Monday, January 31, 2011

a little mindless stitching

i have been enjoying working on some new projects for jude hill's advanced boro class that will soon be at a point where they will be photographed and posted, today decided to take a break from it all and do a little mindless stitching. partly to use a little of my more traditional quilting fabric stash. partly to remind myself that there will be a spring again some day!  yesterday we were graced with yet another day of snowfall and last night an arctic front moved in, dropping our temps to -10F.  while out running errands in -4F temps today, i dropped down to the yellowstone river (less than a mile from my home) and poked around to see how she was doing...

egads! it was cold today!! and tonight, the temps are plunging even -19F!  i try to remind myself that without winter, spring would not be so sweet. sometimes i forget. times, it is easy to forget that it will be warm again...  so i busied myself with deconstructing some more fragments. undoing a few throw pillows and harvesting cloth for use in some re-newed cloth.

hoping the golden tones will kindle a little warmth in my bones...

meanwhile, today i found and loved this, this and this!


Friday, January 28, 2011

musical interlude

music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us 
dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are, 
and for what,whence and whereto 
- ralph waldo emerson

the snows have mostly melted, leaving behind a cold that chills the bones. traveling back and forth on frosty roads between my home in the country and my work in town is enough to set your nerves on edge. even with the comfort of a large four wheel drive truck to get you there. we are far, far from spring here in montana, but the melting snow has inspired me to start a little early spring cleaning. it's truly amazing how much dust materializes in one's home when all the dirt outside is locked safely beneath a blanket of snow and ice!

once the renegade dust was relegated to its proper place in the vacuum and stuck to dust cloths, i turned my sights on cleaning out my bedroom closet. this, of course, yielded many new fragments for my cloth pile (so much for my wardrobe). but more than this, it unearthed my mountain dulcimer collection once again!  i always have my two favorite dulcimers on hand for impromptu music making, but it is also great fun to dig into my collection, tune up a forgotten or neglected instrument and re-enjoy the magic of music plucked from the strings of an old friend!

i think i shall spend the rest of my free hours relaxing in the dulcet tones of my old friend before heading to work this afternoon.  will get back to weaving fragments and clothmaking this weekend...

"music speaks what cannot be expressed, 
soothes the mind and gives it rest, 
heals the heart and makes it whole, 
flows from heaven to the soul.” 


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

playing with buddha

these days i have been taking life all too seriously. a common mistake that we all do at one time or another. way too often.  i realized this during morning meditation when i opened my eyes and saw one of my many laughing buddhas nestled in the embrace of some midwinter twigs behind the sofa. i have many buddhas about the house and yard. many of them serene and calm. but also a great many of them laughing at all they see. enjoying the feast of life. without worries. even the serene and calm buddhas seem to have a quiet smile. hinting at hidden laughter.

amongst them all, a large laughing buddha out in my garden is my favorite. he laughs when the sun beats hard upon his brow.  he laughs when the rain pours thickly across his bare head.  he laughs when encased in snow and ice. he knows that all is happening as it should. true to its pure clear nature. i am quite certain he would laugh just as loud were someone to steal him away in the night or were the dog to shower him with the leavings of her water dish after having drunk deeply from its cool depths!

he doesn't attempt to control the chaos around him. rather, he listens and moves serenely within the chaos as the universe unfolds around him. he is always open to a constant flow of joyous life. he reminds us that we can't get rid of chaos. but we can be quite creative with the turmoil therein. he points out that we are the creators of how we see our world.

i was. am. humbled. the ache and dis-ease flowed from my clenched shoulders and i found a smile returning to my face.

today, i stitched for a few hours on the buddha cloth. finished the applique of the buddha himself and began embroidering the mind flowers that surround him.

there is much to do still to the buddha cloth. and the embroidering is slow. mindful. mind full. contemplative. and i am re-finding balance and serenity in so doing.

i am once again finding my stride...


