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Month: July 2017

First Snow

First Snow

Writing about snow at the end of July during a hot summer in California’s Central Valley, and many regions across the country, may seem out of place.

But imagine looking out your window seeing huge wet snow flakes landing on the roof across the street, clinging to red maple leaves still on the tree in front of that roof.

My husband and I had a second floor one-bedroom apartment in a four-plex in an older neighborhood in Cincinnati in 1965. In the middle of the day, snow started falling unexpectedly (to me), and soon produced the image described above.

The black tree—almost bare of red leaves—was striking

First Snow

against the white snow accumulating on the roof. It was all I could see sitting in our living room.

Two years before I had seen a well-known artist demonstrate his watercolor painting technique for producing scenes for greeting cards. He painted on pellon, a non-woven interface material I used in sewing. I had a stash of pellon.

This was a perfect opportunity to try out what I had seen. Painting on pellon produced a watery, dreamy effect that captured the mood of the afternoon.

Maybe I should try painting on pellon again soon.

Watching As Things Unravel

Watching As Things Unravel

Watching It All Unravel

The initial idea for this collage started in 2010 as I watched knitting stitches unravel after I cut the sleeves shorter on a sweater. Every time I touched the scrap to be discarded, a stitch or two let go just randomly along the cut edge.

I wanted to use that leftover knitting to illustrate my thoughts and feelings about changes that seemed to be happening here, there, and everywhere in health care, finance, food production, energy, and government.

I covered a 40-inch square of heavy corrugated cardboard with an abstract print fabric colored sky blue, peach, and gold. The unraveling scrap is the tan area on the left edge. On the right side is an image of the Declaration of Independence under a mustard yellow block of paper that is corroded from mold and moisture. Random references are made by words cut from ads and articles saying: “a pill for every problem, identity theft, privacy notice, and we’ve transformed everything.”

On top of the words and images are strips of braided straw coming out of the yellow block, connecting everything together. Red bias tape weaves in and out of the tangled mess, representing “Red Tape”. Around the edge is a thin rope with frayed ends.

This collage was on exhibit in the Lodi Spring Show in 2011 held at Woodbridge Winery. I thought it looked like it belonged among the racks of wine barrels.

East Harbor on Lake Erie

East Harbor on Lake Erie

My father built a small two-bedroom cottage for our family when I was a teenager, and he was always thinking up improvements or additions to make it better. The cottage was located on the Marblehead Peninsula which juts out into Lake Erie north of Sandusky, Ohio. This is roughly equidistant between Cleveland and Toledo.

East Harbor is home to many marinas for fishermen who catch fresh water perch, bass, and further out in the lake, pickerel. The harbor is calm compared to Lake Erie. My cousins had the use of a boat with an outboard motor and I wanted a boat, too.

Dad found me a 12-foot boat and taught me how to row. Eventually he got me a small outboard motor for it. Taking care of the boat and rowing it to the state park on the other side of the harbor kept me well occupied.

Between my junior and senior year of high school my art teacher gave us a summer assignment to make on-site sketches of objects and landscapes we would use in the fall semester. I did my sketching from my boat, drawing other boats, docks, and shore lines.

East Harbor

This watercolor painting was made from one of the sketches. I added in my dad’s boat parked under the tarp, and my boat is next to it in the bottom right corner. I was pleased with the finished painting which now hangs in my bedroom.

I know now that I shouldn’t have the wires heading out of the picture to the right, because it leads the viewer’s eye out of the picture. The pole had wires coming to it, but the gravel road came to an end behind the boat house, so the wires didn’t go the other way.

I still find it hard to add in elements that aren’t there when I make an on site drawing. Fantasy and imagination are not my strong suit, I guess.

California State Fair

California State Fair


I’m pleased to share that I have two sculptural baskets on exhibit at the California State Fair in Sacramento beginning today, through July 30th.  They are in the California Crafts Exhibit in Building 8 at Expo Center. This is the second year that basket making has been a category in the Adult Crafts Competition.

I made “Nest”, shown above, during the Bay Area Basket Makers annual retreat in the Sierras in August 2015. I had made a beginning for some sort of container at an earlier retreat by sewing with waxed linen a few date fruit stalks on to a thick piece of something from a palm tree. I didn’t have any definite plan in mind at that time, and after the retreat the start of the basket sat on a shelf for two years.

My goal in 2015 was to complete started projects, that, for whatever reason, I hadn’t finished. The first thing to decide was what technique I wanted to use on this basket. Twining is my preference most of the time in the last few years. I had some odd bundles of sea grass and cordage I wanted to use, which would need a strong spoke material to twine around.

What can I use as spokes that will work with the sea grass, and how can I attach them to the palm base? This necessitated a search to see what I had on hand. I have three or four plastic crates of odd materials that might be interesting to work with. Three crates down in the stack I found a bag of braided nylon, probably from an estate sale years ago, which was strong and flexible.

I cut lengths of the braid twice as long as the height I wanted to make the sides. I worked each piece under the row of date stalks and pulled it up even to the other end making two spokes next to each other. I began by twining once around the spokes with a scrap piece of string to hold them in place until the sea grass has been twined for several rows. Getting this started is like wrestling an octopus—spokes going every which way.

As I worked up the sides, they began to undulate like waves. I was so excited to watch this basket grow—it certainly wasn’t planned. This is the delight of combining unusual materials together and allowing them to interact with each other.

