I wasn’t planning on cleaning my studio when I got into it this morning. And I didn’t, not right away. First I made designed a few potholders.
But the mess quickly got to me. My work table with loaded with fabric and I still had piles of fabric in boxes and baskets on my floor, that people had sent me and needed to be put away.
So after lunch, I started folding fabric and once I started, I couldn’t get myself to stop. By reorganizing and putting a few things in a box for Goodwill, I was able to make more space and fit all my “new” fabric on shelves.
I even cleaned up my desk, finding a better way to use the little box with nine compartments in it to hold the things I use most. And I separated my bobbins so I don’t accidentally use them in the wrong sewing machine.
I didn’t think of it as I was cleaning up, but I may have been inspired by Emily who made a video on Instagram yesterday about how she keeps her collage materials organized. You can see it here.
Tomorrow I hope to finish up the Horse Potholders I started last week. I made them over a few different days, and I don’t think I put a photo of them up on my blog. So here they are…
I’ll put them up for sale in my Etsy Shop tomorrow afternoon.
Below are the potholders I designed today. They’re so different than the horses, more fussy I’d say. But then they are cats.
I was a bit thrown off this week since I didn’t spend as much time in my studio as I usually do. Yesterday as I was blogging about the Virgin Mary at Bishop Maginn, I looked at the clock and saw it was time for me to leave for Bellydancing. I finished up writing but didn’t get to post a picture of the first quilt I got together that moring for the Bishop Maginn Quilt Project.
So here it is, batting and backing sewn on ready to be tacked by the kids in Sue Silverstein’s art class.
I think I’m all up to date now on what I’ve been doing. I’m looking forward to a full day in my studio tomorrow.
Brown Hen would always rather have cat food than chicken food, even if it’s corn on the cob. I have to keep an eye on her, she’s always the first one to run to the back porch to try and get some of Minnie and Flo’s food.
I did chase Brown Hen away after I took the video and let Flo finish her food. She only ate a bit more, then Brown Hen came back and finished it off.
When Sue Silverstein called Jon last night and told him that one of her students, Ploe needed a mattress, Jon said he’d come to Bishop Maginn the next day and asked me if I wanted to go with him. Sue found out that Ploe and his brother have been sleeping on their livingroom floor, when he complained of neck and back pain.
When Jon and I got there, Sue’s art room was full of kids eating their lunch, painting and drawing. “My classes are full”, Sue told me happily.
There haven’t been so many kids at Bishop Maginn in years. During the pandemic word spread of what a good school it is. How bullying isn’t tolerated and the kids, many of them refugees, are made to feel welcomed and loved. Most of the kids at Bishop Maginn who want to go to College get to.
Sue told me her first art project is for the kids is for them to draw and paint what the past year and a half, during the pandemic, has meant to them.
As I walked around the class room I saw the Virgin Mary on the counter surrounded by the kid’s ceramics and glue and paper towels. It felt so right to me, like Mary was blessing the art supplies, that I had to take a picture.
This is the Virgin Mary that would be at Bishop Maginn.
Not one cloistered in a grotto, surrounded by flowers and candles. But a Virgin Mary who is a part of it all. One who understands the importance of what is going on in Sue’s classroom. The necessity of glue, and paint, and paper towels, the tools that allow so many of the kids at Bishop Maginn to express what they’re feeling and who they are.
I grew up around images and statues of the Virgin Mary, but I never saw her the way I did today in Sue’s classroom. I think I finally understand why so many people, especially women pray to her. Not that I can explain it.
The apple trees are full this year. Especially the crab apple that hangs over the south pasture. When I let the sheep out to graze the first thing they do is run to the place where the apples fall and gobble them up.
Even our Hydrangea is affected by the apples that have been rotting in the soil since we planted it. The flowers have always been a greenish-white, this is the first year they’re turning pink.
I pulled the three-foot roll of chickenwire out of the trunk of my car and slung the tote bag with the wire cutters and fabric, cheese and apple sauce over my shoulder.
I was struck by a flash of memory, of going to another friend’s house and making art.
It was one of those conglomerate memories sparked by the sight of the wire hexagons and the phantom smell of wheat paste.
Even thirty years ago I was making trees. This one, thick and clunky compared to Kathy’s delicate life-sized paper mache party dress. Somehow she made it look as if it were made of lace.
