Monday, July 22, 2013

For the mail

While my husband and son were playing golf, I grabbed a little bit of time in the studio to make a birthday postcard for my aunt in Germany.  She's turning 93!  She's a bit feeble getting around, but her mind is still sharp as a whip.  I used fabric from a previous water color crayon project for the background, along with some gold foil for sparkle.

I also thought it would be nice to include a bookmark in the next batch of books I send to my daughter out West at camp.  I decided to use another bit of leftover crayon fabric, along with the foil.  The bookmark's double-sided with her name on one side, and a freezer paper stencil and a few failed gold paint accents on the other. I muted some of the contrast with some bronze pearl mist. I had ironed the freezer paper cutout over the painted area to keep it clean, but the mist unexpectedly soaked through the paper.  Now the paint's not as white,  but I actually like it better.

I didn't have any international stamps at home so I had to buy one at the post office this morning.  I asked the clerk to hand cancel the card to show everything was paid for, but was told it was likely that the self-adhesive stamp would fall off during transit.  What to do?  I was told that putting tape over a stamp is a big post office no-no and I didn't have any glue in my purse (go figure).  Here's a question for those of you with experience sending fabric cards through the mail: what do you do to ensure the stamp stays put?

These were fun quick projects to get me back to the studio after my time away.  Tomorrow I'm hoping to find some time either to start on my Memory quilt for my Latitude Quilts group (I'm still vacillating between ideas) or to pick up a quilt that's been on my design wall for years (yes, years!) and finally quilt it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Le Penseur, Auguste Rodin
What kind of artist are you?  What kind of artist do you want to be?

I'm going to be working with Eric Maisel, a creativity coach, for the next couple of months and those are questions he asked me yesterday.  What kind of artist are you?  What kind of artist do you want to be?

Up until now, I haven't given it much thought to that beyond wanting to be a good artist.  Good, of course, is a subjective term; what's good for one person might only be satisfactory for another.  "Good" is rather nebulous and unspecific.

What am I trying to achieve with my art?  What do I need from my art?

What kind of artist do I want to be?

I'm going to be thinking long and hard about this over the next few months.  I'm sure Eric will give me more questions to ponder and direction to help guide me.

What kind of artist do YOU want to be?


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

500 POSTS!

I just realized I've posted 500 times on my blog since I began in December of 2007.  There have been periods when I've posted more than others, but no matter how long I've been gone, I've always returned to my blogging habit.  (Wish I could say the same about exercise.)

I enjoy writing here and you've been good listeners and an excellent cheering section.  Thank you!   I hope you'll stick with me through 500 more posts of making art amidst daily life.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


I should be doing vacation laundry.  I should be checking in on my daughter and her preparations for camp.  I should be doing lots of things, but I'm not.

I'm sitting here wondering about my most recent eco-dye experiment.

A week before I left on vacation, I misted a swatch of white PFD cloth with vinegar, put petals and flowers upon it, and rolled it up.  I was trying to transfer colors from the flowers to the cloth.  My plan was to leave the rolled up cloth undisturbed until I returned from France.  But the day before I left I got a whiff of mold, so I put the bundle (still inside its plastic baggie) into the freezer.  I didn't have time to hold it over steam for 30 minutes to kill the mold so this would have to do.

Yesterday, I couldn't wait to unwrap the cloth.  I had to let it sit in the sun a bit since it froze pretty solidly.  When the bundle had thawed a bit, I began to unwrap it.  I was so looking forward to a cloth colored with brilliant puddles of blues, pinks and yellows.

I didn't get that.  Instead I have a rather muted cloth with some yellow and pink smudges.  There's not a hint of blue (from the geraniums) anywhere.  I find that last point rather odd since the blue color oozed onto the cloth the moment I set the petals onto it.  Where'd the color go?

I haven't washed the cloth yet to remove the vinegar scent and it's obviously not ironed yet.  Perhaps that will make the fabric look better.

For now, I'm left wondering what didn't work as planned.  India Flint is partial to using silk and there's the possibility the colors would be more saturated on silk.  But I don't work with silk; I work with cotton.  I'd like to find a way to make this work process have better results with cotton.

Here are some of the variables I think I need to play with:
  1) Pre-treat regular white cotton fabric -- not PFD fabric -- with soda ash or some other mordant;
  2) Pre-treat PFD fabric with some kind of mordant;
  3) Use many more petals, stems, and flowers;
  4) Steam the fabric if mold should appear;
  5) Unwrap the bundle sooner, as opposed to later.  Perhaps the colors blended?

