The Cardinal Rule


I have been staring out the window, seeing nothing but brown, brown, brown. Its winter and there is no snow. The sky can be a soaring blue, but it can all be a dismal gray that sits right on top of the trees and pushes down slightly.

I am embarrassed how long it took me to really see that cardinals. I mean, we greet them every day, and it’s so fun to spot the cardinal in the spruce tree — a plugged-in, glowing red hidden in a mass of droopy matte green. It always makes the heart beat a little faster.

But how long did I stare at photos of tropical birds, or sketch birds at the zoo? How did I miss the bird on my feeder, sorting through the seeds until it found the right ones?

Once I stitched him onto the cloth, my needle slowed to a stop. I couldn’t think of anything to stitch next — I could only see the cardinal. I will let him sit and get comfortable for a while, and see if anything else comes wandering by.

City thoughts


Jim came home from a conference in Seville, Spain, and his stories & pictures got me thinking about historic urban spaces. The way that buildings were built first, and the space that was left over became the public space — the buildings defined the pathways between them. Cities that established a grid grew by defining the streets first — where the carriages, and then cars, would belong. The roadways defined the buildings between them.

I started stitching these little maps — a variation on my treasure maps — and also a throwback to my architecture classes in college. I got lost once I stitched some building footprints… what happens outside those buildings? What happens in the public space? These pieces are only asking questions right now, no answers yet.

I am thinking especially of a visit to Venice with my friend Julia in 2000. The pathways are so fascinating to wander – I could turn left and find a dead end, and I could turn right and find a tiny piazza with a cafe and a fountain.

And I had to revisit a favorite book: Courtyards by John S. Reynolds, because I had some of his drawings on my mind. And now I am left to wonder…

Art Retreat, Day 1


Welcome to my own art retreat. I am retreating a few hundred feet from my house, into my cabin. Where it smells good, there are no dishes to wash, and it is quiet. The kids are at camp, and I have a rare 5-hour stretch of time alone.

The first day I spent working on this piece which I call, eh, well, I don’t have a name yet. It keeps changing. Tree Witches is what I call it most often.

I can pick away at the tree branches here and there — in little scraps of time — but I couldn’t envision the larger piece or the next steps while watching kids roast hot dogs or waiting for the water to boil. In those moments, I can do the simple stitching, but not the creative work. In those moments I need the simple stitching, so I can give my brain a rest and find some calm. Today I have calm and silence and a clear desk, all to myself. And so now my brain is ready to open and my thoughts are ready to play. Such a treat.

Art & Math

Inspiration, Stitching

I have been making lots of English paper pieced squares recently, and the grids are bringing my mind to math and ratios and angles.

I found this video after spending some time reading about the Fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio. The three videos in this series are fascinating (and so quick-paced, it’s helpful to watch them twice). I pulled out my sketchbook halfway through the first one.



I had a storycloth that wasn’t meant to be — the figures were meant to be in different stories. I started it while in a class with Jude Hill, and I was following along with her process. I reworked the central figure a few times, but it just never felt right. So I cut it each figure apart and tried moving it around to join different pieces that I am working on.
I find that I like the two tree figures as a pair, singing or howling together.

Under the Clouds

Under the Clouds storycloth

I spent the last week in and around Glacier National Park in Montana. Spring mountain weather being what it is, there was a lot of rain on the western side of the mountains. We could see, very clearly, how the mountains caught the clouds and there they would sit until they had dropped enough rain to make it up and over the peaks. Cresting the Continental Divide, we would very quickly emerge from the clouds and into open blue skies. But where we sat, or hiked, on the West side was always covered by clouds. We could get glimpses of snowfields and rock faces, but then they would disappear again while another mountain peaked out.

All this sitting under the clouds got me a little gloomy. But then the summer solstice came. And I spent it under the clouds. Even through I knew it was the longest day of the year, it felt like the big skies of Montana were pressing down on us. And it seemed so mystical to me that the was a bright blue sky with hours and hours of sunlight up there, I just couldn’t see it right now. It raised me spirits and felt a lot like hope — knowing it was there was enough.

Green mountain side with waterfalls running down, ascending into clouds

I did a lot of stitching on the porch of our cabin, reflecting on the unseen sun and listening to the evening rain.