Category Archives: art school

Creeping madness garden tour

I am filled with disgust for my country these days – we’ve often been on tenuous terms, but the politicians (especially the oddly coiffed asshole), some law enforcers, and a few everyday folks are creating this entirely horrific trifecta of ignorance and madness and triggerhappiness…

I think about making things as a response, or a way to process, some of the news, but by the time I put needle to cloth, another something terrible happens and I retreat to less loaded projects.

The garden is back to serving as a place where I can zone out while pulling weeds and waging a calmer, natural war.

I just called in 1,500 ladybug troops to neutralize the aphids.

garden-ladybugs

Releasing them was ticklish.

And reminded me of this book:

garden-creeping madness

Or rather, the cover – it’s a narcotics education book I inexplicably had as a kid.

(I’ve also been mildly interested in dunking my feet into a tank of flesh-eating fish to clean up the dead skin – but while a few creepy crawly nibbles don’t bother me, a dozen or so might. But never, ever centipedes and millipedes – I must admit, I’ll occasionally jump and scream at little at those – especially when they charge.)

And yes, the vast majority of the ladybugs flew away, but a handful stuck around – no noticeable reduction of the aphids, yet…

garden-gooseberry

The gooseberry bush is fruiting away and I tried one at the first blush rather than waiting for it to fully redly ripen – it was pleasantly tart and tasted nostalgic.

We’re eating so much lettuce and greens that our blood and guts seem laden with chlorophyll – I’m expecting a bud or tiny leaf might appear from a popped pimple.

But I was overjoyed to indulge in one of my fleeting favorites recently – garlic scape pesto – followed by a few pickled scapes sprinkled on salads and sandwiches.

garden-beanpole

N disassembled parts of one of my old (large) wooden sculptures from college to create an industrial-strength pole bean teepee. I’d clung on to the still semi-unfinished piece for more than 20 years – seems ridiculous now – and the rest will become warmth and marshmallow fuel in our fire bowl.

garden-lots-o-zukes

And I don’t want to jinx it, but this year, the ladies have finally taken over in the zucchini patch – last year it was mostly dudes – tasty, short-lived dudes.

garden-baby toms

I don’t think we’ll get a lusty red ripe tomato by the 4th of July this year, but hopefully it will come shortly thereafter. And the heirlooms are way ahead in the race – the sauce tomatoes might end up flirting with the frosts again.

garden-seats

And N pulled a slightly rotting outdoor settee sort of thing out of the trash, and with a few new pieces of wood and a fresh coat of paint, we can now sit and watch everything grow.

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String me up…

Gift knitting is wrapping up, work has been extra workful, I’m making a point of spinning for a little bit often to strengthen my wrist, and I feel like I’m not making enough progress in anything even though many things are finally getting my attention…

The mild winter had me fooled that I would be puttering about the yard now thinking about landscaping, digging some new beds, and playing with some of the great rocks we’ve unearthed around the property. But frigid temps, frozen ground, massive mud pits, and all around unpleasantness except for some brilliantly sunny days have kept me indoors and driven me partially underground to the basement.

Two more pieces of our Heywood Wakefield set are now refinished. Two more to go – the biggest and heaviest – two dressers – but those might have to wait until better weather so we can work on them outside, or at least with the windows wide open.

basement-refinishing heywake

And I’ve got these boxes and tubs still to unpack, redistribute (though there’s really no more room elsewhere), be rid of, or re-packed more efficiently and stored in a location I’ve yet to find or create. In our last house, the basement consisted of two rooms of piled boxes and tubs from hasty moves, art school crap, parental home downsizings, and childhood nostalgic detritus. We weren’t there long enough to deal with them, and now, though other things need to be done, I’m feeling done with them and have finally begun to tackle the heap.*

basement-unpacking

They’re full of art supplies, real photography supplies, rocks, shells, vintage tablecloths, a couple of washed fleeces, vintage dishes, paper making supplies, a few duplicate kitchen supplies, that blasted punch bowl, old rusty crap, sewing tools and notions, things from childhood, pots and plates I threw but don’t use but can’t get rid of, and a few more boxes of books outside the frame that I am able to cull without too much pain, as well as some giant photographs and paintings I just can’t figure out…