Sunday, January 23, 2011

change is the only constant

my life has been full of change lately. well...i guess it has always, will always, be full of change, for change is truly the only constant in life.  but often, in the midst of it all, it's difficult to remember that.  change, even when it is welcomed or hoped for, brings with it a subtle gloom. when we undergo a change, we leave a piece of ourselves behind. we die a little to make room for new growth. with growth, comes discomfort. if even only the discomfort of not knowing fully what you have become. are becoming.

i've changed jobs. or rather, changed the direction of my job. the scope of my work. i'm undergoing change in my artistic expression (which is no great surprise...this has changed and redirected a thousand times and more over the years).  i'm changing modes of recording my work and expression.

sometimes, it seems to be moving way too fast. i live slowly. or try to. all this speed is mind boggling.

growth means change. change involves risk. treading from the known into the unknown. but without it. stagnation.

iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation ... 
even so does inaction sap the vigour of the mind.
- leonardo da vinci

i must keep acting. moving. creating. changing. growing. 


Thursday, January 20, 2011

old treasures. new joy.

i can't begin to convey the thrill i felt as i dug through a pile of bagged, old bedspreads and sheet sets at one of my favorite thrift haunts today. i spied a flash of hand stitched silk. a goodly sized vinyl bag of it. a price tag declaring an unbelievable asking price of only $3.99. without hesitation, i snagged the promising treasure. ignoring the the "do not open" tape across the zipper (normally, i would tug and push and attempt to get a better look at the contents before even thinking about purchasing something that i can't look more closely at) and dashed for the clerk and her waiting cash register.  moments later, package safely tucked beneath my arm, i jumped behind the wheel of my truck and headed home before someone changed their mind about how much they wanted for the hidden treasures...

once home, i tossed the saint outside (so as to avoid unsuspecting drool and stray hairs) and carefully unwrapped my prize.... inside, i found two small, hand stitched quilts (silk baby quilts??), one twin sized stitched silk quilt top, one full sized basted silk quilt top, and one queen sized hand stitched cotton quilt top! a few pictures follow to tease you into wanting to see more...

and a bit of the foundation cloth peeking out from behind...

and a closer look...

which only tantalized. so i had to tear mesmerized eyes from the delicious vintage silks and look more closely at the foundation fabrics...

i simply love, love, love the ingenuity and wide range of resources from which these fabrics have been culled! now, i have quite a large collection of vintage quilts and quilt tops, ranging from the 20's through the 70's and 80's, but these silk ones have really arrested my attention at the moment.  with so much talk in jude hill's advanced boro workshop about recycling and resourcing fabrics at hand, this top really hit home.  gave much food for thought. my mind is still reeling from the find. chaotic. speculative. wondering. wonder filled.

first thought when i found this treasure filled pouch, was to add the vintage silk to my piles for the advanced boro workshop. to cannibalize the find and give the treasures a chance to be reborn. transformed. repurposed. re sourced. but now i find that i simply cannot do it. not at this moment in any case. so they will live as they are for a space in my studio. i sense that they will be revisited time and time again. studied. appreciated. marveled at. for some time to come. even in these few moments, i find something new to the snippet of silk caught (presumably by accident) in the hand stitches that was trimmed and left behind. silent testimony to careless stitching. or perhaps as a reminder to be more present. more mindful while stitching...

and then...just as i was preparing to put it all away (the cotton top still unexamined in any detail), i found a treasure clinging to the backing of the basted top. a wonderful 4" square of time softened brown silk. not stitched. just hanging out. hiding. waiting to be revealed....

this rescued treasure will indeed be added to my workshop pile and will find its quiet way to a place of prominence in one of my workshop manifestations!

but for now, it is much too late. i should have been sleeping long ago. have to be up in four hours and head to work for a double shift. tomorrow will be the longest day! no computer. no workshop. no fondling of the silk and other fabrics and fragments...

the cotton treasure will have to wait until tomorrow night...


p.s. as you may have noticed, i finally found my digital camera! happy days! now i'll be able to shoot that tutorial and you will no longer have to clean your glasses, wondering what on earth was on your fingers to have caused such hideous smudges and blurs!  :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

this is what we do

every moment
of one's existence
one is growing into more
or retreating into less.
one is always living
a little more
or dying a little bit.
- norman mailer

in india, there is a story about a kind sage who prayed in the ganges river every morning. then, one day after praying, he saw a poisonous spider drowning in the water. he cupped his hand and carried it ashore. as he set the spider down on the dry ground, it bit him. unaware, his prayers for the world diluted the poison and protected him.

