Monday, November 3

In Memory

Happy All Saint's and All Soul's Day.
There's something particularly poignant to me about this season. I'm not big on the costumes and candy of Halloween, but I love the change of weather towards cold, the changing and falling of leaves, and how we remember our ancestors as Summer dies into Winter.
 Yesterday, November 1st, we celebrated Dia de Los Muertos in the sanctuary at Fleisher. The medieval saint statues were bedecked in marigolds and looked more lifelike than usual. The altar became a huge ofrenda.
 Aztec-style dancers did a ritual dance with drums beating and incense offered to the cardinal directions and Mother Earth in honor of our ancestors.
 It was breath-taking. In the face of death, we celebrate life vibrantly with color, flowers, dance, music, and food. It is life-affirming to be surrounded by community gathered in remembrance, in honor of ancestors.
This morning at the Philadelphia Cathedral, we also gathered to remember. The cloth I started two years ago was brought out and encircled those present while we prayed the Litany of the Dead. It is not long enough for our growing community, so I will be adding more before next year.

In speaking with my family about these two events, it made me think about the blur between culture and religion. Did we attend a religious event or a cultural event last night? this morning? Does it matter? In modern society we are sorely lacking in ritual and cultural traditions. They become overpowered by commercial purposes and consumerism. So striving to continue authentic ritual and cultural practices that connect us as community is worth it. Sharing with and supporting a cultural practice that does not reflect my personal ethnic background does not detract from my sense of self, but enriches my understanding of humanity. We honor our ancestors in different ways but at the root is that we are honoring our ancestors. If we seek the commonalities across cultures and religions we will recognize ourselves in each other. To me, this is the way toward peace.

May the souls of the departed rest in peace.

Saturday, October 18


I'm happy. Work is good. Life is good. Lately I'm noticing how important it is to feel connected to people. Here are some pretty awesome people I'm glad to have in my circle:
 We're a group of early-career art teachers who meet up at Tyler once a month to share ideas and stories. It's good to share with people who understand your challenges...

I miss another group that had come to be valuable to me... Last year I went to a yoga class every week at the YMCA. But now that I'm working 5 days a week at school, it conflicts. However, my teacher has been hosting a Flash Mob Yoga event at Love Park once a month. It as nice to see some of the crew and my wonderful teacher, Joy. She had a friend photographing the event, and shared this one with me:
I think it is the best picture I've ever seen of myself! I'm in balance. Exercise is a relatively new thing in my life. I always hated gym class, I couldn't run and move like other kids. But all the yoga last year started me off. Since school began in August I've been riding my bike to work almost every day- 10 miles a day!!! It has made a huge difference in how I feel. I have more energy and a way to relieve stress, and my inner self and outer self are starting to feel more unified. To have a body that can do what you want to do is a blessing.
Now if I can only find more time to make art I'll really feel in balance...

Monday, September 22


This picture is from a waterfall at Ringing Rock Park in Northeast PA. My family went out a few weeks ago to explore. It's a place of incredible geology, with obvious evidence of how old and changing the earth is. A field of odd boulders sits in the middle of a forest. They are evidence of the passage of glaciers in an ice age thousands and thousands of years ago. This waterfall runs over a striated cliff. You can see the folds of the earth and the shifting of plates.
It seemed appropriate to visit this place right before the school year. The tectonics of my life have shifted a bit. I have been moved into a full-time position as a middle school art teacher at my school. My daughter has just started high school. At Fleisher I've begun teaching a new course on Basic Design. And with all this busy-ness, I've had no time for my own work. I've given up the studio at the Papermill, and moved everything back home, reclaiming my former bedroom spaces. It was painful to leave my beautiful space. The room of my own. I will miss it terribly. I do not know how this bodes for my art work. My creative energies are being tapped planning new curriculum and lessons (having to start from scratch for the middle school). I no longer have my free Mondays to work on my own endeavors. I feel like my artist self is hibernating at the moment. It's an unsatisfying feeling. However, it is balanced out with wonderful feelings of FIT in my new work situation.
I suppose a certain amount of dissatisfaction is what keeps us striving..

Monday, August 4

Hip Hip Hooray!

I Won!! Over the course of the faculty exhibit at Fleisher viewers were invited to pick their favorite work of art and submit a ballot to vote. So this was a people's choice award. From over 800 ballots I won! The exhibitions coordinator presented me with this lovely gold-painted wooden manikin and $100 prize. 
Feeling pretty proud today =)