But with every one, surprises lurk inside.

basement-spools

In a tub that also contains chopsticks, drink stirrers, hanging hardware for picture frames I no longer have (or maybe re-stored in my folk’s basement?), clock parts for the clocks I used to make and sell, pez dispensers (why do I have so many fucking pez dispensers?), detached butterfly wings plucked from car grills, a series of vintage plastic robots, dried up tins of adhesives, glass bead making tools (some of them, others I gave away), the screwdrivers I’ve been looking for for two home renovations and was convinced I left in the old house, another staple gun (I think that makes 4 in our house now), tea balls, plaster tape for casts or sculpture, and finally a cigar box of old thread and trimmings from an estate sale, and a shoe box full of little spools of tatting thread from my once beloved thrift store.

basement-tatting

The contents of the tub indicate it was thrown together in 2008 – kitchen materials mixed with tools and craft supplies – place it in my old apartment’s kitchen/dining room/hall closet area, an s-curve shaped space of quirky lets-carve-an-apartment-out-of-this-grand-old-home because it’s the depression and we got killed in the market architecture. Perhaps I dug around in it once since then, but mostly it stayed in our old basement, then the storage unit for a few years. I knew I had some collections of old spools of thread, but I thought I had them all with me already – I had no memory of having this much more. And the tatting stuff? Completely forgot, though now I remember I wanted to frame some of them…

basement-thread

I’m on the fence a bit about using vintage supplies – on the one hand, they are supplies, meant to be used and used up, and I have no qualms about using a few inches of thread here and there to to make repairs on like-colored clothing or for a pop of color on a button or something, but on the other, they’ve become artifacts. But in the case of the tatting thread, it’s an all-out stash in itself or hoard… I don’t plan on tatting or crochet, at least at these fiddly gauges and I don’t do much embroidery, so I do need to purge it – sell it, likely and not think about if someone uses it all up on their own ghastly craft project, or squirrels it away again, or actually makes something beautiful or appreciates them as artifacts as well…

basement-tape

And then I found my stash of deconstructed VHS tape that I meant to make into an “art” piece, but I can’t stand to touch the stuff, and I’ve yet to don a pair of gloves and see if I can handle it that way… and I’ve forgotten about it, so why the hell didn’t I chuck it yet?

*So this was a bit of a pre-written post – I’m back to ignoring the emotionally overwhelming contents of our semi-subterranean floor…

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What I was thinking; what was I thinking?

I dip in and out of various media for scattered amounts of time, but I probably think about sewing the most.

I feel like I’ve made hundreds of quilts, but most of those were in my mind – the reality has only been in the double digits.

I still haven’t reconciled the disconnect of quilts falling farther on the craft side of the art scale and my desire to just whip out some for practical reasons, but not fully committing the time to do so because time should be used for art or making money to live. But that doesn’t reconcile the fact that almost all of the knitting I do is practical and most decidedly pure craft since I’m often using other’s patterns. I feel at odds with much of the quilting “community” both on social media and what can be had with guilds and such locally, though I’m not much of a community person to begin with… And I could go on with my discomforts on precision and technique versus visual interest, weird bandwagons and fad fabrics, and the pacing – slow down and make slow shit versus be sure to crank things out to keep up interest…

But I’ll rest here since I don’t have much time to ponder all of this, and frankly I don’t really care – I’ve been making a few quilts that will either be finished or not, be practical or hang on a wall, and I’m sure I’ll start a few more in the meantime…

But there was a time (late 1990s) when I wanted to really study quilts, and I forgot about it until I unpacked some old sketchbooks a few months ago.

thinking-scrapbook

I specifically chose an art program for my undergrad that focused on classical art “training.” We had an obnoxious amount of drawing classes and a somewhat rigorous prescription of moving up and through various media before finally focusing on our chosen one after a couple of years of fundamentals. I roughly still feel a sense of “you have to know the rules to break the rules” about making or doing most things, but my interactions with fiber have shoved most of that in its face. I spin but I don’t know shit all about twist; I knit but still knot when I shouldn’t; I sew but I don’t understand most of what anyone is staying about various seams and stitches and grains and biases.

