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Month: January 2018

Hunting for a Career

Hunting for a Career

Tapestries hanging in church lobby

In the summer of 1982 I had been weaving tapestries based on verses of scripture for two and a half years. The Handweavers Guild of America (HGA) was holding its biennial conference in Tacoma, WA and there was a workshop called Ecclesiastical Weaving which sounded interesting.

The conference lasts a week, so Ray and I came up with a plan to combine my interest with a family vacation. He didn’t want to hang out all week while I was at the workshop, but he knew a guy at work who had a motor home we could rent.

I flew to Tacoma, and at the end of the week Ray, Chris, and Dave drove up I-5 to pick me up. We spent a day in Seattle, had lunch at the Space Needle, and then started down the coast for home. We stopped often to check out the beaches. Ray read his stamp collector newsletters, I picked up shells, and the boys ran off their energy.

As we were riding along, I was trying to decide if I was going to try doing weaving for churches as a business. I had grown up in the Lutheran church where they have vestments—cloth covers for the altar, lecterns, hangings, and other items such as a stole for the pastor. Vestments are changed throughout the year as different aspects of the faith are considered in the music, readings, and sermons. Many denominations used these items at that time.

I decided to ask the pastor of the nondenominational church I attended if I could weave something for the church. My intention was to keep records of the time I spent and costs of materials as if I were doing a commission. The pastor thought it was a wonderful idea. The church had a new sanctuary and a good size lobby which he was eager to decorate.

We discussed what he would like to see in that space, and gave me the theme of: “Jesus Builds His Church.” I made some small drawings, we set a target date for completion, and I got busy. I made full size drawings for the six panels, each measuring 72 inches by 40 inches. I put a fourteen yard warp on my counterbalance loom. This was a huge project. My records say I worked on it from September 1982 to December 1983.

As the weaving went along, I found that I needed to weave a certain number of inches each day in

“Sending the Spirit” one panel of church project.

order to stay on schedule. If I missed a day, I had to get caught up. I found that I was having a relationship with the loom rather than people. This really hit home when I had to leave a holiday luncheon early to get my inches done!

As a practice to see how it would be to do this as a job, this was an excellent trial. I realized I had no idea how I would market myself. (“Market” myself wasn’t even a concept in 1983.) I hadn’t been a member of a liturgical church for five years. Once the major creative work was done, I got bored with the project and just wanted to finish it.

Early in 1984, the community college in Livermore offered a class for women who were thinking of returning to school. The rest is history.

And let me remind you that you can read what happened before and after the tapestries here.



Thoughts about Entering Art Shows

Thoughts about Entering Art Shows

This time of year local art associations send out Annual Show notices to those on their email lists. I remember the ritual of deciding what to enter, getting it ready, and taking it on the receiving day to the designated place. It was fun to see friends working the tables, or bringing their own entries.

The second part of the ritual, which happened occasionally, was picking work up that was not chosen for the show. But this all changed when electronic entry became common.

Electronic entry makes things so easy to enter shows. You don’t have to haul things about. You can easily enter shows all over the country without shipping your work. No tags to fill in and secure to the back of the frame, no multiple copies of inventory lists.

Of course, you don’t get a peek at the competition as you drop off your work.

I used the electronic entry for several years with good success. But I noticed that something about the art shows changed. One year, at one local show more than fifty percent of the selected items were photography, and the remaining pieces were all the other mediums: oil, watercolor, pastel, drawing/graphics, 3-d, and sculptural.

Another year, photos in the newspaper of the Best of Show used the digital entry photo which appeared to be violet, but when I saw the item in the show it was a graphite drawing, and the frame gave it a whole different feeling.



And I found that my work was being

accepted less often, especially if I entered

one of my sculptural baskets like this:

So last year I didn’t enter anything in the local shows. But I did enter this basket in the California State Fair, where you still take the work to be seen by the judge. It was accepted and won a Second Place ribbon.


The last time one of the local groups had their annual show at Stockton’s Art Museum I didn’t enter, but I went to the opening. The judge selected the winners of prizes based on the digital entries. He never saw the actual work.

I remember trying to find something in the show that was outstanding. A piece that had that WOW factor. There was one piece that had me trying to figure out how it had been created, but over all I was not impressed with the show.

The group’s gallery director walked by and asked me how I liked the show, and I didn’t really have an answer. I said something like “I’m still looking.” As he hurried away, he said he thought it was the worst show they had ever put on. I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment.

I think digital entry is a wonderful improvement over slides and hand-carry to enter your work, but I also think the actual work should be viewed when the awards are selected.

When I was at the art museum in Albuquerque last November, I saw a number of original works by artists in the 1960’s including Feininger, de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock. Seeing work by these artists in books had not left a positive impression on me. Standing right in front of them made all the difference in size and detail. I could see and understand why their work has been preserved.





A Seven Arm Starfish

A Seven Arm Starfish

Seven Arm Starfish

Three years ago I went to an art demo at the local art league where we were shown how to make a shape or texture on a canvas board to give dimension to an abstract painting. So I came home and textured-up two canvas boards hoping to produce a piece for an annual show.

