Friday, December 30, 2011

winding down...

as the gregorian calendar winds down to its inevitable annual conclusion, i am finding myself examining old techniques and digging haphazardly through unfinished projects and attempting to see them with a new eye.  one of the "old techniques" that keeps showing its face is rust and earth dyeing...two humble aspects of eco-dyeing. i went foraging the other day and came up with a pile of divinely rusty objects of various sorts. add these to my already heaping pile of rusted grates, expanded metal, pipes, bolts, nails, buckets, flotsam and hibatchi, and i've got a fairly extensive palette from which to create rusted surface design!  now to dig through my fabric scraps and see what alternatives to boring old solids i can come up with on which to make my marks...

along with digging through my fabric horde, i've also begun deconstructing many of the old garments that i've gathered from my own closets and local thrift stores, friends and miscellaneous other sources. i'm finding it every bit as relaxing and focusing as needle chanting. scissor chanting, perhaps?

i'm finding a growing pile of button strips and collars that will await future further deconstruction beginning to fill baskets and boxes... and the lovely bits of salvaged fabric filling shelves that were once filled with commercial quilting fabrics. i am continually entranced by the selection of textures, prints, and variety that is simply unrivaled by quilting fabric!

tonight will find me needle chanting the "new year" into existence...


Sunday, December 25, 2011

warm winter wishes

the roads are empty today...of all save those, like me, who travelled to work and will be providing warmth and cheer for others to enjoy until their families come for them and leave us alone in the cottages awaiting their return this evening.

there is a warmth in being able to provide joy to others. though, sometimes, a quiet, (guilty) selfish voice whispers into the darkness, hoping for some for myself some day... it's odd that i've lived here in billings for so many years and have so few friends. most of them have moved away to other parts of the country. somehow, billings still manages to grow. yet, i work entirely too much and have forgotten, i think, how to make connections with people in my own community. or, perhaps, the new influx of out of staters simply stick to themselves more than the locals...and the locals are happy in their own circles already. most of the time i don't think on it much...though the holiday season tends to bring it to the fore.

may you all enjoy your family and friends and holidays!


Saturday, December 24, 2011

tattered beginnings

cutter cloth. there's nothing quite like it. soft. delicate. weathered and worn. so much history whispers from the depth of stitches and the woven threads. stories humble and grand...sad and joyous! nothing else churns the creative ocean quite like cutter cloth. some are folded neatly on shelves where they whisper quietly night and day. others are sliced into pieces and woven into other cloths to create new, yet tattered beginnings, both grand and diminutive in scale.

a thought, whispered quietly into my patient ear, has begun to manifest. the idea: to cut stars, hearts, moons and other shapes from cutter cloth scraps and incorporate them into larger cloths as dimensional applique.  now, to find the time to allow these larger cloths to coalesce...

as you can see, the snows have all but melted away now as warmer weather creeps silently in to steal any lingering dreams of a white holiday tomorrow... at least the lights are still prettily lighting up the dark night!

and what to do with so many of these old book blocks that are beginning to pile up? in my bookbinding journeys (which have not appeared much in this particular blog...yet), i tend to deconstruct and re-use old books, much as i do old cloth. book boards are stripped, recovered, collaged, or otherwise redesigned and given new life. individual pages are frequently harvested and re-purposed...

into new manifestations such as paper wreaths...

...paper flowers, amongst other things...

and you can only tie up and display so many book blocks before your home begins to look like an old, misdirected book shop...

so, what to do with so many book blocks? right now, i am simply quietly waiting and listening for them to begin to whisper... but i have faith that their stories will soon emerge.


Friday, December 23, 2011

as swift as it arrived...

the snows have begun to melt as temperatures climbed to the whopping 40's! i wonder if the white stuff will manage to hang on and give us all a white holiday this sunday?

in between 12 and 14 hour shifts, noc shifts (the medical profession's term for graveyard shifts), doubles and a decided lack of sleep, i've still managed to find a little holiday cheer in the decoration boxes to toss about the home. i didn't think i'd get a tree up this year...i must have been sleep decorating or something cuz i really don't seem to recall actually putting the silly thing up! ha!

tonight, yet another of those dreaded noc shifts, i think i shall keep myself awake with some quiet needle chanting on the santa cloth...


Thursday, December 22, 2011

better late than never

it's been tough getting into the holiday spirit this year. but a flurry or two of snow, my santa cloth, and a horse and carriage ride around downtown billings, after a leisurely stroll through moss mansion, oggling all the delightful holiday decorations of bygone eras, and i think it is finally beginning to descend...

with faces like these, how can you not feel your heart begin to warm?