Saturday, August 2

Recent work

I've been working at home and at Fleisher mostly lately- trying to spend time with the family but still get some art-making time in. I took a 2-day silk aquatint workshop at Fleisher last week. It was completely different than I expected, but I'm happy with the results and the possibilities it has for working with kids. I can't imagine doing it in elementary- but older kids could really do well, as long as there's a press available. I don't think it will really become a regular thing for me because I seriously hate inking plates.
 Above are the cards I printed. I wanted something useful for my efforts, so I printed my plates as a bleed print on one end of a 6x10 inch sheet. Below is my plate after printing and cleaning it off again. It works a little like a collograph. The screening adhered to the plate gives a texture that holds the ink well. Then you paint over it with gloss medium/white acrylic to create the design. Thinner washes create gray tones, and building up layers or using thick application creates the lights. My image was from a sketch of overlapping patterns from my sketchbook.
 I'm very happy to have completed this piece:
 It started as 2 photos from 7th street in south Philly. The background was the side of a neighbor building from a very recently torn-down building, and the wallpaper was still hanging on the walls. The overlay was from an Isaiah Zagar mural that had a doily impression in clay. The title is "Domestic Disturbance". It might be a bit harsh of a title, but it seems a propos.
I've just ordered the above digital image and the Queen Wyeth mashup from my last post to be printed for me from Spoonflower. The one above combines the rough wall of a shed on Norris street near my home and a pattern from a grill at Haghia Sofia in my former home of Istanbul. It blends together two extremes of environment- one run-down and poverty stricken, old from neglect, the other opulent, old but preserved. Me in the middle of two places. I've dubbed it Norris Sultana for the time being.
I've got a few more weeks before school starts again. Hopefully I'll be able to keep stitching.

Saturday, July 26


You know you want to see this one in person... Only 1 more week to catch it at Fleisher.
 For the first time they're doing a viewer's choice award... I'm very curious who will win!!
I love this digital print and embroidery vein. I also recently discovered PIXLR, an online photo imaging tool similar to photoshop. Since I don't have photoshop on my laptop, it's a convenient way of altering my images. The one above is my latest mashup. I took the Queen Anne's lace from Brandywine and combined it with the decorative vent from Wyeth's studio repeated over and over. I like how the vent and flower forms echo each other. I have a few more images ready to be printed soon.
I've been very lazy this summer.. mostly spending time with family. We started playing tennis together. Went to the beach. Trying to figure out what's next.

Monday, July 7

Wyeth love

I took my (somewhat) annual pilgrimage down to the Brandywine River museum along with my aunt and uncle visiting from Virginia. My aunt shares my love of Wyeth, and we very happily wandered the museum enjoying N.C, Andrew, and Jamie. Today this picture struck me:
 It's a watercolor called "Black Water", and I love how the woman becomes part of the landscape, her inner self hidden from view- deep and unfathomable as the water behind her. Or perhaps that's just what I'd like to read into it.
 After wandering the museum we took the shuttle over to Andrew Wyeth's studio. They opened it up last year to tours, and this was really the pilgrimage part of the day. It's amazing to see the place where all the magic happens. You enter near the kitchen and see the public space, then move through a corridor to a library, then the former living room where Jamie Wyeth claimed studio space at some point and where Andrew's huge collection of lead soldiers is displayed. I was enchanted by the view out the window up the hill. The window panes making a perfect graph, revealing proportions of space and color. (Oh how I love a grid) Finally they reveal his studio space.
 A huge window looks out toward route 1 over fields. Light pours in and strikes bottles of dry pigment. An easel sits in the center of the room across from a cheval mirror. Photos and sketches are pinned around the room (no originals here sadly- the poor color photocopies of watercolors and sketches were a disappointment). The ceiling and walls are crumbled, spattered, chipped. (I couldn't resist a selfie in Wyeth's studio) They look just like the textures and colors of his paintings. I stroked the light switch on my way out, to touch something he'd touched. It's silly. My daughter teased me for "fan-girling". But despite the awkwardness of a tour guide telling stories,and roped cordons dictating one's movement, and the slight oddness of a curator's touch, I was enchanted to be in his space and feel his light and sense how he caught moments around him. I understand that.

Wednesday, July 2

View from the hoop

I keep using the word "Monster" to describe my big embroideries. For so long I only made small pieces- less than 8x10. So anything bigger seems gigantic. The recently finished "Welcome" in my previous post and this one in the hoop are about 16x17. It took me about 5 months to finish the last one. This one was printed at the same time, and I started stitching it in April, but worked only briefly on it since I hadn't finished the other. Now that all those french knots are finished, I have time for this next digitally printed embroidery. There's a patch of torn wallpaper on the side of a recently demolished building. So far I've used backstitch, satin, and seeding. Hopefully this one won't take 5 months...

Tuesday, July 1


 What have I been doing since February when last I posted? This monstrous big embroidery on digitally printed fabric. Entitled "Welcome", it is a blend of 2 photos taken from Fleisher Art Memorial: the sunset street scene superimposed with the Samuel Yellin gates to the sanctuary. I stitched the outlines of the gate pattern in backstitch and running stitch. The light shining through the trees are thousands of french knots in variegated perle cotton. I got the image digitally printed by Spoonflower.Believe it or not, it started off as a cell phone picture. It was a bit blurry, but that's where the stitching came in to make things crisper, leaving the background with an almost watercolor effect.
 The piece was stretched on stretcher bars and framed.It's now hanging in te gallery at Fleisher for the annual faculty show. The reception will be Friday, July 18th from 6-8.
 School is out. I have no summer plans. Just taking each day as it comes. Today was hammock-swinging, dappled light from treetops, and cloud-watching.
Oh.. and getting ready to move, preparing new exemplars for an upcoming Basic Design course, and other general busy-ness. I can't totally relax all day.
I'll try to post more often...