I did some painting on each one. On one of them, what I expected to be a lily of some sort, soon looked more like a starfish than a flower. I thought, okay I can do mixed media and add some small real shells to the piece. I also put in a second starfish embracing a scallop, which will be its dinner.

So I’m painting along and decide to add a few red beads, because the fresh-dead starfish I had found on my last shelling trip had raised red bumps on its arms. I also added some highlights with small pieces of foil that I had torn off a container I opened at breakfast.

I wanted to add some dark areas behind the big starfish so it would stand out. The texturing I had started with was covered with a coat of matt medium as the demo artist had done, saying that the acrylic medium would allow the paint to be removed for highlights. Every time I tried to add another layer of dark paint, the brush would instead pick up the layer I had just put on.

Frustrated with the process, I decided to try a stencil effect using a rubbery scrap of those things you put under rugs so they don’t slip and slide. It didn’t work so well as a stencil, because the rubber absorbed the paint. I liked the color so much I decided to adhere the rubber mesh to the painting with a clear gel medium.

Then, I wanted to add a few more red beads. They were in a narrow glass tube that had been my mother’s. The cork in the tube crumbled when I opened it the second time, and I found myself trying to separate the cork crumbs from the beads. After a few minutes, I thought, why am I standing here picking out the cork? Just throw it on with the beads—no one will even notice!

At some point in all the above, I had actually looked at the starfish and counted the arms. Seven. The starfish I collected in the Bahamas has five arms. Was there such a thing as a seven-armed starfish? Google informed me there was. It is called Luidia ciliaris, it lives in the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea, and it is red.

The painting didn’t get accepted in the show I entered. I never got around to working on the second textured board. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get around to doing something with that this year.

Baskets Made with Willow

Baskets Made with Willow

Ten years ago I went to a basket making retreat in Oregon because I wanted to try working with willow. The woman, Jo Campbell-Ansler, who taught the three-day class is from Iowa where she grows and harvests the materials she uses. Not all willows are good for basket making. Several days before the workshop, she arrives with long willow rods from her farm so she can soak them.

I had heard that working with willow is hard on the hands, and I was somewhat concerned about whether I could do it because I’ve never had strong hands.

The first thing we did was work each damp rod back and forth around our knee to gently loosen up the branch so it would be more flexible. One end was as big around as my little finger and the other end was the size of a bamboo skewer.

Our teacher took us step by step to construct the basket.

Willow Collecting Pouch

The willow we used came in a variety of colors from yellow-green, to a brownish-green, and red. The finished basket is very colorful. It is called a gathering pouch.

I found that I was able to work with this material; I just had to take my time and not get frustrated if the spokes didn’t stay where I put them on the first try.

After that first class, I decided to try growing some willow. There is a company that sells shrubs and trees, and they grow a number of varieties of willow, indicating which ones are good for basket making. I confidently ordered four starts and planted them in several places in my yard.

They seemed to grow that first summer, but didn’t do well the next year. Willows like water. Lots of it. That is why I saw them growing along side streams in Oregon years ago. Sprinklers two or three days a week for twenty minutes in California’s hot central valley doesn’t provide enough water. Even my well established pussy willow died in the drought.

About three years later I took another class with this teacher and made a different style of basket. The second class was a one day class and I didn’t finish the basket in the class, but completed it at home.

Willow Basket

I really liked the feel of working with willow and how the rods pack together and sort of accommodate each other, unlike reed which is a uniform size and wants its own space.

I’m glad I did those classes when I did because I don’t think I could work with willow now due to having pain and difficulty with my hands every day.




I was reading one of those goal-setting articles last week which made the suggestion of selecting a word for the year. I have done this before some years and I usually forget all about it by February when I’m in the thick of whatever project has captured my imagination.

Without even thinking, I wrote in the space provided: “Weed.”

Yesterday, while listening to the radio, the discussion was about the newly, legal in California, Cannabis. I laughed when I suddenly realized that my sons and my boyfriend will be dumbfounded if they see the title of this blog.

But I’m not thinking about the noun, I’m going for the verb. Webster says weed is frequently used with the word out, as in “weed out unqualified applicants.”

After three years of writing a book, undesirable plants have taken over whole sections of my yard. This winter I’ll be digging out ajuga as well as burr clover, privet, palm, the occasional dandelion, and Bermuda grass. I plan to sit in the yard for an hour or two a day if the weather is nice and remove the offenders.

Inside the house is where I really intend to weed. When I worked at the public library in Dublin, California, we had way more books than shelf space, and those of us who shelved the books were constantly imploring the librarians to weed the collection.

My book shelves are packed with books from college and grad school, from studying homeopathy, on how to write and publish, from attending estate sales where wonderful books can be had for a dollar or less, and from being addicted to acquiring books from sellers who offer discounted remainders and send me monthly catalogs of their new arrivals. I must clear some shelf space if I’m going to keep acquiring books.

Magazines I have saved for years that have words and pictures that might be just what I need in a collage, need to be quickly looked at and cut out before the recycling bin takes them. How to file those images and words so I can find them later is still being determined.

Hopefully, after all the time and energy I use weeding, I’ll still have some left for making art.

And if I can get the books and magazines under control, I won’t have to weed my art supplies for a few more years.