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Month: November 2017

One Can Never Have Too Many Giraffes

One Can Never Have Too Many Giraffes

When a child visits a zoo they are usually asked what animal is their favorite. Mine has always been the giraffe. No particular reason, I just liked them best.

In the Cleveland zoo when I was little, the giraffes stayed on the far side of their space, near the trees (food) and minded their own business. They shared the enclosure with ostriches who liked to come up to the wall and suddenly pop up at eye level to me. That was scary and too close for comfort.

I think it was in Virginia, 1973 – 1978, that our church had an annual event where handcrafted items from Africa were available one weekend in the fall to purchase as gifts. It was some kind of traveling mission sale that went from church to church. There were textiles, instruments, and hand-carved giraffes from Kenya. A mother and juvenile giraffe came as a set and I bought two sets.

Some years later, on a visit to Chris’s house in Santa Cruz, we stopped at a drug store, and while Chris was in the check-out line I spotted a tall giraffe in a display of gifts. This one was eighteen inches tall with real (goat) fur. I had to take him home with me.

After that, I began to encounter giraffes that needed a home more frequently. They were in boxes of tea bags, at estate sales, in thrift shops, as the handle on a coffee cup. I have one on the case on my iPhone, on blouses and jackets, and as earrings, necklaces.

Giraffe from Pittsburgh

About once a year I walk through the house and count the “herd” which  now numbers forty, if I include pictures and screen savers. Curiously, I have not painted any giraffes, but years ago I made one out of wire.

Now my kids pick up unusual giraffes if they see them. It’s the easiest gift to get me. It seems my newest giraffe was homeless in Pittsburgh, and Jeremy brought him to California for a birthday gift.

He’s seven and a half inches tall.

Welcome to the herd.



On Thanksgiving 75 years ago, I entered the world In Cleveland, Ohio. My father told me in 1996 that he was at work when I was born and he was so happy to hear that he had a baby girl.

I remember Thanksgiving at my grandparents place with the big round dining room table under which my brother and I played. As a teenager I watched my grandfather carve the turkey every year.

One memorable Thanksgiving, when we lived in Virginia, found me on my knees in the garden digging up sweet potatoes because we’d had frost the night before and I had to get them harvested quickly.

Today I’m thankful I can still be out working in my garden on a daily basis. Thankful that my family and friends are healthy and busy with their lives. And that I’m able to share my home with my best friend, Robert.

This has been a very busy year for me, and I’m so grateful for the many people who helped me with my memoir. I’m so thankful it is finished!

To celebrate my birthday on Sunday, November 26, my eBook, “Looking for Connection,” will be available at no cost on Amazon. If you forget on Sunday, it will be Free on Monday, November 27, too. Here is a direct link to Amazon.

Get it this weekend — read it when you have time.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving.



I spent three days in Albuquerque, New Mexico last week at the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) annual conference. A year ago they announced that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of “Flow” would be the keynote speaker, and I decided I wanted to attend and hear him speak. The conference also offered an evening at the Albuquerque Art Museum.

I read an early book by Csikszentmihalyi when I worked at the University of the Pacific Library, in which he detailed a study of college art students where the subjects were in a room with art materials and various diverse objects, tasked with making a unique drawing using some of the objects on the table. Ten years later these students were interviewed again about the work they were currently doing to earn a living. He found that the students who had made the most innovative drawings were now earning their living as successful artists, but those who had composed a standard still-life of the objects were no longer making art.

I discovered that Csikszentmihalyi had continued in the positive psychology movement to study “flow” and why some activities give us a high when we do them. Having experienced a few of those moments in my own art making, I wanted to understand how they happened.

In his book, “Finding Flow,” 1997, he explains the conditions that lead to that experience where you become so immersed in what you are doing that you lose track of time and have the sense that everything works perfectly. The research method he uses is called random sampling, where subjects are given a beeper which goes off at random times and they write down what they are doing and how they feel emotionally at that moment.