I'm going outside to gather flowers now, before the rains predicted for the afternoon topple all the petals.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Road Trip

Today we drove to Marseille for lunch.  We drove to Marseille because we had to get to Nice for our early afternoon flight tomorrow.  Marseille isn't exactly on the way, but we had all day to get there.  Marseille was France's first city and it's a delightful mix of old architecture and new.  For example, that's the old fort on the left and the Muceum on the right, connected by a metal walkway.

The Muceum houses the Galerie de Art Mediteranee which looked very interesting.  The building itself was a work of art with metalwork on the outside that left fabulous shadows.  The museum in the fort looked interesting too and I would have loved to take a dinghy out into the harbor to see the fort from the water but alas, time didn't allow for a visit to either.  Instead, we found a little cafe along the water front and had a nice lunch.  Next time we come to France (big grin), we'll find time to visit Marseille more thoroughly.  Still, it was nice to see since it was so different than all the other cities we've been to.

From lunch we hopped back into the car to head to Monaco!  Yes,  Monaco.  Though we're flying out of Nice tomorrow, I thought it might be fun to say we'd been to Monte Carlo.  As a result, I had booked a room in Monaco for the night.   But first we had to drive through a sidewalk tribute to Dali in Marseille.  How fun!  (My daughter took this picture out the car window as we drove past, in the bus lane unfortunately.  Fortunately, the police officer was very nice about my ignorance and simply asked me to move over.  Oops.)

Look -- they even had a representation of the melting clock!  (Off the top of my head I don't know what else to call it.)

Traffic wasn't as bad as we feared.  We had been warned that the roads would be packed with families starting their summer vacations and heading to the beaches.  The trip took just a bit over two hours through mountainous countryside, but soon we were following the signs to Monaco because our GPS didn't recognize any of the roads there.

It's a good thing that Monaco's so small because we were driving around on sense of direction only to find our hotel.  I had no idea how many "levels" of roads there are here because the country is so steep and compressed against the coast.  Mostly by luck, we found our hotel, handed over our passports, then jumped into a hotel shuttle that was heading to the Musee Oceanographique -- the aquarium.  We love aquariums and figured it would be a fun way to spend the last hours of the afternoon; the girls aren't old enough to go to the casinos.

We saw things at the aquarium we'd never seen before.  I took several pictures, but this is one of my favorites: the patterns and colors of a giant clam.

We walked back to our hotel and discovered that Monaco is a country filled with stairs.  They're everywhere and unavoidable if you want to walk anywhere.  It's clearly the result of the terrain, but boy is it tiring.  We started at the top of the "hill" (that's what they call it) and had to get down to sea level.  We asked for directions three times and heard "You're not far" each time.  Yeah, right.

During our trek, we did pass the royal palace though.

Now we've eaten room service, have packed our bags and are all set for tomorrow.  We're sad to be leaving France; it's been a wonderful trip.  But it will be good to be home.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Off the Beaten Path

Today was a day I had left open in our itinerary so that we could choose to revisit someplace we really liked and/or to go someplace new.  The girls chose to go somewhere new: the Camargue region.  The Camargue is an area along the coast that's unique for its marshy topography, the white horses (or gray, in horse lingo) that are raised and used by the local cowboys, and the flamingos that scour the marshes. It's an area that's not typically visited by American tourists.

We were glad we made the trip.  Once again our GPS took us along some backroads that kept our hearts skipping a beat but that really did seem to cut down the trip time.  Though we had hoped to stop at the Ornithological Park first, we couldn't find the sign directing us there.  Instead, we kept driving along the road and ended up in Stes Maries de la Mer, a charming oceanside town.  Next thing you know, we had parked the car and were heading to the beach with all the locals.

We enjoyed a walk along the very quiet boardwalk.  We passed at least ten coves made for swimming that were separated by man-made break waters.  As we walked, there were fewer swimmers and more Hobie cats and sail boats in the coves.

As we strolled, we noticed odd goings-on at the church in the center of town and decided to investigate.  People were on top of the church and we figured -- why not join them?  We climbed up narrow corkscrews steps to get to the ridgepole....

and saw this panorama.  What a lucky find!  We sat and enjoyed the view, along with the smells of the ocean and the lovely breeze, for almost half an hour.  It was great.   We chatted and sat quietly.  After a bit, my youngest said, "Just sitting here was worth the drive today."  It was music to my ears since it had taken us almost two hours to get there.