Friday, December 16, 2011

waiting for the man standing in the snow...

the holidays have been creeping around the corners of my awareness. these years past they have been a time of great sorrow and heartfelt pain. so, usually, like a sleeping lion, i allow them to sleep whenever possible. but, for some reason, they will not sleep this year. little piles of old cloth would congregate. and whisper. the din grew so great that i simply had to begin needle chanting them into existence. and so, this small cloth has begun manifesting beneath my busy fingers. there are miles to go before he has whispered his story into my ears. but he seems content with this start. a beard. a 'stache. a nose and crinkly eyes i think are next. perhaps a potted tree in his mittened hands will follow. from there, it would be any body's guess what he will require of me!


i managed to pull out the "better camera" for those of you requesting more detailed pictures of the tiny nine patches that have been manifesting during my daily needle chanting sessions to clear my mind and kick start my creative energy.  it has been a struggle, attempting to stitch so large! 24+ stitches to the inch is just ginormous when compared to what i'm used to hand stitching lo these many years ago of miniature bearmaking and heirloom sewing. there are a host of inner muses screeching at me for, intending...the stitches to show. for choosing variegated threads to heighten the effect. to not-so-blind stitch the seams, allowing the little dots to blatantly reside along either side of them. for allowing one of jude hill's magic fringes to grace the edge of one of the tiny squares. you'd almost swear the muses were harpies indeed! but i have stopped my ears with cotton wool to their cries and continued on... i am quite enjoying the added texture and visual interest created thereby! a little math scratched on a scrap of paper has informed me that i will need 480 of these little nine patches to create the queen sized bedcloth they aspire to be. which turns out to be 4,320 little squares of recycled and repurposed cloth! best not to think of it these terms, joe, lest you become quite overwhelmed and abandon all hope!


Saturday, December 10, 2011

squares here and there...

"a round man cannot
be expected to fit in
a square hole
right away.
he must have time
to modify his shape."
- mark twaine

busy week here in montana. classes. tests. needle chanting. square making. nine patching. snow removal. unexpected shifts. i did, however, manage to needle a couple nine patches together using some of my repurposed bits of cloth from old clothing. i blame jude hill for my technique on this project! using her modified english piecing method...and even tossing in some magic fringe on one of the squares by reversing half of the seam so the torn edge can reside whimsically on the face of the patch. i am also using her added technique of blind stitching down the opened seam allowances to add more texture and dimension to the cloth. unfortunately, this particular photo is not clear enough to see the tiny little row of dots this leaves behind. these little squares are finishing at 1 1/2 inches, and everything is being hand stitched, so this is not a project that will progress swiftly (my attachment is that this manifest into a queen sized quilt at some point)! but it has been immensely calming to be able to sit and mindlessly (more or less) needle chant these little bits together...


Friday, December 2, 2011

a quiet morning musing...

i still can't seem to shake this fog that overhangs everything i do. there seems to be a ray or two of sunlight valiantly aspiring to pierce the haze. the gentle warmth is greatly appreciated as i turn my chilled creative cheek into its glow. in an attempt to nurture this gift, i delved into my scrap basket and gathered a small offering of sleeves, pockets and other bits, then began to cut little 1 1/2 inch squares from them.

my idea is to begin a little mindful needle chanting. nothing grand. tiny squares, chanted into something more. the intention is much like sitting (in a buddhist sense) and simply allowing what it will become to unfold. being human and therefore possessing of selfness, there is a quiet attachment lurking that it will, one day, manifest itself as a bed cloth. but i can't think that far into the future. i shall only choose two squares and begin needling them together...

yes. yes. i know this will appear to be "yet another project." and when i have so many others already left unfinished. but there are times, and this is most certainly one of them, when the creative mind simply will not come to heel. in those moments, it is difficult to concentrate. focus. create. my intention here is to find something ultimately creative, that requires no creative thought in the moment, to distract the mind from the lingering ennui and, hopefully, shake loose the imprisoned creativity languishing in the bottom of some dark place.

in the meantime, i have one more photo of my other needling to share with you...

this photo is not as clear as previous ones, but shows the coloring of the blue fu lion. my skin was still a little tender, so we did not work on the background much this time around. i think this one will rest and heal for at least a month this time before we continue...

but now, some mindful needle chanting for an hour or two before i head into town for a bit...


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

unbearable ennui

"ennui is the echo in us
of time tearing itself apart."
-emile m. cioran

perhaps it is the onset of the holiday season. a season that has not been a favorite these past several years. can i be so shallow as to lose interest in the holidays simply because i am alone? is it because my family lives so far away? or because i still live in the same house, the same town, that holds so many broken dreams and the sad memories of yet another failed romance? because the holidays are filled with families celebrating life together? because they are filled with loved ones displaying affection? and yet, i know these things are all aspects that will rise and fall away. change. have nothing to do with my inner sense of peace. and yet, this blanket of ennui wraps tightly about my heart and soul. dulls colors and cheer.

a little thread chanting is in order...and my grand start on the dia de los muertos cloth has been neglected of late.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

a snow lion or two...

tattoo the pristine flesh
what is permanent anyway?
this ink only lasts 'til the grave,
skin and ideas decompose
that which we did compose.
-corri alius

the finished lion...

the lion yet to be completed in blue and green.

i have been working entirely too much once again. but yesterday found me relaxing (ha!) in the tattooist's chair for seven hours while he worked on my new sleeve. it is taking much longer than originally expected. yet another argument against expectations. but the results have so far been entirely pleasing! the first is on the back of my right forearm and the unfinished one is on the front of the same forearm. both bracket the ganesh that is on the inside of my forearm (pictured here). snow lions (also sometimes known as fu lions or fu dogs) symbolize fearlessness, unconditional cheerfulness, east, and the earth element. snow lions are traditionally white with turquoise manes...but these longed for the joy of color and i saw no reason to deprive them!

yes. my body is a temple. and what temple should remain so low and mean as to be void of decoration?

i think i shall begin digging through scraps and see if a snow lion might like to manifest beneath tonight's quiet needle chants...


