Monday, January 31, 2022

Joy: Skiing

I was sitting in my counselor's office a number of years ago, probably sobbing over how miserable I was and she asked me what I missed doing that I wasn't making time to do anymore. My immediate response was skiing and ska concerts. So I recommited to both of those things and it was definitely the beginning of  many lifestyle changes. The first steps towards taking better care of my mental health and happiness. 

I don't get out skiing as much as I like because of other commitments but I told myself that I could go skiing today if I got "Leaf Me Alone" finished, photographed, and submitted to the exhibit I hope it gets juried in to. I took a personal day on Saturday and worked until it was done. Today was my "oh shit it's not done" day which turned into my "Yay! I get to ski day!"  I prefer weekday mornings where there aren't that many people and no lift lines so I get more laps in than on busy days. 

I've been skiing since about 3 years old and it does make me feel young again. Mt. Holly is where I grew up skiing weekly and racing in High School. I have so many good memories of skiing with my friends and team members, singing the entire Rent soundtrack off of the chairlift with Jess and learning to ski fast by chasing boys. I turn 40 next month but I still feel fast, my leg muscles flex in ways that I don't use them otherwise and I can feel an energy in my entire body that I don't experince at any other time in my life. 

I still can't believe there was a time in my life where I didn't get out skiing.  It's such an important part of my winters and I'm thankful for every run because it brings me so much joy!


Monday, January 24, 2022

Joy: Birdfeeder in Winter

I was just interviewed last week for Textiles & Tea with the Handweaver's Guild of America. I never want to overthink any questions so I usually work off the cuff, but I felt that I didn't have a great response to "What Brings You Joy?"  My answer is (and was on the interview) everything. I have so much joy in my life right now and I'm inspired by everything around me. 

I thought that maybe I should start a regular blog post on joy. Just picking one thing or thought that's been whirling around in my head for the week. Joy is one of the emotions I hope translates into some of my work. Looking at the breadth of my work I usually dump anything that I'm attracted to into my beadwork.

So this week it's the bird feeder outside of our Livingroom window.  We refer to it as "Clark TV" because we keep it full for entertainment for the cats and Clark loves it the most. Often times I find myself watching the birds flit about on the feeder too. There's a peacefulness seeing our pair of cardinals, I particularly love their reds/oranges popping out of the branches of the burning bush they hang out in next to the feeder. 

Along with the cardinals is a slew of chickadees this winter, which have been my favorite, we also have the usual sparrows and house finches.  I get excited when we see a nuthatch or black-eyed junco too, but they are not frequent fliers to our yard.

Next to the feeder is a giant burning bush.  I love how snow falls over it's branches, creating twisting lines and giving you an interesting view of the birds that that take turns going from the bush to the feeder. I actually worked with the imagery of snow draped over branches in a doubleweave during my studies at the University of Michigan. I called that weaving Snowfall.

I hope to get back to the beaded bird feather bangles.  I have made a peacock feather (in green) a phoenix feather (like the peacock but in red/purple) and a goldfinch feather. I don't have any bird-themed larger work but bird designs do play will within the structure of my bangles.

Birds, branches with snow weighing heavy on them; these are some of the things that give me joy and peace in my day to day. I even laugh at the squirrel that has figured out how to hang upside down from the edge of the top of the feeder and dispense sunflower seed for himself.

I hope everyone can find little joys in their days and weeks.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Dark Teal and Copper Daphne Leaf Variation

In 2020 I didn't purchase any beads, I was busy honing my sewing skills and mask making for people who wanted to purchase them.  I need more beads like I need a hole in my head but sometimes it's just really nice to have new colors. I'm very driven by color and playing with color combinations. So in November and December I couldn't take it anymore and I purchased a whole bunch of Duracoat seed beads (the metallic coat supposedly will not rub off as it is a huge issue on the really shiny brilliant metallic glass seed beads) and sparkly "Cut" seed beads which give texture another level of texture to many of my pieces.  

While I was home with COVID for 2 weeks, I couldn't quite get off of the couch the first week but I could bead when I was awake. I poured over all my new colors of beads and put together this necklace and earrings set. 

Medium Leaf Earrings are 2.2 inches long from the tip of the earwire.

This copper seed bead really called to me and I don't have anything like this blue mix so there was a lot of visual satisfaction stitching these together. I feel like the metallic coated beads make beadwork feel a little more like what people usually think of "fine jewelry."  My work has sometimes been mistaken for metal rather than glass beads which makes me feel like I've gotten the look that I'm striving for. 

Small Pod Earrings are 1.5 inches long from the tip of the earwire.

Necklace is 19 inches long from the tip of the clasp to the first loop.

These will be available on my website's shop until they get on the move to a gallery. You can shop HERE.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Large Leaf Me Alone Installation Update with Video

I tend to bounce between a lot of projects. I always have a really big one going on in the background while I'm working on my beaded jewelry, knitting, gardening and larger house projects. The big, detailed pieces run on a low hum in my brain.  Leaf Me Alone (the big version) is the current large project for the past 2 years or so. I have a drive to get it finished finally!

