Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Smitten with a Poet

In the course of my research for Long Winding Journeys, I've been reading the poetry of Hafiz, the most famous of the Persian poets.  He lived from about 1320-1382, roughly the same time as Chaucer.  I happened to have a book of his poems in my stash, though I hadn't had the occasion to read very much of it.  Now I have, and I'm smitten.  Here are a few poems that struck a chord with me.  I'll start with the one I plan to share at docent training, a poem I can easily imagine would inspire an artist.


Between a good artist
And a great one


The voice
Will often lay down his tool
Or brush

Then pick up an invisible club
On the mind's table

And helplessly smash the easels and

Whereas the vintage man
No longer hurts himself or anyone

And keeps on




Keeps the sad game going.

It keeps stealing all your wealth --

Giving it to an imbecile with

No financial skills.

Dear one,




Did the rose
Ever open its heart

And give to this world
All its 

It felt the encouragement of light
Against its

We all remain




Like a 
Clever piece of mutton
Refusing to go down the "well"

Knowing it will so quickly just come out
The "other end"

So it lodges itself between one's teeth --

That's the kind of poem Hafiz
Wants to sing

Thanks for reading and until next time, be well.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Frozen Marigold Dye Pot Update

Here's the 4-1-1.

1) Picking up where we left off ....   I let the marigold dye cloth steep in a dark corner of my pantry overnight.  BUT, in my excitement, I totally forgot to plan for After The Brew Has Stewed.  The next morning I wondered, Where to put the awesomely colored water so I might use it again?  Where to hang the cloth?  Oops.  Thank heavens for old Tupperware, including the bin I used to haul birthday cupcakes to school when the children were younger.  I strained the cloth and liquid through a plastic colander; most of the liquid made it into the Tupperware.

The marigolds didn't look too good after staying out all night.

My pantry now looks like a biohazard lab with the bin of colored liquid sitting on the counter.

A music stand that hasn't seen any action for a while worked as my drying rack. I put a white rag on the floor to catch any messes, but I had wrung out the cloth enough.  Nothing dripped.

2) In daylight, the color looked more ochre than I expected.  In fact, it looked rather mustard-y.  I confess to being a little disappointed because I really liked that vibrant yellow that emerged after I had added the baking soda to the mix the previous night.  Since I wasn't completely enamored with the cloth at this point, I figured I couldn't make things worse.  I sloshed some vinegar on it to add some blotches of lighter color.  (I would have been spritzed all over, but the sprayer was clogged.)

Definitely irregular coloring.  That faint pinkish stain is an area that wasn't completely submerged overnight.

3) I left the cloth to dry naturally for several days in a relatively sun-free corner of my mudroom.  The color lightened to a lovely light lemon yellow.

4) The moment(s) of truth: rinsing and washing.  I scrubbed the cloth a bit with a clean brush,  because a number of shriveled marigold petals were stuck to the cloth and I didn't want them wrecking havoc to my machine. Some color did go down the drain at this point.  Then I plopped it into the washing machine with a white rag for a cold water wash. I was curious as to how much more color might still come out. (Nothing noticeable happened.)

5) Here's the cloth today after washing, drying, and ironing.  It's noticeably lighter and grayer than it was before, but I think the dye is pretty colorfast at this point.  I was surprised to discover that most of the vinegar blotches are gone.  The light sections that remain are the areas of the cloth that were above water for most of the steeping process.  These became more noticeable after ironing, which also surprised me.

An "above the fluid" splotch + a piece of muslin for contrast
Lessons Learned:
1) As much as diving right in is fun, a little bit of planning can be important.  If you hope to keep any of the leftover liquid dye for another use, have receptacles ready. Know where you're going to hang the cloth to dry.

2) I didn't add a fixative.  I'm guessing that's why the bright yellow didn't stick.  Next time I'll try to remember to throw in some mashed acorns or fireplace ash to the brew.  (I'll put those in an old bit of pantyhose first so they don't make a mess.)

3) I had enough water for most of the cloth to be submerged as it stewed; as a result, the cloth is pretty uniform in color.  Next time I'm going to try to either tie some knots in it, snarl in some rubber bands, or, if I'm really ambitious, do a bit of shibori-like stitching up front.  Any of these might make for interesting depth of color.  I'm not sure why the vinegar "stains" didn't keep.  I'll have to do some research on that one. I also don't know if the cooler temps in my mudroom had any effect on the final product.

And there you have it.  Any and all suggestions are welcome.

