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.

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.

 

 

 

 

Monthly Donations, Parrot Pillow and Being Honest About Money

Working on my Parrot Pillow

I was working on my latest pillow, this one with silk embroidered parrots,  when the idea came to me.

When I first decided to take donations on my blog a few people asked me if I would have a way for them to make monthly payments.  At the time I was just getting used to the idea of asking to be paid for the work I do on my blog and was a bit overwhelmed by the idea of monthly donations.

So I put it off, thinking someday…..

Now it seems like someday has come.  In the past week I had three people ask me if there was a way to make monthly donations to my blog.  This time I emailed Chris at Mannix Marketing, my web designer,  to see if it was possible.

It took him a day longer than usual to get back to me, but when he did, he said they could set up monthly payments through PayPal.

He gave me a price  and I only hesitated for a moment, wondering if it would be worth it, then reminded myself to think big, not small and sent back an email giving him the go ahead.

The idea that came to me as I was working on my Parrot Pillow, was that if I could make and sell four more pillows, that would pay for the new monthly payment option on my blog.

I was planning on making more of the pillows anyway, but somehow, thinking of the next four in this way lifted my spirits.  Maybe because it created a specific goal.  Not that I don’t have a specific goal every month to pay my bills, but this was up and above the usual.

Lately Jon’s been talking about managing money creatively.  How it makes him feel more confident about money when he thinks of it that way.

I’m not sure if my plan really makes a difference or not, since I’d be making and hopefully selling the pillows anyway.  But it does make me feel like I have a solution, a way of paying  that extra this month.

I never wrote much about the financial side of being an artist before.  But I’m finding its freeing to be able to.  Freeing to be honest about it.

And since I’m being honest, I’ve actually been hiding it by not writing about it.  Hiding it because it made me too anxious to admit.  As if it meant my business wasn’t successful and I was a failure.  But, of course, hiding anything only make it worse.  Makes me believe  as if I have a real reason to hide it.

As much as I don’t want money to be the focus of my life, art or business, it is a reality and a constant balancing act.  One that, if I open myself up to, can be as creative as any other part of my life.

 

 

 

 

My Best Vegetable Garden So Far

I still have to chop down the bolted lettuce, bitter as it is, I think the donkeys and sheep might like it.  Or not.  There’s plenty of clover growing in the pastures.

It was Sue Silverstein from the Bishop Maginn school that got me thinking I should check the garden for zucchini.   Last Wednesday, when Jon and I visited the school, Sue told me how she and some of the students, just that morning, brought over a bushel of  the vegetables they grew to the Food Pantry.

When she mentioned they had zucchini already, I imagined all the giant zucchini hiding under the big leaves in my own garden.

My Zucchini plants are still kind of small, but when I looked, there was the first Zucchini of the season.  And not too big either, I got it in time.

But the beans were plenty.

We had some for dinner and Jon is planning on putting more in a Spatzle lunch he’s making on Monday when our friend Jackie comes to visit.  (Julz, my Bellydancing teacher makes the Spatzle.   She and her husband stated their business after Julz spent 7 years perfecting her gluten-free Spatzle recipe.)

I harvested our sweet peas last week and I see there are more beginning to grow.  Some of the beets are popping out of the ground, but they’re still small, so I think I’ll leave them in the ground a little longer, but  I’m open to suggestions about that.

There are small green tomatoes on the two tall plants and my friend Kitty told me not to expect the Brussel Sprouts till the fall.   Once again, the cucumbers didn’t seem to take.  I don’t know why I keep trying with them, but the thought of fresh cucumbers always gives me hope every spring.

I think this is my best vegetable garden ever.   And by best I mean that I’m growing and  we’re eating more vegetable than ever before.

Maybe I am learning something after four years of practice.

 

Crane Pillow II

Crane Pillow

I did finish making the other Crane Pillow yesterday.  It too is already sold.

I don’t know if I’ll get to make another or even start another one today.  I do have some potholders to finish up and I’d like to get them in my Etsy Shop.

But I do have more of the silk embroideries and lots of that silky (pain in the butt) fabric to work with,  so I’m sure to make more next week.

I also have an idea rattling around inside of me, that came to me as I was driving to the Farmers Markets a few weeks ago for my first Bellydancing Performance.  It’s a another goddess fabric painting, in the same family as my I Am Enough fabric painting.

This morning I’m shipping out my How to Keep Your Husband quilt, pillows, Jon’s photos,  and paintings that Blue, who goes to the Bishop Maginn School, made and Jon sold on his blog.  Blue sells almost as much work as she can make.  We still have a few of her paintings that Jon will be posting for sale soon, and she keeps making more.

 

 

Making Bellydancing Pantaloons For The Farmers Market

The pink gauze fabric drying in the moonlight

Standing on tip toes, I pulled the clothes line towards me then pinned the pink gauze on it.   Even though there was half a waxing moon, it was still unusually dark out.

I was hoping to make the pantaloons, but forgot I had to pre shrink the fabric.  Jon and I  had just  gotten back from a trip to Joann Fabric in Glens Falls where I got the pink gauze and the silk flowers (which I’ll wear in my hair).

In less than two weeks, I’ll be Bellydancing at the Bennington Farmers Market with the Bennington Beledi Bellydancers.  The same women that I practice with and learn from every week.

I’ve been listening to the music we’ll be dancing to, practicing my Zilling every day, and thinking about and preparing my costume.  Under my two skirts I’ll be wearing pantaloons. Big billowy pants that the audience really only sees when you spin around.  But they’re as important a part of the costume as everything else.

Usually I’m fine with buying  or borrowing what I need, but I had this impulse to make my own pantaloons.

I found a pattern online and they look easy enough to make.  So last night I bought three yards of pink gauze fabric (my friend and fellow bellydancer, Kat, said gauze would be the coolest since it will most like  be hot at the Farmers Market dancing with all those clothes on).

Even though I really wanted to make the pantaloons last night, I liked the idea of letting them dry overnight in the moon light.  Soaking in her light.

Back in my studio I worked on my coin bra.  Jon bought that for me,  but in our class and many other ATS classes, the coin bra is something unique to each person. (Kathleen, one of my teachers,  told me that one woman she knew used all her cats old rabies tags on her coin bra)  So I’m removing some of the brass coins the bra came with and replacing them with pieces metal that have meaning for me.

I’m not nervous about the idea of dancing at the Farmers Market, not yet anyway.

Maybe because I’m  too busy thinking about getting ready for it.  I’m sure I will be nervous on that Saturday morning, though I’m going to try to turn any fear I’m feeling into excitement.   I realized a while ago that  my body reacts the same to both, so if I can choose what I’m feeling, I’d rather it be excitement than fear.

I’m planning on making the pantaloons today, I’ll post a picture of them, no matter how they turn out, when I do.

And if you’re in the Bennington, Vermont area,  on Saturday, June 22nd between 10am and 1pm, come see us dance at the Bennington Farmers Market. 

Full Moon Fiber Art