It took a while living with that low hum before I decided what shape the leaf panel was going to take. Leaf Me Alone's sister piece, She Can't See The Forest Through The Trees, has a leaf panel hanging at the top third of the installation.  I wanted this one to be longer. I debated making the panel the same size as the woven panel but that just wasn't jiving with me. 

After some sketching and getting the leaf panel started I decided I really like the full lenth of the woven panel but only half the width.  When I'm making the leaves, I think I've got a lot of them, but there are never enough!  

I managed to pick up COVID somewhere so I was on paid time off for 2 weeks until I got better.  The first week we just slept all the time and tried to be comfortable (the sinus headaches and body aches were the worst, and zero energy, I hate not being productive but sleep was the only way to ge through it). The second week all my motivation came rushing in and I was able to really dig my heels in. I was busting out fresh leaves from my sewing machine and beading. No surface is safe in our house. I clear off a table and another project would sneak its way on to that nice clear surface within 24 hours. The leaf panel for Leave Me Alone moved in and I was able to really look at the whole thing. The above photo there are leaves laid out on the left side but I'd not yet commited them to be stitched down yet. Below is a time-lapse video of the side length of leaves being stitched on. It took about 2 hours for me to get them all stiched which was actually faster than I thought it would be.  Amazing how much more productive I can be when I'm not allowing notifications on my phone to distract me (because the phone was busy taking the video)!

I have a deadline for an exhibit I want to submit this piece to so I'll be getting on top of the finish work this month (hemming, cutting the metal rod for hanging etc). I'm also working on a new website to get up before my Textiles & Tea talk with Handweavers Guild of America, January 18, 2022, 4pm for live but you can find it later on their Youtube channel.  Fun things are on the horizon!!

This partial panel has been pinned in my studio for months now, glad to have it almost done!

Saturday, January 1, 2022

2020 and 2021 in Review

2021 Top Nine (I finally figured out how to do that...)

Sometimes I do a yearly review, sometimes I don't have much to say.  The last review I did was in 2019, and to be honest, 2021 still felt like 2020. So I might as well merge the two.

That start of the pandemic and general shut-down of society was...strange.  I don't follow the news much (I learned early that it's too stressful and I need to focus on what I'm doing, not what everyone else is) so when I came in to work and was told we are "shutting down for 2 weeks" and we need to prepare the store for that (all cash drawers and iPads in the safe, we unplugged the mini fridge and moved it into the bathroom with the drain to defrost etc), I went home and tried not to panic.  2 weeks sounded so vague and I didn't like it. So I applied to Home Depot that night.  Some retail establishments were going to be considered "essential" and stay open with limited capacity. I applied to everything that was available. I figured that the application and interview process would take about 2 weeks, that's normal.  That was Tuesday, March 17th.  I had an interview on Friday and started my orientation on Saturday. So much for thinking I'd have some extra time to get projects worked on. 

I hired in to Millwork. I had no idea what Millwork was when I interviewed. My Assistant Manager who was interviewing me told me I'd be fine. I'm a slow learner, I don't memorize well and sometimes numbers are really hard for me until I can relate them, but since we had only 50 people in the store at a time it was slower than usual and my coworker Russ who likes to know everything about everything had plenty of time to train me.  Understanding the swings of doors, lingo, what measurements mean, designing doors to fit spaces and eventually understanding how it would look trimmed out to explain to the customer came with practice. As much as I miss some of my co-workers and customers at Talbots, Millwork turns out to be a really great fit for me. I never knew I'd love doors so much!

I wasn't that inspired to work on my big projects.  At first at home I busied myself with making masks. I wasn't going to do it at all, but the writing was on the wall that I would have to eventually wear them, so I wanted to make custom to fit comfortably. Of course requests started coming in and I figured out how much time and energy and cost would make it worth what price point.  I had fun buying fabric, supporting Seams (what a year to open a fabric store!) and I really sunk into my knitting in the evenings. When the heat of the summer turned we started dismantelling the rotting roof of the garage Labor Day weekend 2020. I have so much support and people to talk things through at work that I finally felt confident reroofing my garage. It was a lot more involved than it looked like, but I usually expect house projects to go that direction anyway. Fall 2021 the garage is 98% dry, we ordered custom windows and I installed them with everything I learned talking about installation in my department.  Next year I have one more edge to wrap with roll roofing dismantling and all the trim work to do.  The back North corner of the garage is really rotted and that the last big patch I have to work on while I trim it out.  We purchased all of the boards I need this year so they can dry out and I'll paint them before putting them on. 

