Monday, December 23, 2013

idle moments

i just found this lovely oak appalachian dulcimer stand on ebay (oh what wonders can be found on ebay!). now i have two treasures to wait upon. i've seen a few versions of stands meant to be used to hold your dulcimer while you play instead of having it slide around on your lap. mostly, i use a small table when i have slippery pants on since i don't like the heat of using the traditional chamois. this little gem is fully adjustable in height and slender, yet stable, enough to rest between your legs so will make it an ideal companion to support my favorite dulcimers while playing!

until it arrives, i will just kick back and rest a while. perhaps even stitch? i'm done with the holiday gift quilt and am cutting back on shifts at work for a while. it's time to take some joe time for a change....

meanwhile, outside it is snowing. again. we got almost 8 inches over the weekend and are getting a few more even now...


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

cigar box guitar heaven

since i can't share with you the quilt i've been working on (it's a holiday present and i don't wanna spoil the surprise), i thought i'd share my latest musical acquisition instead. earlier this year i commissioned an extremely talented english luthier to build a very special cigar box guitar for me.

i asked him to use a vintage cigar box with an interesting design, electrify it, make it convertible from 3 to 4 strings (hence the two little brass screws above the base string and extra notches in the bridge and nut....very clever solution on his part!)...(also note back in the first pic the fret markers....those are made from salvaged vintage bone piano keys and a great amount of the wood is salvaged from old furniture)...

i asked him to carve a blossom and a skull on the custom bridge...

i sent him sketches and photos of my tibetan monk's skull tattoo and asked him to stylize it for the hand carved heel...

and to include some tibetan clouds and more blossoms...

then i asked him to carve some stylized tibetan clouds on the headstock...

he did some very creative layering of woods to give the instrument fine detailing.

now, we decided to not actually ship this beauty across the pond until after the holiday madness subsides (for safety's sake), but flatfoot johnny made this wonderfully teasing video to stoke the flames of my desire and longing... in it he describes the many features, gives a lot of close up views and plays it both accoustically and amplified!

ooooh.....i can hardly wait to coax my own music!!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

a little holiday cheer

imagine my surprise when confronted with a rather large, unusually shaped box this afternoon at the post office, arriving from an interweb quilting friend down in kentucky. surprise transformed quickly into delight once i opened the box and found this beautiful old mountain dulcimer nestled inside.a plethora of golden packing peanuts! she obviously knows my passion for these amazing instruments. i am enriched and filled with gratitude by such a kind and generous gift from this incredible lady...

you can see how it was made in the traditional manner, using fence staples as fret wires...and where old frets had fallen out and been replaced. i can only imagine what this beauty sounds like given that the fretting is virtually all over the place. ha!

hand carved friction tuning pegs planted in a sculpted headstock. no grand grace and charm in the construction here. this is a down home, lovingly crafted instrument that invites you to speculate as to its history. possibilities spin out into eternity, spiced with romance and joyful gathering around the hearth!

the conundrum now is whether to restore this glorious wounded bird and help her to sing again by repairing a crack on the back soundboard, refinishing her, and adding a new fret board complete with properly intoned frets, or to leave her aging grace and charm in place and allow her silence to speak volumes in our dreams? i think i'll let her rest and settle in to her new home for a while and see what she whispers in the quiet hours of the night...


Monday, November 25, 2013

clarity in chaos

a clean workbench. a steaming cup of roobios chai with almond milk and honey. a bit of sunlight. and a fresh start. perhaps wiping the slate clean was just what was needed? a little corner of clarity amidst the chaos from which to refocus. regroup. renew.

from this vantage, i begin to see my way clear. needle and thread have begun to click and flow. a quiet silence fills the room. and color blooms in cloth again... emerge in mind and in hand. i am eager to rejoin the creative stream and reconnect.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

the tangled thread

there are moments when i feel like one of these tangled balls of thread. thrust among so many other tangled threads. not always knowing where my tangled bits end and another's begin. it is not a comfortable bowl to be tossed into for one who likes ones threads to be tidy...