Sunday, November 13, 2011

reflection on challenge

“life’s challenges are not
supposed to paralyze you,
they’re supposed to help you
discover who you are.”
-bernice johnson reagon

i have no words to add. just something i've been thinking about quite a bit on this cold winter day...


Monday, November 7, 2011

allow the unexpected

"our brightest blazes
of gladness
are commonly kindled
by unexpected sparks."
-samuel johnson

while grumbling about snow and the cold and the inconvenience of it all as i was getting ready for an unscheduled shift at work this morning, i was caught unaware by this little fellow. he was only a few feet from me and i hadn't even noticed him until he announced his presence with a resounding "blaaaaaa!"

don't you just love the unexpected ways the universe reminds you to be present when you aren't?


p.s. more needle chanting pics to come very soon!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

first snow

we finally received our first snow of the season, here in billings. it's rather late, like many things this year. including many of my own projects and aspirations. perhaps i will catch up with the weather soon...

sometimes snow can do a wonderful impersonation of draped cloth.

or even like a manipulated cloth quilt (found on scouttyboy's photostream)

or even like one of jude's woven strip boro cloths (found on ojos_azules's photostream)

or this bit of quilted snow (found on daddynewt's photostream)

so, even though i have had little time to stitch these past few days, i have found many sources for inspiration!

tonight, i think, i may find some much needed needle chanting a nice crackling fire!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

body bling concept sketches

since i've been asked both in comments and via email (thanks to valerianna for the idea for the term, body bling!), here are the initial snow lion concept sketches for the next phase of my sleeve (you can click on them for larger images). they'll be changing a bit as the male is being redrawn to be moving up toward the female and then i'm having the space around them filled with chrysanthemum blossoms.

i'm still toying with colors...i'm thinking of having the male (2nd pic) done in red with yellow accents and the female (1st pic) in blue with green accents. of course, knowing chris (my amazing tattoo artist), there will be a full pallet (the tibetan skull has 16 colors in it)!

onces these beauties are completed, i'll have to have him go back in and fill some of the blank space around the ceremonial skull with something to close the space up a bit... i'm thinking cherry blossoms. or bamboo. i'm not sure. it's still open for suggestion.

it would seem that i am taking my storytelling into new realms... there is definitely a story being whispered by my body ink. perhaps it will want to be told in cloth as well at some point....


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

feliz dia de los muertos

as dia de los muertos descends and thoughts of ancestors and the temporal nature of life and time come to mind more often, i find my clothwork has begun to reflect these whispered stories. to this end, i have decided to finally begin manifesting a quilt that has long been whispering in the dark hours of the night. this quilt. this dia de los muertos quilt that has haunted my thoughts for over two years now, will no longer rest until it's stories have been whispered and finally told.

i had hoped to be further along on this first block. but this past month has been busy beyond belief! but i am pleased with it's beginnings. i had thought to begin the quilt by starting on the central panel. but, being a large panel, decided that during these busy days, it would be more advantageous to tackle some of the smaller border blocks first. in the coming days, i shall share the sketches of other blocks and panels. but, for now, this one will have to serve to entice your interest as it has mine.

meanwhile, los dias de los muertos is a time for remembering friends, family and ancestors. a lovely tradition that resonates with the center of the belief goes something like this:

people die three deaths. the first death is when our bodies cease to function; when our hearts no longer beat of their own accord, when our gaze no longer has depth or weight, when the space we occupy slowly loses its meaning. the second death comes when the body is lowered into the ground, returned to mother earth, out of sight. the third death, the most definitive death, is when there is no one left alive to remember us.

i've always been intrigued by these thought lines and have found them in most cultures in some form or another. to this end, i have collected skull art and other related expressions from around the world. recently, i've acquired these wonderful camel bone beads from egypt:

...and look forward to creating something wonderful with them...not sure what just yet, but there are a few ideas percolating gently in the back of my mind...

i have also just received these lovely dyed turquoise howlite skull beads, from which i intend to make a wrist mala:

while thoughts of change and the temporal nature of life have been on the forefront of my mind lately, i also went in for the second stage of my sleeve the other day and had this lovely tibetan monk's ceremonial skull cup added to my arm:

after four pain-filled hours, it was finally done! i only wish this photo did the colors in the skull itself the justice it deserves. i have him working on translating the lower front part of the sleeve design now: a couple of tibetan snow lions i designed.  i can hardly wait for the appointment to get them inked!

but for the moment, it's back to needle chanting and thread gathering...and perhaps a shop update or two in the next few days...