Okay, I do know a bit, but from trial and error rather than a slow concentrated graduating effort.

thinking-blocks

So I think it was with this in mind that I started really looking at quilts – mostly old ones, especially depression-era, since I was collecting reproduction vintage feedsack fabric at the time. I think I wanted to make a grand all hand-stitched “traditional” quilt. At the time (and still now) I’ve only made pattern-less [I guess the kids are calling them] “improvisational” quilts.

So I printed off pictures of vintage quilts up for sale on ebay and pasted them into a sketchbook.

thinking-redblocks

And checked out lots of books from the library and copied the traditional squares. I’m not sure if I was too cheap to make photocopies or I thought sketching them would help me decide if I liked them or not…

thinking-storm

And I’m pretty sure I came really close to choosing the “storm at sea” as my traditional quilting masterpiece…

But then what?

Grad school intervened? I took up knitting? I didn’t have enough of the right kinds of fabric in my stash? (I still don’t) I didn’t have the focus to start cutting out the same shape over and over and over again? I couldn’t choose the colors?

I still don’t have the focus or proper stash to execute something more traditional, but I’m thinking about it again…

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The [once] ubiquitous roll neck sweater

I found my old XL charcoal roll neck sweater about a month ago.*

rollneck-neck

I got it for Christmas in the very late 1980s or early 1990s and wore it and wore it and wore it.

I wore it with leggings, I wore it with baggy army surplus pants, I wore it with the 1990s version of skinny jeans but the waists were still too high so they were really tight black mom jeans, and I wore it with long skirts and Docs.

A college boyfriend “borrowed” it for awhile until I had to “steal” it back.

I was pissed when I smeared a bit of PC-17 on it in a sculpture class (a bit of crust of it still remains, though I’ve no idea of what happened to that sculpture).

It was the only sweater I packed to study in Italy.

I wore it on an overnight train to Oktoberfest (a dumbass American move on my part – I got confused with the 24-hour time table and missed my original train with my fellow students) but I partied with a fun group of newly-made Italian friends in my compartment, drinking most of the night, and shoving the sweater under my head for an hour of sleep after watching the Alps at dawn.

I wore it when I worked in a doomed-to-fail gallery during long hours hovering in the drafty front entrance in wintertime. (It closed after I quit).

I wore it wandering in the woods near the former family home.

And I occasionally wore in grad school during night classes.

I mostly stopped wearing it in public by the end of the century, but still threw it on at home.  It’s got a few crudely patched spots and a few more that need to be sewn up – victims, I think, of a long ago moth attack, and some encounters with brambles and rusty nails.

One spring in the mid to late oughts, I packed it away with other non-public woolens, and never unpacked its particular bag until now.  It also has a brown sibling – one I was slightly wiser in ordering a large instead of XL, and I wore it fairly often, but mostly saved it for “good” – but I couldn’t tuck my knees under it as comfortably, so it never gained household status.

rollneck

When I was triumphantly lounging about in it again, N thought that it was his – party because I always sneak his wooly discards out of the charity bin – and he’s still eyeing it with skepticism and perhaps a little jealousy, but I can identify every mark on its wooly corpse and prove without a doubt – and with the help of many photographs – that it is, in fact, mine.

I look for them in thrift stores to unravel since I know the yarn is sturdy stuff (with the exception of a newer lighter grey one my mom had that shed great clumps of darker dingleberries and felted a  bit) but I recently saw the “vintage” ones going for a decent amount on ebay.  It’s odd to think of things I owned as an adult, or near-adult now deemed vintage, but it had to happen sooner or later…

My first sweater knitting project was almost a roll neck, but the years since the 1990s were then too few, and I abandoned it.  But now I’m seeing a few recent patterns with the neck and the bagginess and they feel familiar and friendly.  I’m also always attracted to simple top-down stockinette patterns that show off handspun and don’t have much fuss with construction or shaping, so I may knit one in the near future, just not one with armpits that hit my waist and a body large enough in which to tuck all of my body.