The second basket on display at the Fair was discussed on the May 16 post at

Gift from the Jay Bird

Gift from the Jay Bird

Jay Bird’s Gift

In July 2005, I was making baskets out of daylily leaves. I gather dry leaves when cleaning up my yard and store them in a box. To make a basket, I soak the leaves in a container of water for 20 – 30 minutes.

I select the longest and strongest leaves to begin with and plait the center of the leaves – over one, under one, to make a base up to about three inches square, with equal lengths sticking out on each side.

Then I begin twining around this base. After one or two rounds, the basket will naturally start to form sides. I continue to work around the basket adding in new leaves a few twists before the old one runs out.

When the spokes become short, I snuggle them into the next twist or two. If they all get short at about the same time, they can be folded into the next twine one at a time as you get to them to make a rim. Another way to end is to stop twining and tie the two leaves in a knot to hold them, then fold the spoke ends inward and work them into the rows below.

I’ve planted trees and flowers in my yard to the point where I have habitat for many different birds – mocking birds, wood peckers, warblers, crows, humming birds, parrots, juncos, starlings, doves, sparrows, black phoebes, and scrub jay’s. I’m in the flyway for birds that migrate and I see flocks of robins, finches, cedar wax wings, and others.

They gift me with feathers to use on the baskets. I especially like those from the Jay birds.


Play Time

Play Time

Alex’s Prayer Flag

A week ago, I was in Camas, WA for a three-day visit with my son and his daughters. Their house is in the county, nestled in trees and blackberry bushes with deer wandering through the property and baby bunnies trying to avoid their cats.

I took a few art supplies so I could play with my granddaughters, Bailey 18, Alex 15, and Molly, who will be 13 tomorrow.

We set up a table in the driveway on Friday to paint prayer flags. At home, I had cut forty-inch wide silk fabric into twelve-inch panels and sewn bias tape across one long edge, with extra tape at each end for hanging.

I covered the table with plastic because some of the paint goes through the fine fabric. I have previously painted silk flags with Dyanflow fabric paint, but we used Liquitex Soft Body Acrylic paint because I had an unopened set that was easy to pack in my suitcase.

It was a perfect sunny day to do this activity outside. After the panels were dry the girls made vertical cuts in two or three places from the bottom edge up to the bias tape (but not through it) so the flags can flow in the wind when they are hung up.

Bailey and Alex painting







Saturday was overcast and cooler so we moved the table into the garage. I’ve had a 5  7-inch Gelli Plate, used to make mono-prints, for months with no time to play with it. I brought a set of small tube acrylic paint I want to use up while it is still good.

I’d cut large sheets of sturdy drawing paper into 6 x 9-inch pieces with my paper cutter at home. The paper is White Sulfite Drawing Paper 18 x 24-inch from Blick. I am delighted with how well this paper worked to make these prints. It did not buckle or bleed through. I could print on both sides, after the first side dried, to make a card by adding hand writing around the edges and folding it in half.

With the prayer flags, there were decisions of what shapes or images to paint. With Gelli prints it was mostly what colors to use and adding marks with different tools. The fun is not knowing exactly what you will get in the prints.

A small amount of paint, one or more colors, is applied to the plate with a brayer. Marks are made in the paint with various tools, combs, rubber stamps, stencils or even metal or plastic odds and ends from Dad’s garage.

Bailey applying paint to Gelli plate

Paper is laid on the painted Gelli plate, smoothed out with your hand, and peeled off to reveal a colorful abstract. A second print can be made which will have lighter amounts of paint and look somewhat different.

The Gelli plate doesn’t need to be cleaned before adding more paint. Subsequent prints may show patches of color from previous prints. If you don’t like what you get, you can print over it until you like the results.

Bailey’s Gelli print

Warning: This is a highly addictive activity.

Alex’s print
I Want My Country Back

I Want My Country Back

From time to time I find interesting fabric at estate sales. Probably ten to twelve years ago I found a small piece with flags and an eagle on it. I wanted to make something I could wear on July 4th or Memorial Day.

At that time, I was becoming increasingly unhappy with all the common everyday products that were suddenly bad to use like light bulbs and fireplaces. The newspaper ran articles saying that regular light bulbs could no longer be manufactured after a certain date. And no one was saying something better would come along. I remember the management at my mother’s senior apartments went room to room and replaced her regular light bulbs in all her lamps with those ugly curly fluorescent ones.

I still think carbon footprints are the most ridiculous thing I ever heard of. I recall waiting in line at an airport in Australia hearing one woman in our tour tell another that she had purchased footprints so she could come on this trip without feeling guilty.

I had an old rayon brocade vest from a thrift store which I decorated with the flag and eagle fabric. I made transfers of magazine photos unto fabric and sewed these transfers to the vest. Labels on the transfers read: Heirloom Fruits & Vegetables, Clean Water, All the News, Freedom of Choice in Healthcare, Freedom of choice in the market, Time to Enjoy Life, and I Want My Country Back.

I Want My Country Back – vest front

Seems like we haven’t made

I Want My Country Back – vest back

much progress on most of those issues yet. But they did invent better light bulbs

I’m one of the many who look for ways to express their political views without shouting or shooting.

Happy July 4th !        Be Safe !