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Month: May 2017

Evenly Balanced or Not ?

Evenly Balanced or Not ?

Weaving on a loom, by definition, is about threads crossing at right angles most of the time. When I learned to set up and use a floor loom in 1966, I also learned how to design patterns using graph paper and develop the thread sequence for the harnesses to weave the design. For most woven pieces a repeating pattern, either simple or complex, is usually used.

To make this more interesting, plain weave alternating with pattern weave can be used, as in a set of place-mats I made.

Place-mat – Multi-harness lace weave pattern – first project

These have a lace weave around four sides with plain weave in the center. I also added some twill with colored floss.

This was fun to design but tedious to weave. At the time, I had little else to do except have dinner on the table each evening.

Apron with Pattern Weave


I soon learned to simplify what I did on each project, and to use thicker thread as in these aprons I made for Christmas gifts.





I wanted to weave an afghan, but I didn’t want it to just be blocks of color. I was able to achieve a less rigid look by making petals on the flowers different sizes.

When I’m working in mediums like paint that are not controlled by a mechanical devise, I usually make asymmetrical compositions. I wonder why I prefer that look?


I am always trying to escape the grid, the ridged look, the even on each side balance.   What is your preference?

Capturing the Moment

Capturing the Moment

Collage is a fun and easy art form that is often used with children, and in workshops that want a creative activity that needs a minimum of supplies and is not anxiety producing for participants who think they aren’t artistic.

I haven’t learned to make fine art using collage yet, but I like it for capturing the felt sense of an event.

In 2005, when Katrina devastated New Orleans, it was more than

Katrina 2005

damaged buildings and homes. It ripped the Band-Aid off the festering sore of poverty in our nation. I made a collage of newspaper and magazine clips, quotes, and photos to show that many people had no resources to leave the area, had no way to help themselves, and that public officials had not considered what would be needed for people who had been waiting for decades to receive assistance that had been promised by various government programs.

Making collage about political and community issues doesn’t solve problems or make things better. But it can capture the feeling of the impact of events and raise awareness of issues and conditions that are easily forgotten when the front-page news moves on.

Two years later I drove through New Orleans, Mississippi, and Alabama along the coast and observed piles of debris that were never removed, empty streets where homes were not rebuilt. It was disappointing to see that little had been done.

Collage is an art form I hope to do more of in the future—but not about horrific events.

How do you use collage?

Pen and Ink

Pen and Ink

I was introduced to the joy of pen and ink in junior high school. In the 1950’s we used tiny crow quill pens with a bottle of India ink. The main task, of course, was not to get it all over yourself. With such a fine pen I could make thin, tiny lines and shade surfaces with minute dots of ink spaced close together for dark places and dots spread out for light areas.

In ninth grade our assignment was to find a black and white photo of a building in a book and draw a copy of it with pen and ink using all the shading techniques.

At that time, my proclivity for turning any and every project into a colossal production emerged. I chose a picture of Rheims Cathedral in France from my history book. The photo was a full front view about the size of half a page in the textbook. I drew out the shape and main lines with a light pencil on 18”x24” illustration board.

I don’t recall being told this was too big. This church has hundreds of stone figures in little cubby holes all over the building, plus a stained glass rose window, and two bell towers. The drawing took forever to finish.

Rheims Cathedral
Detail of Cathedral










About the same time, I was learning to sew at home. On one of my trips to downtown Cleveland, Ohio, I bought a pattern to make a pant and vest outfit, and purchased a nice plaid fabric in yummy fall colors. When my mother saw the fabric, she was not pleased. She explained that with a plaid we had to cut it out very carefully so the lines in the plaid pattern lined up, connecting with each other. I learned I had to slow down and be very careful about the sewing as well, because if the lines didn’t match up I had to tear it out and redo it. Abandoning the project was not an option. I’d spent the money and I had to finish it.

These were good lessons that paid off later. A year out of high school, I was hired to draw tiny pictures in pen and ink for a company that wrote math workbooks for elementary schools.

In the mid-1970’s I decided to weave drapes for my living room. When I encountered problems with the size of the project, quitting and trashing the yarn and the work I’d already done was unthinkable.

In 2009, when I dug a seventy-five-foot dry stream bed across my back yard, I learned that hauling river rock was hard, tedious work, but it built some mussel and I enjoy seeing my stream everyday now.

I still get excited about big, challenging projects and have some in mind as soon as I finish the one I’m in the middle of now.

