I have been stitching stars while we are home for isolation. They are an easy formula for me — I have a mental map of the star in my head, and I can chose a variable or two, but they don’t take a surge of mental energy to begin. I can gather a few squares, chose a color or two, and then begin, usually without a plan for the full color arrangement. I check in about half way to see what it needs, or there is a nagging thought while I work, and usually it takes a day for me to accept this idea — rainbows, black and white tiling… I reject and tell the star “That is too hard. Please don’t make me do that.” But soon it feels necessary and I release myself to the time it will take to stitch.
For the last month I have been only able to stitch stars because they are my comfort. Some nights, after the kids are asleep, I sit in my stitching chair and I just hold my star-in-progress, and I can’t seem to focus enough to actually stitch anything. I usually end up twitching and touching my phone and losing my scissors endlessly. Some days I drag my brain through reading lessons with the kids while I try to stitch a starpoint without them noticing (not likely). I have lost some stars on my desk or in my paper piles (I usually lose them in my purse, but that isn’t happening these days), so this isn’t the full collection. I’ll find them as I look for other things that I have lost, and maybe then I will hang them on my wall so I can look at them and feel their steadiness.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
I did a lot of stitching on the porch of our cabin, reflecting on the unseen sun and listening to the evening rain.