In his remarks last Saturday at AATA, he discussed a study he had done with teens that showed that while they may complain about doing art projects, they self-rated their highest good feelings after they had made something creative like art, music, acting, or sports. He said we enjoy making art because we feel so good afterwards.

In my new eBook I write about some flow experiences I’ve had and how I’m looking for a way of working that produces more flow. The timing of finishing my memoir, “Looking for Connection,” just prior to the conference is no accident. I seemed to me that attending the conference would give me a good opportunity to promote my book. So I designed and had printed some post card size handouts to distribute at the conference.

In one session of about twenty people we were asked to share about our digital experience, so this was a perfect opening to mention my website and new eBook. I put out cards for class members to take.

At the event where attendees sold their crafts, I engaged with the artists and gave them a card. At one end of the room authors were available for book signings, so I introduced myself to each of them as I looked at their books and gave them a card.

But the most amazing encounters happened while waiting in lines and on the two flights going home. I was flying Southwest and selected an aisle seat. A woman would take the seat next to me and I’d introduce myself and a conversation would ensue. This is not what I usually do, but as I was talking there would be a question, usually “How does art therapy work?”

Each conversation was different, but as I gave them each a card and talked about the themes in my book, these women related to what I was saying in a personal way. It was as if the Spirit had directed them to where I was sitting. It was truly an amazing trip.

Two Shells

Two Shells

At the time I moved to California in 1978, I had been weaving small tapestries for wedding gifts. When I attended the annual Conference of Northern California Handweavers I saw complex pattern weaves, luscious chenille scarves, and innovative and experimental hand woven items which gave me new ideas for weaving projects.

With my family, I visited beaches north and south of San Francisco looking for shells, and I’d come home with pieces of driftwood. I wanted to incorporate the driftwood with woven fabric to make wall pieces.

The problem with driftwood is that part of it is interesting but the ends tend to be ragged and ugly. I wanted to be able to improve those ends, so I took several wood carving classes through the Livermore Recreation Department.

Of course the classes were set up with definite projects to learn to use the gauges properly and safely. So before I got to the driftwood, I made samples and a finished relief carving. A relief is where a shape is carved out of the background piece of wood. The second class was for 3-D carving where you are working all around the shape.

Two Shells

A broken whelk shell and a broken Tulip shell from Florida were my models for this woodcarving.

Carving is the opposite of painting, mixed media, or collage where you add on layers of paint and ephemera to make an image. Carving, whether in wood, stone, or a rubber eraser to make your own rubber stamps, is all about taking away particles to reveal the image.


Learning the skills to carve is about reversing your thinking as much as learning to handle the sharp gauges.

By the time I finished the two wood carving classes the type of weaving I was doing had changed, so I never refashioned any driftwood, but if I want to I can probably do it.

News Flash

News Flash

I’m happy to tell you that the book I have been working on for the last three years, “Looking for Connection,” has been submitted to Amazon for an eBook. In the book I tell the stories of the art you have been seeing here within the context of my life. I show the path I took to become an art therapist, and I share the adventures I had on shell collecting trips and other travels.


It will be available at in their Kindle books in a few days.

I expect to have some special discount price days later this month — so stay tuned.

Across the Ravine

Across the Ravine

Cincinnati is a city of hills and valleys and I lived there from 1966 to 1971. I was learning to weave and I was also painting. After a year or so, we moved across town into a two-bedroom duplex. There was a painting class one evening a week at the nearby library. The instructor encouraged us to paint on location around town, and I tried it a few times.

Across the Ravine

I had been painting in oils when I lived on the east side, but I started to use acrylics in the class because my oil paintings often looked muddy when I finally finished them. This is painted on the smooth side of Masonite board.

I believe this painting is oil because when I look closely at the painting, I notice that the buildings appear to be drawn in with the brush. When I did painting at home, I did careful drawing of structures and items in a still life, and the edges would have been sharper.

This landscape didn’t get muddy from reworking it because it was done on site.

As I recall, this was along Harrison Avenue and I set up my easel on an empty corner across the road from the scene. Looking at the painting today, I find it hard to believe I painted it plein aire.

Of course this was before I had children, and times were different.