I worked on my door fence in 2020 but not so much in 2021.  I've picked up a few doors from customers so I need to get back on top of painting them and putting them up.  Some of the doors have survived the years and some are falling apart.  I wanted them to have a worn look so it's working out. As some get too bad outside in the weather I just swap them out.  I've found once you start looking for doors, they pop up everywhere. I also know what it looks like when someone is gutting a house. I obtained some solid wood interior doors on my way to work one day, I saw them sitting in the back of a pickup on top of a pile of garbage and simply asked the guys that were going in and out of the house if they were throwing them out, and if so could I have them. They were happy to help my load them into my vehicle.

Valeta's Gears Bangle

I did submit a few pieces into MLH's online exhibit. It was nice because I was able to show anything and since I made a bangle commission for a friend it never got to make the exhibit rounds but I had good photos and submitted it, so it got some view-time. The lack of creating new work came from a pit in my stomach of "what's the point" because as many photos as I can take to show what my work looks like, fiber pieces really truly need to be seen in person. It's hard enough going to a fiber show and not being allowed to touch, but at least you can see each thread, stitch and handwork in the pieces up close. Most of the shows I submit to have to have work finished in the last 2 years. So that was another reason for not finishing any big pieces, not until they can be on display again and they have that 2 year time period of being able to be submitted.  I'm back to trying to finish the large "Leaf Me Alone" piece, once that's done I'll allow myself to get back to my current doubleweave "Is There a Thing to Which Brings Us Less Joy Yet We Devote More Time".  I'm a bit tired of looking at greens and blue of leaf me alone, the black and grey of the next one is exciting because I have individual threads spaced through that have little pops of verigated color. My brain is also starting to dream up the warp for a Theo Moorman Inlay weaving that will be next.  I havevariegated  to roll around in my head how to get a drip or smear feel in that piece. 

Jewelry pieces have just been falling out of me on occasion. I find that I don't feel as stressed out to follow fashion color trends or make new pieces now that I'm not is clothing retail.  I'm letting Pinterest and my bead stash speak to me more. My work style now is hand knit socks, the Barley Light hat all winter, often handknit neck wraps gaiters and some of my earrings. I've fallen in love with the firehose flex cargo pocket pants at Duluth trading company.  I thought "I'll never use these cargo pockets"....I'm pulling so much stuff out of them when I go to throw them in the wash! I still can't really pull off a flannel, I'll always be more into hoodies and I found a new favorite the tie-dyed Wanakome hoodies. I also find that the dryride Burton zip hoodies are great for work right now in case I'm moving a lot of doors and get hot, I can take them off.

Speaking of moving doors... My arm muscles are bigger than they've ever been. One day this summer I was stocking a large shipment of interior doors and thinking about how the previous summer I was so exhausted putting away a few pallets of doors. Not this summer, I can pick up and throw around the interior doors easily. I still struggle with the weight and awkward shape (the attached brickmold adds a lot) of the exterior doors, I just don't quite have the wingspan/height to get those picked up too high, luckily there's plenty of help at work too. This 2-week at home with COVID is going to have me out of shape but I'll get back to it, I am enjoying being this strong and healthy.

Fabric Scrap Playing (beginning, back, front)

As much as we've been wearing masks, distancing and staying in (which I rather enjoy) we still managed to get this round of COVID. So I've been home since the 20th, the first week was awful. I've never had to take so much ibuprofen before. The body aches would wake me up, and I mostly slept the first week. As my health returned my motivation to work on my artwork came on full-force. I got back to make leaves to finish Leaf Me Alone. I've started the beaded edging for the piece that's on my loom, I started doodling  thinking about fabric and making cat patterns, plus some scrap fabric play.... it's like it's been a 1-week artist residency. Bryan and I are both on the other end of it, thankfully.  

Lastly, I'd like to rave about Bryan...he's so easy to be with, 5 years has flown by with him and I'm still shocked that 2 weeks quarentined in the house together has pretty much been a breeze. I feel so thankful for him every day. Being an artist is hard to juggle art, day job and relationship. I'm lucky to have found someone who can entertain himself and also respect the space that I need in my life to do my artwork. I have so much creativity to get out of my sometimes its overwhelming, I'm much better at taking it one day at a time, one stitch at a time, one bead at a time lately.  I now understand that there will never be enough time in the day but I can make the best of the 24 hours I've got. 

Lastly, I had this all written up, then last night at midnight we opened a bottle of non-alcoholic champagne and Bryan wanted to a toast, which led to our engagement! He had it all planned out to do it at the We Are the Union's Ska show that we were going to but COVID...I guess it was finally going to affect something big for us.  We still dressed up (above), ordered in a lovely meal for 2 from Tannin and played games and talked. Things are always so perfect with him despite having to change plans. <3

I love love love my ring, it's so sparkly!!

Speaking of sparkly, we ordered custom shoes for the NYE Ska show
Mine are pink glitter Converse with leopard print tongue
his are Vans with leopard, checkers, and a glitter side stripe. 

Neon with Muted Greens and Tan Jewelry Multi Loop Checker Earrings and Bangle

Between perusing Pinterest for current color ideas and watching the movie  Poor Things  I had the urge to play more with the neon green-yell...