the next day, he rescued the same poisonous spider from drowning and the spider bit him once again. the next day, the sage was waste deep in the ganges when he spied yet again the same spider, struggling frantically in the water. as the man reached to rescue the insect once again, the spider asked, "why do you keep lifting me out of the water? can't you see that i will bite you every time? it is what i do!"  the kind sage cupped his hand and reached for the spider, replying, "because this is what i do."

there are countless reasons to be kind. though none so compelling as the simple reason that it is what we do. it is how we rest in a state of being present. simply being. spiders bite. dogs bark. fish swim. moles dig. we lift each other. without thought of consequence. if something falls, we reach for it. if something breaks, we try to fix it. if someone cries, we try to soothe them. sometimes, like the sage lifting the spider, we get bit for our trouble, but it is what we do. our ability to lift others up. to help. to nurture. to assist. is more important than the possibility of getting bitten. it makes us human. it finds our balance.

i realized this morning the reason i had been feeling so empty. bitten. inward. dark. i just left my current job in a skilled nursing cottage to take a less emotionally (and physically) stressful one in an assisted living cottage. it is the job i had my eyes on from the moment i went to work at this organization. but, along the way, i have reached out and lifted so many up. you can't help but form attachments with those you are helping. not and remain sane. i've attended many funerals. comforted families that were not my own. bathed the living and the dead.

i realized this morning that none of this mattered. it is what i do. what had drawn a shadow across my heart was not the loving and losing. it was that i felt like i had abandoned those elders in my care to take a different position. but i have realized that they still are in my hands. being lifted. being cherished. i may not be by their sides day in and day out any longer. but i am only a visit away. a thought away. and now i have new hearts to lift. new elders to cherish. lift up. this moment is in balance.


i have been looking at a shag rag rug that i am making in the process of teaching a class on various methods of making a rag-based rya rug.  i've made many like it before. in various sizes and depths on this old loom (and others). but now i am looking at it in a different light.

looking at scraps and bits from this new clothmaking process and am wondering. what if i were not to be so orderly? what if i didn't cut each strip but tore them? what if i varied the length of the strips? what if i abandoned the constraints of working a specific pattern? what if i let randomness to enter here as well?  what if i translated boro style and technique into a more 3d format and applied it to these rugmaking techniques?

i have much to think about. imagination to explore. boxes to think outside of. envelopes to push. i wonder where it will all lead?


Monday, January 17, 2011


alice came to a fork in the road.
"which road do i take?" she asked.
"where do you want to go?" responded the cheshire cat.
"i don't know," alice answered.
"then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."
      -lewis carroll, alice in wonderland 

of course, piper's response to choices such as these is to simply curl up and go to sleep...which he promptly did.

we've been without a data connection over the past few days or so as at&t is upgrading towers across montana in preparation for taking over alltel's service. not sure how i feel about that yet. not happy about having my current service knocked out. i know that much.  of course, change is painful when we become too attached to the way things are at any given moment...

not having the diversion of the internet, i spent much more time clothmaking between shifts at work.  this infused joy into my moments. joy to juxtapose the overshadowing sense of emptiness that has been lurking in the corners of late.  will have to look at that more closely and let it drift away.

for the moment, i've completed the small winter long cloth, sky flower:

also in progress is the promised tutorial for the couched tree. this ought to be done in the next few days and will post it then.

but right now...that shadow is dark and i need to disconnect. reconnect. find center. release. move forward.

blessings and joy to you all until next time...


Thursday, January 13, 2011

stumbling into nirvana

if you understand, things are just as they are.
if you do not understand, things are just as they are.
- zen proverb

nirvana. enlightenment. whatever you wish to call it. is the complete deconstruction of all of our rigid mental patterns and habits. the complete deconstruction of any and all of our limiting beliefs. this creates a space for honest and true inquiry. brings us to a place where we can experience something completely new. new truth. new reality. new miracle. brings us to a place where we can see things differently. presenting new opportunities. expanding new horizons.

it is from this vantage that we create when we de-create what was and up-cycle into what is.  it is from enlightenment. nirvana. bliss. that we forge into the moment as we contemplate the cloth before us and then reach out and change it. change ourselves. change our world around us.

