Friday, January 31, 2014

My World, and Welcome to it!

These are the views from my two studio windows as I weave this morning. I live in what is typically called the 'banana belt of Colorado.' We usually have more than 300 days of sunshine here, and when it snows, it snows in small amounts that usually melt by noon. I can go entire winters, wearing just my wool sweaters with no coat over them. My snow boots are typically reserved for visits to the cabin. That has not been the case this year. We had a big snow at Thanksgiving, and it has been so cold that the ground has had snow on it since then, until it finally got into the upper 30's earlier this week, and the snow began to melt.

It was actually good to see some muddy ground! But this morning, the ground is frozen and again covered with several inches of fresh snow. Booker does not mind it, but I do. (Booker would be happy to live in snow, all year round, except for a few days, in which he would love to wallow in the mud.)

I tend to get a bit of seasonal depression during the year's longest month, February, and this year's weather does not seem to want to help me ward it off!

OK, I will quit whining now, as I know that this has been a long, hard winter in many parts of the country, and not just outside my own studio windows. 

Speaking of outside the windows: I have been keeping an eye on this Prairie Falcon for several weeks. I see him in the trees in the neighborhood most days. We have been finding the remains of doves in our yard, and had been blaming it on a couple of 'gangsta cats' that also have been roaming nearby. But I think the falcon is the one to blame. The other day, it landed on Booker's yard fence and just sat there, while I shot a few photos, checking out a large flock of finches that were eating berries from the vine across the yard. I love this look the falcon gave me, as if to say, 'you mind your business, and I'll mind mine.' I actually did not begrudge him a finch or two, as we have so many coming to our bushes and feeder. But when it chose one, and swooped across the yard after it, the finch got away. Later that day, I found more dove feathers littering the yard. I think the finches are small and fast enough to get away from the falcon, so our slower (and meatier) doves are feeding it. I believe I DO begrudge the falcon my doves! As they mate for life, I hate hearing the lone left-behind dove out there crying so mournfully! But, as we have found dove feathers four or five times in our yard recently, maybe the falcon is clearing out the mourners, as well. I sketched the falcon and a few of the dove feathers in my sketchbook. Now you can move on to another yard, if you please, Mr. Falcon!


Back to the loom, as I weave and listen to The Turn of the Screw on CraftLit and watch the snow as it continues to fall outside my windows.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Update from my World...

I am a few inches from the top of the small tapestry, but I'm not sure it will make it into the local exhibit I had hoped to put it in at the end of this week. Not only would the weaving have to be done, but all the finishing and mounting work as well. And today is Monday. I get no studio work done (or very little) on Mondays. Monday is a music day; with a guitar lesson and planning for next week's church service. The two of those take up my afternoon and evening, usually until bedtime. I am always amazed at how much time the music takes, as it is one of those 'time flies when you're [making music]' things. Monday mornings are a time to do paper- and computer-work, and I have a few exhibit tasks to complete today.

I don't know if I have finished this painting, or if I have just given up on it. I have been obsessed with photographing dramatic skies for quite some time - years, even. So I decided to take one of the most dramatic and try to paint it. But it looks more like untidy curtains falling from the sky than an approaching storm. I have at least put it aside - again - for the time being. If I ever get it to a point of liking or finishing it, it will be called 'Descending Darkness.'

My chief critic is not excited by it either.

On another topic; I truly am loving having Sherlock back on PBS. I watch, and really like, Downton Abbey, but, for me, it is just the show that's on before Sherlock. Did you see it last night? (It is the only thing I think I would stay up that late to watch.) It ranged from teary-touching to out-loud-hilarious! Of course, I love pretty much anything Martin Freeman is in. He has the most expressive face, and isn't he cute? Who else could go from Bilbo Baggins to John Watson and be the absolute perfect choice to play both parts? It makes me sad that there will only be one more episode in this season, but what a weekend I will have coming up! The Broncos in the Superbowl, then Downton Abbey, and then the final episode of Sherlock! I will be in front of the TV more next Sunday than I usually spend there in a month! I'm stocking the snacks and actually dusting the family room to get ready for it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Back in the Studio...

Gus and I have moved back into the studio to work. We've had a few nice sunny days; more typical to our winters than all this previous two month's grey coldness has been. And, though the natural light in the sitting room is lovely to work in, it lasts only about 3 good hours from the direction I need it to be to work in. Also, I discovered that working from a sofa is not very friendly to my back and body! So I've moved my Mirrix back to the better light and work chair in the studio.