Later, after I’d moved upstate, we’d have weekends of quilt making at her house. One time we unraveled a yellow knitted baby dress, crocheted it over two teacups and entered it in a juried art show. It was a friendship born of art and lasted until we both changed so much, there was little left between us. Something we both agreed on as we each went our own way.
I was brought back to the present when Emily called a “hello” from inside the house. She could see me walking up the path to her front door.
The house was filled with the smell of freshly baked bread. Two loaves were cooling on a cutting board on the kitchen counter.
Then I got sidetracked looking at the nursery of small succulents on the windowsill.
There were tiny clay pots with thick leaves sprouting roots and smaller leaves. Cuttings stuck in gravely soil, and “babies” recently separated from the mother plant, all on the kitchen window. In Emily’s studio, there were bigger succulents, the Orchids were in the dining room.
After that, we got to work outside on the deck, a view of the Vermont mountains through Quince and Pear trees in the yard. Emily cutting and shaping cardboard and masking tape into small vegetables and fruit. Me clipping chicken wire and molding it into the lamp I’ve drawn a hundred times.
We talked, as we worked, about the past week. All the things we usually tell each other in our Zoom Studio Chats. It felt good to be using my hands to mold the chicken wire pinching and pushing it, pulling it, and twisting the ends to hold things together.
We went back and forth over how to make the lampshade stay on my lamp. And Emily suggested I fill my lamp with aluminum foil to make it stronger and heavier so it wouldn’t fall over.
We had lunch around noon. Emily’s bread with cheese, vegetables and homemade bean dip. Brownies and strong black tea for dessert.
Then Emily mixed flour, water, and a little bit of glue in a bowl. We had already torn the paper into strips. I dipped the first piece in and without thinking ran it between my ring and middle finger squeezing the excess paste back into the bowl. It all came back to me as I smoothed the strips of paper around the chicken wire.
When I was done, there was nothing smooth about my lamp. Also, without the lampshade, it seemed to have turned into one of my dancing goddesses. But that wasn’t so unusual, my lamps often took on a female form.
Maybe it came out of Emily’s and my discussion about Bellydancing, how so many of our dance moves look like images from my Ancient Goddess Book.
Our drying sculptures, placed on parchment paper, only suggested what we had in mind for them. Emily’s peach, carrot, beet and grapes, looked like glazed crullers, good enough to eat. And my dancing lamp was so much bigger than I intended it to be.
There’s still much to be done.
First, the paper mache has to completely dry, then Emily will paint her’s with gesso and later add color and some of her college eyes that she’s known for.
I’m planning on using matte medium and fabric on my lamp and shade. Kind of painting it with fabric, the same way I’ve done in my fabric paintings.
Although it hadn’t occurred to me, Emily wasn’t surprised when my lamp turned out bigger than I’d planned. “It’s hard to make something small with chicken wire,” she said. “There’s all those big spaces.” She suggested I mold aluminum foil and cover it with masking tape if I wanted to make something smaller.
I’m still thinking about that. It hadn’t crossed my mind to use anything other than chickenwire, even when Emily told me she was using cardboard and tape. I couldn’t imagine it.
Although now, after crumpling the foil to fit inside my lamp, I can imagine shaping it into a smaller lamp. And maybe even making a little end table to put it on.
But that will have to wait till I finish my first lamp. Big and bulky as she is, I have more to learn from her.
I got the roll of batting for the Bishop Maginn quilts on Saturday. I’m looking forward to getting started on them. I don’t think they’ll take too long to sew together now that I have the big sheets for the backings.
Tomorrow I’m going to Emily’s house to make some more art together. Last time she came to my studio and we made Gelli prints. This time we’re going to be doing paper mache.
When Emily showed me some of the things she was making with paper mache, like hanging birds and pots for her succulents, it brought back good memories for me.
When I first went to art school I discovered that I liked working with chickenwire, using it as an armature to paper mache over. I found the chickenwire easy to manipulate and shape. It has just the right amount of resistance and character to keep me from being able to think I can make whatever it is I’m working on perfect. As is obvious with my fabric art, I like working with materials that have their own personality.
And for me, the smell and feel of wheat paste is an added bonus.
So I’ll begin working on the Bishop Maginn quilts on Wednesday. Tomorrow my plan is to make a paper mache lamp, just like the ones in my drawings.