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

coming back

"love can change a person
the way a parent can change a baby -
awkwardly, and often with a great deal of mess."
-lemony snicket, horseradish: bitter truths you can't avoid 

i was reading terry pratchett's a hat full of sky this morning and in it he asks, "why do you go away?" and answers, "so that you can come that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. and the people there see you differently, too. coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving." i can see the truth in this every time i find myself coming back to this blog. whether i've been gone for only a few hours, or a few weeks. each time i sit down to compose my thoughts i find new colors creeping in from the corners to add their hue to rainbow of my experience. i used to lament my time away. but i rejoice in my leaving. and returning. for i know i will discover new delights both simple and convoluted!

in honor of this revelation, i've been making chocolate chip pancakes for my oldies here at the cottage. the scent that fills the house is divine! even though i am no longer eating wheat or sugar, i can still tantalize my nose with their delectable scent. i can already hear the stirring sounds of our early risers. probably in search of what smells so delicious...


Friday, November 8, 2013

noter & drone

i have found that i have to pace my stitching at the moment as my slashed finger aches and has a tendency to want to break open and bleed if i over use it (if you don't follow me on facebook, i slashed my left middle finger tip at work a few days ago while prying open a can after using the sub-standard can opener my employers seem to think are acceptable. fortunately, i have a very caring partner in my life right now who has provided me with a most excellent pampered chef can opener to save my finger tips in the future!) since the damaged finger tip is on my fretting hand, i had been moping about town because it precludes me from playing guitar, cbg or most other stringed instruments, thereby dropping music out of my life. not a pleasant thing to contemplate. however, in a lucid moment while gazing longingly at my appalachian dulcimer collection, i realized that i *could* still play in the traditional noter & drone style!

as you can tell, this is quite a different style than i'm used to playing (though not completely unfamiliar since this is the method i learned oh so many years ago when i found my first - and still favorite - dulcimer and coaxed my mom into loaning me the $450 - omg! that was so much money back then! - to purchase it from the luthier who created it, joe sanguinette of branson, missouri). if you listen closely, you can hear the noter (a wooden dowel turned from hardwood) slide between frets so it is slightly reminiscent of the blues slide style i've been experimenting with lately.

stitching. music. love. life is good!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

s'mores cake decadence

a little sugary decadence for my oldies at the cottage. i don't have a recipe, since i rarely cook that way, but i can tell you how to make your very own sugar coma inducing delight!  bake your favorite, super moist devil's food cake. once the cake has cooled, cover the top with a generous pile of marshmallows (i used mini's since that is what we had on hand, but any sort will do). place in oven set to a high broil until marshmallows have browned nicely (watch them close! one moment they are pristine and white, and then all of a sudden, poof! they're done!!). tuck graham cracker rectangles into the cake at random angles. then melt a couple cups of chocolate chips along with 5-6 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of corn syrup in a double boiler to create a creamy, rich ganache. spoon the ganache over the top of the cake and tadaah! there you have it!

in case you missed my facebook post the other day, we had our second round of early winter snow!


Sunday, November 3, 2013

sunday musings

sometimes i seem to careen off into a tangled forest of thought and distraction. these journeys may last a few minutes, if i'm lucky...weeks, or even months, if i am inattentive to the moment. our first snowfall this year woke me from this current slumber. nothing like a face full of snowflakes to bring ones attention back to the moment!

my creativity levels are still on the sluggish side, so i have simply picked up the pile of tiny little 1 1/4" squares of salvaged fabrics and begun stitching again. it's rather like walking, isn't it? first you take one stitch. then another. and another. pretty soon cloth is materializing beneath your fingers!


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

another bite of the elephant

still just looking....and contemplating. i'm finding myself spending time looking at things i haven't looked at in a long time.  time worn books. baskets of aged trim. parcels from india containing vintage sari that i had forgotten i had. bits and bobs from all over that either had intentions at one time or simply whispered of future possibilities. i'm beginning to feel the creative flow trickle around the rocks of grief...and inaction.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

just beginning to look again...


baby steps, my steps. (besides, it's chilling down outside)


Thursday, September 26, 2013

missing you...

it's been a tough month. first nicky passed and then one week later sachi had to be put down... haven't felt like creating much lately...


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

they're here!

at long last, the pixies have figured out how to use big cartel and have loaded up the first batch of goodies over in the manhandled threads shop.  you'll find rust-dyed suns of various sizes, small cloths and keeper cloths, and even an antique hand-crank singer sewing machine for sale there!

just click on the link at the top of the right side bar. be sure to click on the categories as there are many more treasures listed than what appears on the front page.

more will be flying in soon, including fragment scrap books and a host of other treasures!