It's good to be back in the studio. I have added a few new 'friends' that Gus has not yet discovered or destroyed. The bird in the top photo is of feathers, so he'll probably sniff it out before long. I bought it to put in the Christmas tree, but liked him so much that when I put the holiday stuff away, I just moved him into the studio. The tiny green bird was on a gift from a friend, and he is nestled in the curtains in a tiny hummingbird nest that fell from the tree outside my studio window last week. I had spotted the nest in the area I'd watched hummingbirds in the summer. It was invisible until the leaves fell. Then one day last week I looked out and saw it was gone, so I went out and found it on the ground below the tree. It has joined my studio 'Naturalist's displays.' I can't seem to keep from bringing in wasps nests, seashells, rocks, turtle shells, and whatever else that will fit in my pockets or on my shelves. (In fact the butterfly and the paperwasp nest in the top photo were also front yard finds: I did not kill the butterfly, but found it dead on my porch one day. I also did not kill the wasps, but collected the nest when it fell from the same tree the hummingbird nest was in.)

I am still working on the small tapestry for the unjuried ATA exhibit. I am at the half-way point on both it and the "October" tapestry. I am not progressing very rapidly, as I've had a couple of weeks of health issues that make working for any length of time quite uncomfortable.  BUT, I would really like to put the small tapestry in a local exhibit that goes through the month of February, and the work would be due at the Art Center by the end of next week. SO, I need to hustle, aching body or not.

After I had begun this tapestry, which is a self-portrait, I saw that there has been discussion of a tapestry exhibit of "selfies," which is an annoying (to me) term for all those phone photos people are constantly taking of themselves to prove that they have been somewhere, I guess. The worst 'selfie-takers' I saw were in the Louvre; where there were people taking photos of themselves in front of almost any and every piece of art, blocking the view of those of us who truly wanted to see the artwork. I swear I saw people who must have only actually seen the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo when they looked at their selfies on Facebook or Twitter. (In fact, I had my son pose as a 'selfie taker,' though he is definitely not one, next to an ancient statue who looks like like he is taking a selfie!)

I have to say that I do not see this as a 'selfie.' It will be a self-portrait, which is a long-held and traditional subject for an artist in any medium. When you spend time weaving an image of yourself, it requires more than the quick transitory image the term 'selfie' implies.  Just my two cents worth.

And, speaking of exhibits, it seems to be the time for me to spend a day at the computer making decisions about which exhibits I can and will enter (as there are four now with encroaching deadlines to consider.) It is getting quite expensive to enter exhibits anymore. I just had a piece accepted in the ATB10 exhibit (YEA!) so there will be the expense of shipping that piece. I will probably tackle the entry forms and decisions and ATB catalog needs later this week. As Scarlet would say, "I will think about that tomorrow."

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Few of my Favorite Things....

Maria von Trapp may have loved raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, and who doesn't? But I have some other things that are my favorites, as well. I do tend to form attachments to things that I use frequently. I do not like them to change or to lose them in any way. One of those things was my beloved Nikon camera, which, you may remember, I posted had 'died' at Thanksgiving. My dear husband (who is also a favorite) got me a new 'updated' camera, but I just couldn't make myself like it. It didn't feel the same as my camera; it didn't work the same. And I am not fond of having to read thick wordy manuals to figure out how to use something (which is why Apple products are among my list of favorite things: they are user friendly, even to those of us who hate reading user manuals.) With the new camera, I did not take one photo that I was happy with. So my sweet husband had my camera fixed, generously thinking he would use it and I'd get the new one. But I don't want the new one. I want my friend; the camera I took to Paris and to Maine, and that I have taken thousands of grandchild photos with; the camera I love the feel of and know how to get a decent photo from. It came home to me from being repaired and revived yesterday, and it is like having a dear friend come back to me.

I do have a few other things that I am equally fond of. I love my Taylor guitar. And I love my iPod, though I have not been able to form that close attachment with either my iPhone or my iPad, though I do find them useful. It is funny, the things we become particularly attached to. When I was a child, I would become emotionally fond of the strangest things; little bits that had no value to anyone but me.

Yesterday, I was busy with other work, but today I am back in the sitting room, weaving on my small Mirrix loom (which I am also quite attached to.) I got about 2 inches woven on Tuesday, which is 1/4 of the tapestry! I hope to get to the half-way point before the end of the week.

I don't know if you can tell what I am weaving yet, but I will tell you that it is an image of one of my favorite things; my beloved camera. I designed the tapestry when I thought it was gone from me for good. I guess it was to be a bit of a memorial. But now, it can be a celebration tapestry, because my dear camera is back!

Gus, keeping an eye on the world from his sitting room perch

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Room (or two) of One's Own...

Virginia Woolf said every woman should have a 'room of her own.' I, of course, have my studio, and I feel very fortunate to have that work space. But I admit that I claim more rooms than that one as 'my own' (though I am occasionally willing to share with my dear husband and pet family members.)

The room I actually spend the most of my time in, especially in the cold of winter, is my sitting room.  Before moving into this house, I had never had a sitting room. I had living rooms and family rooms, but those are for the whole family and guests to 'live in' and do 'family things' in. My sitting room is upstairs, off the bedrooms, and so is not really accessible to guests. It is the warmest and brightest room in the house. It has a small cozy fireplace, and a bright window, which frequently is where to find Gus, soaking up the southern winter sun, on his perch over the warmth of the radiator.

