading a novel.

Detail of my quilt with Carol Conklin’s batik print, River Sunrise.   You can see more of Carol’s art here.

Sheep Fleece, Roving, Yarn

Suzy’s roving

“Jon’s biggest worry is that he’ll die and leave me with a bunch of animals to take care of”, I told Suzy. “Mine is that I’ll have too much wool.”

Suzy and I have only talked on the phone a few times.  Mostly we text each other.  But I needed someone to talk to who knows about wool so after she texted me a video of the mohair fleece from one of her goats this afternoon we got on the phone.

Suzy (who my sheep Suzy is named after) is a spinner and a knitter.  She’s sold many shawls, hats and fingerless mittens at the Bedlam Farm Open houses, some of them made with my wool.

We talked for a while about the different ways to process and sell wool.

A couple of weeks ago I met a felter at the Adirondack  Fiber Festival who was interested in Rosemary’s fleece.  This is the easiest way and least expensive way to sell wool.  It’s how Liz our shearer sells most of her wool.

The other way, of course, is just what I’ve been doing.  Making my wool into yarn.  My yarn sold really quickly this year.  I only have three skeins still available in my Etsy Shop.  The dyed wool sells best but it’s also more expensive to process.

Then there’s roving. (see the photo above)

Roving is used by spinners and felters.  It’s the wool cleaned and strung into long ropes that can then be hand-spun into yarn or made into anything from a scarf to a sculpture by felters.  It’s less expensive than yarn to process, but the last time I had roving made it didn’t sell well.

Suzy sent me the photo above of a friend’s roving that she just bought, dyed in three different colors, periwinkle, purple and chartreuse.  When I saw it I thought that if I had people on my blog who were spinners or felters, I’d have no problem selling dyed roving.

I know I have people on my blog who want my wool, but I don’t know how many spinners and felters are out there.  That’s when Suzy told me to ask my blog.

And of course she’s right.

So I’m asking.

Liz is coming on Sunday to shear our sheep.  So if anyone out there is interested in a whole fleece email me here at [email protected] with any me questions or thoughts.  I have Romneys, Border Leicester, Border Leicester/Cheviot and Karakul sheep.   I still don’t know how to price it yet, but there’s time to figure that all out.

And if there are any spinners or felters who would be interested in dyed roving, you can also email me here.  I haven’t chosen any colors yet, but will also begin figuring that out.

“Now I’m rethinking the fiber I was working on this afternoon all because of our conversation” Suzy texted me later in the day.

Our conversation got us both thinking creatively.  And it all started with Liz offering me two new sheep.

Full Moon Fiber Art