Sunday, August 4, 2013

twang deep...twang darkly

what does a creative mind with a musical bent do with 130 year old coffin-style violin case? re-purpose it into a mountain dulcimer, of course! i have purchased a couple others in the past and turned them into sewing boxes for my slow cloth fragments, but this one had something entirely different in mind... having housed music for so long, this time it wanted to make it's own music!

very little was done to the box itself, aside from removing the side panels on the two curved shoulders at the top to create a surprisingly resonant sound chamber after removing felt linings and dividing walls. add to that a hand-cut, scrolled headed fret board made of oak, stained to compliment, and...twang! instant dulcimer! okay, so maybe it wasn't quite *instant*...but you get the idea. given its dimensions, this unique beauty has a lovely, dark bass timbre. why don't you pour a little of its magic into your ear?


Thursday, August 1, 2013

good stuff is on its way

the studio has been a buzz with activity these past few days. finishing touches put on various projects. cloth coming out of the rust dye bins. threads being wrapped into hanks. scrap books being assembled. be sure to watch for announcements here as items begin to arrive in the manhandled threads shop over the next few days and into the coming couple of weeks. creative chaos has been whirling around like a crazed tornado filling me with excitement!


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

roots before branches

sometimes i get lost, looking up into the heights of the branches cresting the trees above me. i long to be up there. amongst the clouds. the birds. and i have to remember that those branches cannot sail so high in the winds without first sending sturdy roots deep into the soil beneath my feet.

today i am tending to my roots. feeding my soul. needle chanting foundations. sorting fragments. but still keeping an eye to the branches of tomorrow.


Friday, July 26, 2013

at long last!

thank you for the continuing emails asking about my cloth art pieces, over-dyed salvage fragments, and rust-dyed cloth! in response, manhandled threads store is to be re-opened in just a few days! watch for the link to appear at the top of the right side-bar. new items will begin posting by the end of next week (or sooner). there are several rusted moons and suns, along with other rust-dyed fragments, salvage and art cloth scrap books (portfolio collections of cloth), and various art cloth pieces to be posted in the coming weeks!

Monday, July 22, 2013

time has a way about it...

"thirty was so strange for me.
i've really had to come to terms
with the fact that i am now 
a walking and talking adult."
-c.s. lewis

i remember feeling just so. as c.s. lewis did at thirty. i wonder how he felt at forty? at fifty? having just turned forty-eight a few days ago, time has intruded upon my thoughts once again. though this time, in a different manner. i've been thinking lately how i have forgotten how to manage my time. for years i have worked between 70 and 80+ hours a week. this leaves little more than stolen moments to play with between work and sleep. now, for the past month, i've reduced my hours to simply 40 a week. i have so much spare time. but i have forgotten how to utilize it. i have found myself sitting on the couch more often than not. wasting my time doing little to nothing. oddly overwhelmed by the nothingness, really. so, yesterday, i decided i could no longer afford to do this anymore. i began to reclaim control...

i picked up needle and thread and began chanting this abandoned piece once more. adding soft blues and muted oranges by hand to the machine stitched bird. chanting butterfly trails to remind them where they have been. begun digging through small, wooden boxes and satcheled caches of ephemera in search of more to push the boundaries of this little cloth.

oh, i know i am unlikely to stick with this one cloth until it is finished. there are too many others now calling for my attention, and you know how i like to jump around as my creativity directs me. but, for now, this little bird has captured my attention once again.

at least, that is, during the cool morning hours until the sun begins to beat like a south african drum. luring me out into the shady recesses where i have stashed my old farm truck and my fingers begin to itch for the sensation of oil and grit...


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

awesome crap this way ---->

what better way to spend a hot day than digging through someone else's crap in hopes of finding a treasure or two? it's one of my favorite ways to waste away a day off. and what better way to help your neighbors dig their way out of ending up on the next episode of hoarders? at least until it's their turn to help you do the same next month...

of course, the only sure way to keep yourself from becoming the next hoarders poster child is to make of list of what it is you are actually in the market for...and stick to it like a three legged fly to a dingy fly strip dangling in the hot summer sun! let's all practice now....say it with one more time...with feeling this time...NO!

of course, when i stumbled across this little vintage 1940's or 50's silvertone mandolin last saturday, my lips just couldn't seem to form the word. what's that? twenty five dollars, you say? (looks in my wallet stuffed with tens and twenties) all i got left is this one lonely old twenty dollar bill. would you take that? you will? awesome!

of course, all the way home i'm thinking: let's see...appalachian dulcimer, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, cigar box guitar, diddley bow, zither, lyra harp, jam stick...and some as yet to be identified doubled 2 stringed zither-ish thing... yep! it's time to add mandolin to that playlist! ack! it's a sickness! oh yeah...that's my story and i'm sticking to it!