The sitting room has a comfy big Morris chair that my husband made, and a hide-a-bed sofa (where grandchildren sleep when they visit.) The big chair is where I practice my guitar. The sofa is where I do almost anything else that I can do while 'sitting.' It is where I sort through songbooks and plan Sunday music for church, so there is often a pile of hymnals on the sofa. It is where I sketch and write in my journal, so they are always at one end of the sofa. It is often where I catch up with email, Facebook, and Words with Friends on my iPad. It is where I do my Yoga, and where I keep an eye on the world outside my window. My husband often complains that there is no place for him to sit in the sitting room, because of all the things I have going on there. (I promise that is not intentional.... not usually, anyway.)  
Today, I have moved my small Mirrix loom from the studio to the warmth and fire of the sitting room, and I am working on the tapestry for the ATA small tapestry exhibit. You can see that I have just barely begun the piece. I am just now taking a break, because I am trying to keep my already aching back from further damage. So, I weave for 45 minutes, then do something else for a bit, before going back to weave again. I just have time on this break to brew a cup of hot tea, then back to the sitting room I will go.... to sit.... and today, to weave.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

TIme passes... but Not Slowly!

Bob Dylan wrote a great song that says, "Time passes slowly up here in the mountains..." Sadly, he was wrong. It passes much too quickly, and I frequently feel out of control of the speed of it.

I have not progressed much on my "November" tapestry - the one I was determined to finish before the end of the year. Time has passed much too quickly, and I have lost my (perceived) control over it. I did used to be more productive, but now I scramble to catch up, and can't seem to do it.

Yesterday, I entered the ATA small format unjuried exhibit. I missed having a piece in the first of these exhibits, but have had one in every one since then. The finished tapestry is due March 31st. I entered because I just refuse to admit that I can't get a small piece done before then. So, after entering, I began warping my small loom. And this morning I am trying to make a definite choice as to what I will weave. I have four designs before me that will fit the title I've entered: the first would be beautiful, but the weaving tedious and very fiddley and slow. The second would weave more quickly and would be nice, but somewhat trite in subject matter, I think. It does not excite me. The third design is fun and quirky. I like fun and quirky. The fourth design is also fun, and I like it. In fact, the resulting tapestry would be one I would keep for myself. It is also not as fiddley as the first two designs, or even the third. So... I'm pretty sure #4 will be it. But... I don't ever order new yarn for these small tapestries, and usually even scrounge through my thrum basket for weft. I think I'll find what I need there. If so, I will try to begin weaving today.

I also have a local exhibit coming up in which I usually enter a painting or two. I do not have any new paintings to enter. Yesterday morning, I worked on a partially completed piece, and I think it may be done. But it does not excite me. Of course, new work does not always immediately excite me, as I've been too close to it. So I've set it aside to mull over a bit, before I do it any damage. I tried to get a good photo of it, but I still have not mastered the use of my new camera, and I just can't seem to get good inside photos with it.

I need to recapture my work time. I have let it go to other things; things that I enjoy but do not feel I want to give up my work for. So, my 'new year's resolution' is to take back my work time! Good luck to me with that, and to all of you who have made similar resolutions. My work slows time down for me. Maybe that was true for Bob Dylan, as well. On to the studio to recapture some of that slow mountain time!

Sunday, January 5, 2014


I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. The scenery here is varied, and we have four beautiful seasons. There is a phenomenon here called 'alpenglow' (not actually 'Aspenglow,' as in John Denver's song lyrics on the photo above.) Wikipedia describes it this way:

Alpenglow (from German: Alpengl├╝hen) is an optical phenomenon in which a horizontal red glowing band is observed on the horizon opposite to the sun. This effect occurs when the Sun is just below the horizon. Alpenglow is easiest to observe when mountains are illuminated but can also be observed when the sky is illuminated through backscattering.

I love the effect of alpenglow. We live in a valley, with mountains surrounding us. In the early morning, you can see alpenglow on the towers of the Colorado National Monument to the west. We see it most often on our way to church, which is when I took the iPhone shot above.

In the evening, we see it on the Bookcliffs, the Grand Mesa, and Mt. Garfield (as above, and in the beautiful photo below, which a local photographer posted on Twitter.)

photo Dann Cianca
Alpenglow is not easy to capture. It lasts just for a moment, just before the sun sets or immediately as it comes up over the opposite horizon. We were at our mountain cabin this week, and watched alpenglow appear on the far horizen, just to disappear before I could capture it. There was still a hint of color in the sky, but the color was fast fading on the snow (top photo - to which I confess I added the snowfall.)

Almost every evening I see the top of the mountains to the east glow a pink-gold. Alpenglow; what a lovely word for an amazing and beautiful sight. Some day I will capture it in a photo or a painting or a tapestry. Until then, I will continue to treasure it each time it appears.

Tomorrow: holidays over, company leaves (sad grandma face here,) back to the studio to work (happy artist face here.)