Monday, February 3

What do you know... another snow day!

I shoveled... and I stitched on this little guy. It's a mini version of the big blue monster- I wanted to try stitching the tile pattern. Small makes sense. Not sure yet how to scale it up. Should I just keep the one motif large scale or make it smaller and repeat it?
I found a nice quote by Rumi:
"You dance inside my chest,
 where no one sees you,
but sometimes I do,
and that sight becomes this art."

These are squares and loops but they are more to me. I need to write lesson plans and sleep, bu it's hard to put this down.

Saturday, February 1

Smelly but beautiful

 My Stitch and Surface class tried out bleach gel pens for their surface design technique this semester. First we dyed fabrics black and navy. Then this week we all brought clorox gel pens to experiment with bleaching.
 We opened up the windows and I set up a fan to ventilate, but it was a cold night for that!! Some people drew directly with the pen-tip built into the bottle design. Other brought along sponge and rubber stamps to try printing with the bleach gel.
The variety of colors and marks were interesting. One has to work a bit fast with bleach gel, because it should be neutralized shortly after the color begins to change.
I wonder what these marks and fabrics will lead to over the rest of the semester!

Saturday, January 25

Cold... but warm

This winter is so long and dark. Despite my northern ancestry, my blood longs for the Mediterranean.

I had a beautiful morning tessellating patterns for block printing with my adult students at Fleisher. The snowy afternoon chased away my teens, and only 2 showed up for class. But that's special too- having a chance to connect one-one-one with young people who would normally speak barely 2 words to an adult. I wonder if my elementary students connect to their classroom teachers the same way as they do with me in art. Is it art? Is it me? I seem to get their smiles and hugs and best behavior more often than not. It's a privilege to share their joy and creativity and growth.
Yesterday morning after we said the pledge all together in the cafeteria at school, a first grader took my hand and held it as we walked up the stairs with her class. In the evening I went shopping at Old Navy and one of my (sometimes challenging) 3rd graders was there. He rushed over to hug me, and I got to tell his mother how wonderful he'd been doing in class that morning. She looked so happy and relieved- I don't think she hears good things very often from his classroom teacher. I have so many moments like these that fill me up.

I get impatient sometimes for my studio, my needle and thread and cloth and paint and dye. But what's the most effective means of making a better, more beautiful world ? Filling it with beautiful objects that may last beyond my lifetime fills me with some satisfaction of eternity.. or at least longevity. But being a positive element in children's and people's lives, connecting them with creativity, helping them be better communicators of ideas, encouraging them to be empathetic, attentive, and careful may have greater reach in the world.
But I still have to stitch and draw and paint and print.

Wednesday, January 22

And more snow days...

I've been hibernating some more. In the studio it's been slow going on the blue monster, interspaced with more watercolor geometries. I also started binding the edges of my urban sampler that was finished a few months ago but never bound. It's too cold there to be terribly productive. We had another snow day today. Strange to feel weekendish on a Wednesday, but I slept in... had breakfast at lunchtime... shoveled out my car to be ready in the AM... and decided to stay home and paint instead of trying to go the 1 mile of icy road to the Papermill. That's just laziness really.
 I searched around for india ink to no avail... since moving into the studio last year there's a dearth of art supplies at home. But my trucky little Schminke watercolor set was handy for some sketchbook work. I was given this watercolor set by my former classmates from the lycee in France the year I spent abroad when I was 16. I think it might be the best present I've ever received. All those lovely young French people whose names and faces have faded from memory (Regis and Claire- where are you now?) knew even then that I was an artist.
 I have a few images pinned to my Patterns pinterest board that I've been meaning to sketch and paint. So I filled the spread of my sketchbook (oh thank you Michelle for the most beautiful sketchbook I could have ever asked for) by simplifying and combining some of the patterns. This looks like broken down tile, revealing plaster and grate..
It's so nice to paint. It's faster than stitching. But the repetitive focus of painting these circles and tiny diamonds and the patience required for watercolor mirror my embroidery so well. It's all layers and watching something unexpected happen, watching it grow under the brush.
Back to school tomorrow. I will have to wait till I'm very old to live the studio life I think. In the meantime, I'm thankful for unexpected snow days.

Monday, January 6

Snow days

 Winter break is just about over. It has been ever so wintry. Snow is beautiful... and annoying... but mostly beautiful.
 The snow hushes the city. Nobody wants to drive. All you hear is the crunch of your boots.
 Icicles grew to massive proportions the day after the storm. Its a marvel that there is melting even in below freezing temperatures.
 I've been trying to spend lots of time at the studio despite the cold. It only made it up to 41 degrees there today... here's my studio wall:
I've been moving between little geometric watercolors... vibrating circles... and quilting the blue monster (still). I wish I could just be there every day. Something different would develop. We underestimate what happens during sustained time.Time to think, absorb, reflect, encounter chance. When I only go in for a few hours and stitch- it's too direct.
But little children await me this week. 500 pairs of bright eyes and eager hands and imaginations. It's a different kind of development. The paint and cloth will wait for me.