Until next time, thanks for reading and be well!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Dye Pot News

I'm an eco-dye girl and it's been YEARS since I've put anything into the dye pot. But a very long winter's day put me into a purging mood and I struck gold.

I found bags of frozen flowers in my freezer!

Purging came to a quick end as I ran up to my studio, cut a length of PFD cotton fabric (mental note: order more white PFD cotton fabric) and wiped the cobwebs off my dye pot.  I didn't bother with the dust.  The fabric went in, and was sorta kinda covered in water.

Violá -- a pot ready to make some magic.

I decided not to worry too much about the crud inside the pot.  I figured it might make for interesting colors, add character to the final product ... or not.  Anyway, I dumped in all the marigolds.  I wound stirred wrestled gathered some of the fabric around the flower heads, just in case that might lead to some extra flower/fabric contact.

After an hour of simmering, the cloth looked like this:


Eco-dyeing's not an exact science, but I was really hoping for more pizazz.  So I double-checked my book, A Garden to Dye For , and yep, I could add some baking soda as a modifier.

Now THAT'S what I'm talking about!

I'm going to let the whole brew steep overnight.  I'll let you know what it looks like after it's dried, and then again after it's rinsed.  Fingers crossed that most of the color stays put.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Pun Intended

I saw this in the window at a local optometrist shop. [Snort!]

I love puns.  Did you know that research suggests that puns require us to use both sides of our brain in order to interpret and appreciate them?  So really, puns are brain exercise; they give our gray matter a little bit of a work out.  Some classics include

Dad jokes: "A steak pun is a rare medium well done."

Historical, a lá Benjamin Franklin: "We must all hang together or assuredly we shall hang separately."

Literary, a lá Mark Twain: "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt."

I'm thinking we need some more puns.  Do you like puns?  Have any favorites you'd like to share?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Great Needlepoint Coaster Project, Plus

If you follow me on social media, you might have seen this picture:

This is a picture of our kitchen table post-Xmas tree ornament removal.  You can see lots of needlepoint ornaments.  Needlepointing is one of my "I do this while I watch TV, especially back-to-back sports events, to keep my hands busy" activities.  What you see above equates to about half of all the needlepointed ornaments we have.  Most of them will leave with our children when they have homes of their own.  I made the ornaments through the years and each one represents something that was/is special to a particular child.  For example, the ballerina tutu belongs to my oldest; the rocket ship belongs to my son. Any and all Pooh Bear ornaments are for my youngest

I know that I'm going to continue to make ornaments throughout the years because I'll need to replace the absent ornaments with new ones as the children move away and take theirs along.  But sometimes, I just want to do something new. 

Enter The Great Needlepoint Coaster Project.

I stitched two coasters for my husband last year.  He loves to golf so it seemed a perfect "topic" for his project.

I had originally planned to give him four coasters for his birthday, but felt badly that everyone was getting something at Christmas and he wasn't.  So he got two new coasters then and they've already been put to work.

This should give you a sense of scale.
If I'm lucky, I'll be able to give him two more coasters for his birthday in February.  (Shhh, that's a surprise / secret.) It's tough going since I can only stitch when he's not home and lately, my daylight hours have been very full.  Wish me luck!

But since I also want things to work on when he's around and we're watching the games, I've got other projects in the queue.  I've decided to make a set of four Christmas coasters.  They will be Joy, Love, Peace, and Hope.  I've finished one: Joy.  The white is a matte cotton thread and the black and gold are metallic. I think I'll be working on Love next. These will be finished without the leather base.  I'm thinking we should put glasses directly on these.  If they get stained, which they undoubtedly will, I'm hoping I'll continue to think of the spots as evidence of use.  I really don't want something I've spent so much time working on to sit in a cabinet, gathering dust.  The threads appear to be color fast so I'm willing to give it a shot.  (The golf coaster threads are hand-dyes and are not color fast, hence there's a plastic sheet covering the top.)

All the coasters will be stitched in white, gold and black.  The remaining question is: should I put just a black twisted thread around the outside or should I go with something bolder, like red?  The "problem" with a red is that it might bleed if it gets wet.  But it might look cool...

If I get bored, I have other things to work on, like this pillow.  I'm posting a picture now so I can record how far I might/might not get throughout the year.  Please remind me to double-check what I've gotten done in December, will you?

The full canvas

The bit that I've stitched.  It's a little tough to see since the colors are a surprisingly good match!
Until next time, thanks for reading.  Be well.