it is cold outside, though getting warmer, if only by comparison. i am lethargic today. feeling rather like a bear and longing to get back to my interrupted hibernation. but these cloths won't quiet down and let me doze next to the hearth fire.  green tea is steeping on the wood stove. perhaps a warm mug will breathe contentment into this moment and i will drift back into sleep. dream. renew. return to these tasks refreshed.


the space between

zen quote of the day:
no point in trying to plan everything out,
dive into the present moment and tap
into your wellspring of intuitive guidance.

it seems so many of us are resting in the space between right now.  the space between signing up for jude hill's advanced boro workshop and waiting for it to commence.  i'm enjoying reading the many varied ways we are resting in the space between. some are frantically trying to finish up projects from the previous workshop. some are digging through fabrics in search of the perfect ones to toss into the pile to use for this one.  some are surfing far and wide to read the blogs of those of us participating. some are searching their minds, wondering what were they thinking when they signed up in the first place. ha!

seriously, though, we are all preparing in our own ways. i was first tempted to dig through the mountains of fabric that i have to put together the "perfect pile" of material for this workshop.  indeed, i spent an hour or two rifling through boxes and suitcases and closets. but then it occurred to me that i have no idea what the illustrious jude hill has rambling about in her mind and imagination for this workshop.'s the next step in cloth to cloth creativity a la jude.'s called an advanced boro technique class.  yeah...she's given us insight into what types of topics and techniques she intends to cover.  but that moment has not yet arrived.  so i sat and cleared my mind.  breathed deeply.  relaxed and let go of every half-formed preconception that had been growing over the past couple of weeks and decided to leave my fabrics and treasures where they are.  their moments to shine will come soon enough.

in the meantime, i'm allowing the creative muse to lead me down whatever byway he chooses.  today i pulled out another of the woven cloths from the first c2c class.  it had not yet been stitched down.  merely basted around the outer edges.  i started listening to its soft whispering.  listening and obeying.  i've added some fringe from the edge of an old handwoven napkin from my early days of weaving. yes, i am even known for cannibalizing my own creations from days gone by.  cloth is cloth.  be it woven in a mill or on my own loom.  next i added an interesting little square from my scrap bin and a triangle motif border from the same bin.  then i found some hand batiked flowers on a vintage shirt from india and a couple elephants from an old 1970's sheet set that fits a bed somewhere other than in my home. finally, a bit of gold-embroidered trim was added and then i started a little stitching, after getting everything basted down.

this cloth still has a long way to go before its story has been fully realized.  but the whispers have begun and i am satisfied with its beginnings.  i'm thinking the elephants shall be embellished with french knots in each of the dots that illustrate them.  lots of kantha stitching.  perhaps some beading.  who knows what else?  i'm allowing it to unfold moment by moment. these all just whispers. echoes of ideas floating about in the creative pool.

but now, in this moment, i'm just enjoying being surrounded by six new cloths in various stages of manifestation!

as for the cat....he's lost in kitty dreams and twitching in contentment...


Sunday, January 9, 2011

cloth caravan

most pilgrimages have a specific destination in mind. a sacred well. ancient temple. crumbling chapel. holy tree.

i, however, am fortunate to join an amazing caravan of visionaries and fiber philosophers on an odyssey of cloth deconstruction and reconstruction, lead by an incredible chaperon: jude hill.  i know my blog has been peppered with random, and frequent, references to jude and her mind-boggling talents. sometimes it feels as though i should wrap myself in woven boro cloth, embroidered lavishly with "jude" and "j.h." and the occasional "spirit cloth", give away my possessions, and set out on a pilgrimage to her sacred mountain...there to seek the meaning of life in her threads and whispers. but then, i've frequently been accused of being a bit melodramatic (not to worry, jude, you have not acquired another stalker....yet!).

the sojourn of which i speak is jude hill's cloth to cloth advanced boro workshop. my fellow travellers are gathering. introducing themselves. collecting fabrics and sundries. there is a buzz in the workshop...all the more exciting as the workshop spans many continents. we are all thrilled and abuzz with anticipation!

you see, i've been rather pre-occupied with packing and preparing for this wonderful journey! so, i hope you will forgive my silence these past few days.  i will be back and posting in the next day or two...  but for the moment, back to packing my bags.  i have so much to pack. as you have heard, i am not a light packer by any means! and i'm just getting started...