So now I’ll see if my decent old brown one will fetch a decent amount of some much-needed cash, as well as any older thrifted ones I have or will find, and save only the holiest of the old ones to unravel.

My baggy, poorly patched, crusty, old charcoal sweater isn’t going anywhere though – you hear that N?

*Need I say it’s the brand with the oarsman?

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I am [no longer] a statistic…

work-discouraged worker-small

I’ve just been rejected for yet another job opening – at least I’ve been making it to the final round of interviews lately though…

At first I thought I may have been discriminated against for being in my perceived peak baby-making years, but now I’ve made it to the legal category for age discrimination…

Now I hear of vocal fry as a potential reason for not being hired.

My voice doesn’t have that horrid affected one, but due to drippy sinuses and out of control GERD, I definitely sound a bit like I gargle with gravel.

(No one is pointing out that it is also possibly overcompensating for the horrid habit of up-talking in women – I’d rather hear the fry than the question that isn’t.)

I have to blame my failure to be hired on something because being a run of the mill loser is just too depressing.

I’m now in the uncounted/uncountable “discouraged worker” category of job seekers.  Though I’m (at the moment) working  nearly the limit of part-time hours, my telecommuting job is tenuous, ill-defined, and I receive absolutely no benefits.  I have been looking for a better job (in terms of stability and full-time hours for a few years now, but I love what I do now probably more than anything out there).  Now I’m only applying to those things directly in my field rather than the tangential reaches (and wastes of everyone’s time) I formerly applied to to satisfy my quota for partial unemployment (that ran out nearly two years ago anyway).

A weird thing happened during the length of my career wherein it became hip to be a geek, and thus my field was, and is, flooded with brainiacs real and imagined.

Overly large eyeglasses do not make you smart.  The only thing smart about them is that your eyes are protected from the spray of the organic handpicked heirloom ancient sprouted lemon wedge you just squirted into your craft organic heirloom ancient sprouted cocktail.

A career is not hip in itself.

A career is not trendy.

Please step aside if you just really wanted to be an investment banker but were too ashamed to admit it.  It’s okay, you can cover up your tats with your power suit and your asymmetrical hairdo will grow in.

(And I must finally and shamefully fess up that I did not get into a MFA program after working my ass off on a portfolio in the year before we moved.  Looking back, I understand – several of the pieces were weak, and should have been weeded out had I been working on the subject longer and thought things out more, but going back to school is about thinking things out more, isn’t it?)

And did I use up all of my luck when I got in (and received healthy scholarships) to all of my previous applied-to programs?

What about when I turned down that awesome and utterly stable job at that internationally recognized place eight or so years ago – did that damn me forever to failure?  (Especially since the only reason I didn’t take it was because what would have been my office didn’t have a window…)

But I think it may have been the bigger-than-life-sized stuffed koala bear I won in a drawing when I was nine – that sucked up 74% of my lifetime’s good fortune right there…

So I hang my fried greying loser head in shame, and plod on wondering if I need to go through that whole reinventing myself bullshit…

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Quilts (okay, a pieced top) in my past, part V

The last (I think) in a series including part I, part II, part III, and part IV.

grundge duvet

I had a few contractor bags of textiles in storage.  Normally, I would never store textiles in what was essentially a garage, nor recommend anyone to do so, and if I was staying at someone’s house and knew the bedding I’d be using had been in storage, I’d really consider sleeping uncovered on the floor, or in my car.

Of course I am thinking of bedbugs, lice, scabies, mold, crabs, moths, cooties, fungal infections, anal worms, stranger’s aerosolized sneezes and vomits, rats, mice and their hantavirus, cockroaches, and anything that can crawl, slither, hop, or stroll from someone else’s locker full of filth and dead bodies into mine.  But I thought it would just be for a few months – but then it wasn’t…

But we checked on it three or four times a year, and I monitored it for stench and discolorations and chew marks and desiccated insect corpses (there were a few stinkbugs, but I’m used to those mysteriously making their way into our houses old and new anyway).  But everything was fine – even the upholstered furniture.  Everything that could be was washed was, and the furniture sprayed with diluted white vinegar and set out in the warm sun for the better part of a day.