We decided to head back to the car (via the oceanside boardwalk, of course) and drive to Arles for some lunch.  We set the GPS and, viola, we were suddenly in the bird park and in flamingo territory!  

There were thousands of them.  Though they walked/trotted away as soon as we tried to get close enough to take pictures, we were still all excited to see them.  They made interesting patterns in the water as they moved, but none of those pictures turned out well; it was very windy and the waters distorted quickly.

We got underway again, urged on by our empty stomachs.  We saw lots of beautiful white horses and even some of the big black bulls raised in the area for bullfights, but there were never any spots for us to pull over.  

And then, our GPS failed us.  It sent us 30 minutes in the wrong direction -- it had the correct street address, but the completely wrong town.   We had been doing so well with our French GPS-man.  At that point, we decided to head straight back to Gordes, bypassing Arles, and to treat ourselves to a late, but delicious, ice cream lunch.  We did eventually pass Arles and it looked lovely from the highway.  Traffic getting into the town, however, looked terrible so it was probably just as well that we didn't make it there.

The drive back went smoothly from then on.  We had exact change for the tolls and I managed to navigate the gas station attendant's conversation to fill the tank myself.  As we entered Gordes for the last time, we stopped to take pictures.

Isn't it lovely?  It's been the perfect home base as we explore Provence.  

We enjoyed our ice cream lunch and, a few hours later, we dressed up for a delicious dinner on the hotel terrace. It's been wonderful to spend this time with my girls.

And now, we are packing up to leave.  Tomorrow is our last full day in France.  We're already talking about what we'd like to see the next time we come.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Color, Color Everywhere

We're back from today's excursions, resting our legs and our hearts -- driving the narrow, windy roads that don't have guardrails and have steep drop-offs is .... exciting.  We're also resting our minds after a day filled with gorgeous-ness.

We started with a brief stroll through Gordes, the town we're staying in.  As you enter Gordes there's a small sign announcing it as one of the most beautiful towns in France.  I don't know if that's a self-proclamation or something from the French ministry of culture, but it's true.  Even the markets are charming.

Does anyone know what these flowers are?

Somehow the addition of a simple vase with flowers boosts the appeal of a corner.

After a breakfast of tarte de pomme and pain au chocolat, our GPS sent us along some very scary roads to shortcut us to the road to Roussillon.  Rousillon is unique for the ocher color in its clay that lends a peach cast to many of the buildings.

With all the different colors and patterns, it's hard to know where to look when you're walking down the street.

You can really see how the soil is different colors on the cliffs that are right outside of town.  You can take a walk through the cliffs, but we opted for an ice cream lunch instead.  I had coconut ice cream and my girls had vanilla --with little vanilla bean hints -- and nutella ice creams.  YUM!

From Roussillon we drove to Village des Bories.  We went there to see the beehive-shaped stone houses that were all constructed without mortar.  Though no one knows for certain who built this particular collection / village of structures, they were known to be used by shepherds and nomads.  It was interesting, but I'm not sure it was worth the 16 Euro we paid to get in.

Fortunately, there were lavender fields along the way to make the drive worthwhile.

From there we drove to Abbaye de Senanque. The abbey's church was built in the late 1100s, with subsequent sections of the building added on in the following centuries.  If I could somehow manage it, I'd like to be there alone to take pictures.  As it was, I think I only got off a few that didn't include the hordes that emerged from tour buses.  We've been in lots of touristy places on this trip, but this is probably the first time I was really bothered by them.  They were loud, despite the signs requesting respect for the monks who live and work in the abbey, and they were pushy.  Yech; perhaps it was the time of day.  Still I'm glad we went; the abbey was lovely even though the lavender wasn't yet at its peak.

We made our way back to our hotel via some more twisty-turny roads and are now waiting for restaurants to open.  That ice cream lunch was delicious, but it hasn't lasted any of us long enough.  We may go mooch bread sticks from the hotel bar.

Building with Stone

I didn't get a chance to blog yesterday; the girls and I had a fabulous dinner that stretched into the late hours, but I'm going to quickly dash something off this morning before we get underway.