Do you enjoy a challenge or does it scare you?

Two Days for Playing

Two Days for Playing

The first week of April I spent two days at Art Is You in Santa Rosa, California. This was my first experience at an art retreat but it was similar to basketry and weaving conferences I’ve attended in the past.

I had seen a notice last fall on Seth Apter’s Blog, The Altered Page, saying he would be teaching there, so I looked over the list of classes and saw that Finnabair was also teaching at the retreat.

Santa Rosa is about 115 miles from my home–I can drive that in a few hours. I have been looking at Finnabair’s work online for several years. I had tried doing something similar in 2016, but wasn’t satisfied with the final result.

This seemed like the perfect opportunity to learn her techniques and familiarize myself with her products, so I eagerly signed on for two days with her.

Opening night featured a chocolate buffet and a challenge to decorate a plastic eye protector while meeting the instructors and other attendees.

The first day we did a 12-inch square panel with layers and layers of papers, paint, gels, lace, mechanicals, and embellishments, including a photo of a face, then more paint and waxes. Finnabair demonstrated each step explaining why she uses each product. At the end of the afternoon we had a finished piece.

The second day project was an altered book. We gelled and painted the cover, building up layers of fabric, then wood shapes, a pocket watch piece, and mechanicals all painted with ‘Rust’ paint, gritty to the touch. A personal photo of my dad went inside the watch. We had to hurry to finish the outside of the book so it could dry during lunch. It was raining and the air even in the building was humid so the gels didn’t dry as quickly as they usually do.

After lunch, we were shown how to cut out a section of the inside. This cutting of a few pages at a time took a great deal of time and most of the participants, including me, were having trouble keeping up with the next steps. I think the cutting took too long and made the project more than a one day project.

I learned the process but I was somewhat unhappy with the finished product because I was not able to be as careful in my work as I like to be. So, I have a sample. While it doesn’t look terrible, it would look a lot better if the work hadn’t been done in a rush.

The venue did not provide an easy way to see what other workshops were doing, nor was there time to visit vendors. Still, I’m glad to have been taught by a good teacher. It was also a wonderful opportunity to sample her products before I invest in them.

Rusty Altered Book
How Do You Decide What to Make?

How Do You Decide What to Make?

I Don't Want to Be Square
I Don’t Want to Be Square

Getting started on a new project is difficult, even when one is excited about exploring an idea. This month I’ve been creating a website as a place to show my various forms of art work.  And I must say that I find creating electronically is more frustrating than creating with hands-on materials because the ways of computers and i-Phones are not intuitive for me.

Picking things up off the ground as I walk along has been a life long habit which likely started when my grandfather asked me to pick up worms after it rained to use for fishing bait. My mother used to tell the story of how I would make her stop on the way to the corner grocery if I saw a dead worm on the sidewalk to save for Grandpa. I was six then.

When I started making baskets in the mid-1980’s, picking up materials for the baskets went into high gear. I remember one year in Livermore, California, palm trees were being trimmed, and I picked up several huge date fruit stalk things and put them in the trunk of my car. The trimmers were amused and invited me to take all of them!

This winter during a week or more of wind and rain, the palms in the yard next door were shedding narrow green strips of fronds in addition to the dead brown whole pieces that usually come down. So of course, I started bringing these green strips inside. I realized that if I didn’t make something with them while there were still green, they wouldn’t be as interesting to me later.

One afternoon I soaked what I had and started a basket using a technique I learned at a workshop last April. It took two or three afternoons, but I was pleased with the result and glad I had made time to use them. This is twined with thin copper wire and measures roughly 6 inches by 6 inches, and is five inches tall.

I belong to a group of basket makers, Bay Area Basket Makers, who meet in Oakland once a month. I also belong to the Lodi M & Ms, which is a mixed media art group who meet twice a month in the Stockton / Lodi area.  At both of these meetings members bring things for show and tell, and we Oooh and Ahh, maybe ask about materials or technique.

Sometimes it is obvious why an item was made, like a travel journal, or a booklet to give as a birthday gift to someone. However, I rarely hear anyone talk about how they decided what to make. Even with a gift, why did they make that particular item? What inspired them?

This question of deciding what to make is where I frequently get stuck. When I can’t decide what to make with all the materials I have at hand, I usually go outdoors and work in the yard because there I know what needs to be done.  Do any of you have this problem?  How do you decide what to make, what to express, what materials to start with?

Let’s have a conversation —