funny, too, cuz i just received (amongst other treasures from my folks) a new book for my birthday yesterday: constructing a bluegrass mandolin, by roger siminoff. it's considered the mandolin builder's holy grail and is my latest addition to luthier books in preparation of my desire to begin building dulcimers, banjos, guitars and mandolins in the golden years of my retirement (yeah, yeah...that's still a couple decades off in the foggy distance...but a boy can dream, can't he? not to mention that i now also have that mighty fine 1960 international harvester pick up to take all those wonderful folk instruments to festivals and street fairs in. add a vintage suit, bow tie and pair of suspenders and i'll be ready!). woohoo! old age, ready or not, here i come!


Monday, July 15, 2013

for a song

you've seen this wonderful 1960 international harvester b110 quarter ton pick up truck on my blog before. it's been a stunning prop for a few of my cigar box guitars. but it is now more than just a prop. i just bought this little gem, quite literally, for a song!

it belonged to a neighbor down the street. he had bought it off an old cattle rancher who had bought it brand spanky new in 1960 to use as a feeder truck (for those of you city-bound folk, that's a truck that is used to haul feed out to the hungry cattle folk in the field).  my neighbor has kept it parked for the last 10+ years back by the fence that borders the horse field that runs a couple miles along the back of our street (which is where i have been using it as a photo prop) with a mind to someday restore it. yesterday, i noticed it had been moved and was now parked in front of his place. cleaned up. hosed down. and i thought, "hmmmm...what's going on here?"

being the nosey concerned type neighbor that i am, i dropped in for a beer and some catch up jabber and came to find out that he was fixin' to put it up for sale. i arched a brow. when he said he was asking $350 for it, i just about fell out of my recliner! a little yammering later and i truly did fall out of my recliner when we shook hands over the deal. not for the originally suggested $350 but in trade for one of my old guitars! not even one of my best guitars...but one of them that he used to come over and play from time to time (usually when his was in the pawn shop). an old steel string little number that i had rescued and restored from a local charity shop but never really took much of a cotton to!

so now i have this wonderful vintage farm truck (like i've been hankerin' for for years) with only 7,000 original miles, and a new mission in life: hunting down restoration parts!  it really don't even need much: repair the distributor; check out the brakes; seal a small leak in the radiator; replace a door handle and a couple fender emblems; new side view mirror; re-upholster the seat; paint (or not...i just can't decide on that one yet...however, i did manage to track down an original 1960-61 international harvester paint chip set today, so i can go with factory colors should i decide to paint it); and it's done! one of the best bits? international harvester engines are so straight forward, they are almost as easy to work on as a vw bug's ( it has more to its 3.9L 240cid in-line 6 cylinder engine than a german rubber band, but you get the jist of what i'm sayin').

so, now i have something to keep me occupied when it's too hot to stitch - cuz it's never too hot to get covered in grease! makes me happier than a puppy with two peckers...


Sunday, July 14, 2013

stolen moment

"i have always been delighted
at the prospect of a new day,
a fresh try, one more start,
with perhaps a bit of magic
waiting somewhere behind the morning."
-j.b. priestly

i don't have any idea to whom this barn belongs. it is nestled amongst the trees in a field behind my house. sometimes there are horses lounging around. sometimes a goat or two. but i have never seem the farmer. i did, however, see a baby goat sneak into the barn this morning. i snuck in after him. he found another way out. unseen. but my attention was drawn already to this wondrous pattern of light and rustic board...


Friday, July 12, 2013

somewhere in the darkness

"time changes everything
except something within us
which is always surprised
by change."
-thomas hardy

time has been sitting on my mind of late like a bear on a stack of salmon bones. perhaps because i have had more of it (whatever that means) these past few weeks. perceptions begin to shift whenever routines change. the greater the change, the broader the shift. you begin to look at people and situations differently. realizations that once flickered like a tiny candle in a deep, dark room become a brilliant blaze which illuminate seemingly every corner. of course, at first the eyes must adjust to this new found clarity before the brain can begin to comprehend what is being seen.  in times such as these, it is good to fall back on something known.

i pulled this cloth out this morning and found myself stitching color again. bright, festive colors on cool, impersonal white. life dancing in all its brilliance across the blank face its absence. there is something liberating about this. perhaps there will be more of it in the coming days. this brilliant dancing of life. color. music. celebrational activities. perhaps a lot more...