We began with breakfast out on the terrace with the other B&B guests.  Now that we're further south, it's warm enough to comfortably eat outside in the morning.  The table was covered with bread, butter, and preserves the hostess had made including fig and apricot.

Then we went to return our rental.  It was a bit of a comedy of errors, but we finally got into our automatic and off we went to Nimes with the help(?) of our French language GPS. Yes, they only had an automatic vehicle with a French language GPS.... rather fun when none of us speak French.   Eventually we figured out how it worked and even managed to find a public parking garage to stash the car.  We were in Nimes to see the Roman arena.

This particular arena held 24,000 spectators for all the various games and battles staged in Roman times for the entertainment of the populace. The signage throughout the arena was excellent and gave us a sense of how the arena was used, right down to the different types of gladiators that fought in the arena and armor they used that distinguished each style.

Though the Colosseum in Rome is perhaps more famous, the arena in Nimes is in much better shape.  We clambered all through, around, and over it.

The arena is still in use today for bullfights -- isn't that amazing?  You can see some wall art celebrating the toreodor on one of the buildings right by the arena.

From Nimes we drove to Gordes and got our first taste of Provence's charm and light.

I'm so glad we have two more full days here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Medieval Magic

We were all down in the lobby ready to go this morning, but the cab didn't show.  Thank heavens the concierge/desk attendant at our little hotel was quick on his feet.  He managed to flag down the one free cab in the vicinity (I didn't realize fashion week started two days ago in Paris) and put us in, just 15 minutes behind schedule.  Fortunately we had built in some extra time to get to Gare de Lyon, the train station from which our train to Avignon was leaving.  I just love the look of European train stations, don't you?

Our trip was uneventful and we arrived in Avignon a little ahead of schedule.  I had reserved a car for us, but I have to confess that my stick-shift driving skills are rusty.  Everyone on the streets seemed to recognize a relative newbie at the wheel because no one crashed into me the ____ times I stalled.  I'm so glad I only have the manual for today; tomorrow we can swap it for an automatic.  (I was much better by the end of the day and watched/avoided others as they stalled, but I don't see any reason to push my luck.)

We dropped off our bags at our hotel (a small B&B that's the former home of the artist, Henri de Pontmartin) then drove back to the city center.  The streets of Avignon are narrow and parking is very limited, so we made use of the free parking (on an island) and rode into town on the shuttle bus.  From Crillon Square --  a charming place to have lunch, we discovered -- we walked to the Palais de Papes (The Popes' Palace).  For about a century, the papal center was in Avignon and the popes lived in the Palais when in they were in town.

The Palais looks every inch how you would imagine a medieval fortress would look.  There are thick stone walls and arrow slits, but there are also lovely rooms for papal entertaining.  We weren't allowed to take pictures in some of the rooms where the painting was delicate -- somehow these lovely rooms had survived the palais' time as a barracks. But fortunately (or is it unfortunately?) there still lots to take pictures of.

Here's one of the inner courtyards that once also served as a garden.

This was the banquet hall and the conclave.  The original ceiling was replaced by this one in the late 1400s.  They had a brief video showing how the room and its decorations were rearranged depending on the room's use.  In the video they had a recreation of the painted ceiling and walls that was gorgeous -- red and gold on the walls, and navy and gold on the ceilings -- that is based on artifacts and materials found elsewhere in the palais.

The kitchens were close to the conclave.  There was an 18meter chimney!  Did you know that the meat carver was the only other person to be able to use a knife, aside from the pope?

We climbed to the top of one of the palace ramparts and got great views of gargoyles, roofs, and the city in the distance.

From the Palais de Papes we went to Cathedral Notre-Dame des Dom next door.  There wasn't a lot of light inside; the next picture makes the interior look a bit sinister.

But it was actually quite beautiful; look at the interior of the cupola that you see slightly illuminated in the first picture.

We tried to be respectful of the devotions that were going on while we were in the church.  The singing was just beautiful.

From the church we walked to Pont d'Avignon, also known as Saint Benezet.  The bridge was built in the late 1100s and was in use until a portion of the bridge was swept away by flood waters in 1668.  We couldn't get a great view of the bridge itself -- it was rush hour and there were too many cars and tourists about -- but we did get a great view looking back at the city from the farthest edge of the bridge.

After dinner in the square in front of the opera/theater house, we managed to safely navigate our way back to our hotel.   If it goes smoothly and quickly with the rental car swap, we're planning to go to Nimes to see the Roman amphitheater.