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Boy is Back

Our son is back from a trip of a lifetime to Dubai; he went to visit his roommate.  They're seniors in college and this seemed the perfect time to go.  I mean, really; when will they have a chance to do something like this in the coming years?  

I'm still processing all that he's shared with me, and I know it's just the tip of the iceberg of his experience.  I thought I'd share some of his pictures and videos with you.  

Mosque interior
Burj al Arab Hotel

My son discovered he loves dates; not much of a surprise with so many fresh choices!
Getting naan ready for the oven

And, for us fabric lovers....

I'm so thankful he had this experience.

Until next time, thank you for reading.  Be well.

Monday, January 1, 2018

A New Year - 2018


Gosh, it doesn't seem that long ago when we were all fretting about the impending computer disasters that would happen at the turn of the new millennia clock.  On the flip side, for me, it also seems like 2017 was a r*e*a*l*l*y long year and that it took forever to reach its close.  I'm not sure I want to spend too much time thinking about the difficult episodes.  Not a lot of fun in that.  And not that much fun to read about, either.

I do want to think about what I've learned, how it's all going to help me moving forward and how it collectively might manifest into a productive new year.  I'm not going to share all my personal goals with you. I mean really, who wants to hear about my drawer reorganization project?  Or my goal to start to put some of our loose photos in photo albums?  But here are some of my art and art-related goals, with the understanding that I use the term "art-related" fairly loosely.

1) A Return to Quilt-Making
Last year, well, nothing got finished.  Quilt-making just had to go onto the back burner for a slew of legitimate reasons.  I'm hoping that this year will afford me more time.  I'd really like to get back into my studio and sew, ideally to finish a few things I started and to create some new (larger) work.  But if my time has to be reallocated again, I'm going to adjust my output expectations.  Perhaps a shift to small projects that can be worked in tiny spurts of time.   This would probably mean more handwork and I'm interested in that possibility. Maybe I'll do it anyway.

A detail of a project I'd like to finish in 2018

2) Docent Training
I have a whopper of a project coming up with the Katonah Museum of Art in relation to an exhibition that I hope everyone will come to see.  The exhibition is called Long, Winding Journeys: Contemporary Art and the Islamic Tradition.

Artwork by Ala Ebtekar, Zenith V, 2014.  Acrylic over cyanotype on canvas
This will be the largest exhibition of its kind EVER on the East Coast, possibly in the entire United States.  The curator, Elizabeth Rooklidge, has gathered together the artwork from contemporary artists of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent who have explored Islamic visual traditions in new and exciting ways.  I can't begin to tell you how much I've learned!  I truly mean it when I say that everyone should make an effort to see this.  In the West we have a limited knowledge of and appreciation for contemporary art coming out of these practices.  This will broaden your understanding of art today, and that which was created millennia ago.  As docent trainer, I've had in insider's peek at the development of the exhibition, and my understanding of the history behind these practices has exploded.  It's so exciting!!!  There will definitely be more on this in the coming months.

3) More People Pictures
This is, admittedly, a somewhat selfish goal.  I'm terrible at remembering to take pictures when I'm together with my family and friends.  I look back and see lots pictures of tables after the fun gathering, but not very many of the folks who were actually there.  And the ones that I do take aren't really share-worthy.

A picture of a fun post-family dinner
This goal is also about expanding my photography skill set.  That doesn't mean I'm not going to continue with all my nature pictures.  I absolutely will.  But I'd like to take a stab at capturing the people that I'm with and/or see on the street.  An offshoot of this will be expanding how I see things, which I don't think is a bad thing.

4) Blogging
This first post of the new year will be my 700th blog post since I started.   It's been a mixed bag of posts; for the last two years, I've averaged one blog post every two weeks.  I really do miss writing when I don't do it regularly, and this blog seems to be a good vehicle for practicing that craft.  I'm hoping to blog more, even if it's just snippets and bits, or just posting a picture with a brief explanation of the when and where.  Maybe that's a good side goal: that if I don't have time for writing, at least I share my favorite picture from the week.  What do you think?

And now, it's time to sign off.  I have some more docent writing to do while watching college football games with my husband.  (A good way to hang with him and multi-task.)  We'll be watching alone because our eldest is on her way back to Chicago, the youngest is hanging with friends, and our son is in Dubai having the trip of a lifetime, visiting his best friend/roommate who lives there.  I received this picture this morning.  I'm not sure what he's standing in front of.  Olives?  Dates? At the very least, this is a cool grocery store produce section. I can't wait to hear his stories when he comes home on Wednesday.

Until next time, thanks for reading.  Be well.