Thursday, January 6, 2011

wandering beneath the moon

a dreamer is one who can only find his way 
by moonlight and his punishment is that he 
sees the stars before the rest of the world.
-oscar wilde 

i had to venture out into the dark and leave the brilliant snowy landscapes behind for a piece. mind was chaotic. perhaps identifying too closely with the chaos that abounds in this dream/reality. need to refocus. redefine. expand. empty. center.

in keeping with the wardrobe quilting done for the foundation of this cloth (as a result of jude hill's c2c workshop), i began digging through clothes. came up with a wonderful hand batiked pair of rayon lounge pants (not mine, but in my closet...hope whomever has donated them to my art won't be too mad) and a paisley shirt (this time mine from way back). both began whispering before i found them. add to them some old piece of hand dyed cotton from an old dyeing workshop and quilted whole-cloth brown pillow cover. some judicious free hand cutting and this peaceful cloth began to emerge.

not certain i'm totally at one with the composition. it's too...balanced, i think. perhaps some subtraction is in order.  it seems a shame to cover the foundation cloth so completely, as well... but i'm happy with it being a gentle secret if need be.

step back. contemplate. play with scraps and pins. walk beneath the moon and wait for the stars to appear...


p.s. shut the door quietly, lest you disturb the sleeping dragon...

Monday, January 3, 2011

darkness and light

you can't have a light 
without a dark to stick it in. 
- arlo guthrie

all this whispering about fog and shadows had me thinking about the dark. darkness.  which led my thoughts toward light.  even at night there are few shadows right now, with the countryside blanketed in blaring white snow.  even the cloths i am stitching are centered around snow and light in the night. moons radiant.   

light can be gentle. harsh. dreamlike. misty. dangerous. dark. sensual. poisonous. soft. bare. hot. violet. cold. calm. radiating.  penetrating. concealing. all of this and more. so can dark. and yet, without the other, none can exist.  it can even be said that the quality of their opposite influences the nature of the other. not unlike the way the fabrics influence each other in our cloths. i gaze at the fabrics i've been weaving and stitching into cloths for jude hill's c2c workshop and they no longer resemble the garments they once were.  they have transformed into something altogether different and been influenced greatly by the fabrics they've been intertwined with.  even the simple blues that make up the sky in the small cloth i've now named sky flower have been transmuted:

as you can see, i've done quite a bit of stitching on sky flower since yesterday.  added a tangled gossamer moon, filled with random stitches, finished stitching the tree (for the moment), added some stitches in the snow, as well as a forgotten blue flower which looks as if it has fallen from the sky... or perhaps disremembered by a jilted lover. there is still much to do before the small cloth is fully realized, but it may need to rest and reflect for a short space.  the larger, woven cloth from the c2c workshop has been whispering stories into my ears as i lay in the dark, sleeping.

on that thought, cat is meowing for attention, so i shall leave you with this one:

there are two ways of spreading light;
to be  the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
- edith wharton

Sunday, January 2, 2011

random thoughts

sink back into
the welcome depths
of morpheus' velvet embrace -
reality dissolves
with alarming ease -
resolves into strange
new landscapes -
salty heat of a 
thousand tongues
gives way to quiet frost -

      -joe madl

stumbling through scraps of old poetry and long silent musings, my eyes tasted this fragment and memories surfaced from darkened layers... like cat's rough tongue scratching at my mind's ear, the words licked their way into the moment.  exploring. savoring. questioning. wondering.  whisperings of fog and distortion over on jude hill's blog echoes these quiet mumblings.  strange landscapes rub their backs against dry skin...raising goose flesh...sending tingles up spines...teasing imagination.

walls are slowly growing landscapes of cloth. seeds are planted deep, though not dormant.  the man in the other room sits comfortably, the needle between considerate fingers softly murmuring through woven fragments, fabricating cloth. cloth for whispering stories. stories for expressing ideas. ideas for expanding minds. or not.

tonight, shielded from the cold, keen air by the warm embrace of cottage walls and crackling fire, my fingers cannot mimic the man's in that room. gossamer ghosts of cloths yet to assume tangible form crowd too close. feeble attempt to warm unmanifested bones by the hearth.  better to let the imagination roam beneath frozen stars tonight.  the needle, silenced, will chant again when the sun illuminates snowdrifts in the morning.

for now, good night. sleep. dream. be.