One of the items bagged up for the last few years was a randomly pieced flannel duvet cover I made around six years ago.

grunge duvet close-up1

The fabric is entirely N’s and my shirts and pajama bottoms – most dating from the Grunge era.  Among my eclectic-dressing high school chums, we called a plaid flannel shirt “flaid plannel,” as in:

“What are you wearing to the show tonight?”

 “Oh, a flaid plannel and my oxblood docs.”

(And do I need to remind you that was before docs were made in China?)

The orange and green shirt was a favorite of mine in high school (and paired well with reddish boots.)

grunge duvet close-up2

And the yellow and black a favorite from college (paired with a secondhand and smelly, but awesome, pair of black docs).  Some of the patches have oil paint and darkroom chemical stains.  The grey and black was one of N’s shirts and one of the softest flannels I’ve felt, but also several sizes too large for him as was characteristic of the ’90s.

grunge duvet close-up3

I don’t use actual quilts very often – in the summer I prefer a coverlet (or I need to make a lightweight quilt) and in the autumn, winter, and spring I have to have a down duvet.  On the coldest nights, I’ll throw a wool blanket over the duvet, but down is the only thing that gets warm fast and stays evenly toasty but not too hot, and makes me a happy snoozer.

So this is not really a quilt, but a duvet cover with a pieced top, and since it’s washed more often than a quilt, some of the seams have popped open and are in need of repair.  It’s also a bit too small – I hate that full/queen size in standard manufacturing since queen is bigger than full, they are not interchangeable – so I’d like to add another few inches to the width for better drape even if the feathers don’t fill it out.

Eventually.

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A masterpiece on which to tread

I’m no artistic genius either.

I went to art school and thought I’d become a famous painter and lead a fascinating jet-setting life.

One problem though…

I was a lousy painter.

Things would start off okay, then I’d over-work the canvas, then I’d try to fix it, then it was a total mess.

By my second semester, I’d wisely switched to another medium.

My parents even took down my paintings over a decade and a half ago – a few years with them was enough of a struggle.

But I’ve still got a painter’s cockiness and swagger.  I think that because I understand color and texture and shape and design, I can conquer any visual task – even a painterly one.

This is the only instance I have of over-confidence.

I’m also cheap.

And I like old sh*t.

So when I saw what was under our unfortunately rather new, but horrid, fake wood floating floor in the kitchen, I exploded in glee to see the original Armstrong linoleum floor in “Tuscany Tan” spatter pattern, c. 1954.

house-linoleum

Then I pulled up more to find a hole the size of a Spaniel in a very conspicuous area, so I called a flooring guy to write up a quote for new linoleum.*

The cost for the new stuff nearly made me come in contact with said floor, but we could make it work by buying the cheaper versions of some other things in which we intended to splurge.

linoleum restoration-2

We pulled up the rest of the floor last weekend…  and the rest of it was good!

A few hours later found me in the craft store buying oil paints.

(I can’t find my 20-year-old mostly unused paints at the moment – maybe I gave them away?)

linoleum restoration-3

I filled the hole with wood filler, sanded it, and started to make my trompe l’oeil masterpiece.

Only it was really, really off.

linoleum restoration-4

Naples yellow hue is really just beige, and my green needed to be mixed with some blue, so I went back to the store for a couple more tubes.

linoleum restoration-5

And then I got to the point where I started overworking it.

And then N became a backseat painter.

He almost became painted and feathered (or sawdusted).

linoleum restoration-6

And in the end, it is convincing enough.

I need to scrub off a little more of the yellowy wax build-up in the surrounding area (which I should have done before I painted) and with a few coats of sealant, it should be even better?

We still have another floor guy coming out to give another quote this week just in case…

Oh, and rugs, right?  One of those will help it even more!

But really, this is better for all even if it isn’t perfect – being “green” is most effective when you can keep what you’ve got.  I’m able to donate the ugly but still perfectly use-able floating floor to a charity building organization too.

*Linoleum is not vinyl, it’s made of linseed oil, and is historically appropriate and “green.”  This also does not contain asbestos as did other similar resilient tile flooring before the 1980s.

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