Skip to content

Serious Series Work

About a month ago, a call from Webster Presbyterian Church was issued for a virtual Fourteen Stations of the Cross. The church has a beautiful space for exhibiting art and I have had two pieces in two different shows there. I was surprised to read about this particular call as it seems more in keeping with the Catholic faith but it did sound intriguing

My first step was to do research on the various interpretations. Webster kindly provided links to two disparate collections–one from the Smithsonian Art Museum featuring a variety of artists, media, cultures, and time periods. The other featured a series by Barnett Newman, all very abstract but contemplative. Since most churches are closed to limited visitors, I knew there was an outdoor example at St. Anthony’s Cathedral here in Beaumont.

I re-read the stories, studied the various interpretations and began to design my series.

Posting the beginning of a series is a scary thing—will I finish it? is my work good enough? Will the work meet my vision? And will I finish?

And so here is my start.

Fiber and fabric and thread and stitches are my media of choice. I chose a set of fabrics I had dyed using walnut husks collected from my farm in Wisconsin along with samples of fabrics dyed with sawdust generously contributed by a friend who was a wood-turner.

Usually I find a model, do photographs and then do my drawings, convert them into thread and fabric. But the pandemic limited my access to models–no doubt college students in the art department could be convinced into a few photographs—or some of my friends—but knocking on doors and standing outside to take a few photos of their hands seemed rather rude and just not right.

Then I read the story again in each of the four gospels and began to wonder if the behavior exhibited by each person was a part of my persona—and so I am using my own hands as the models for my work.

This is not so easy—as taking a photo of the right hand while holding a camera steady and pressing the button is awkward at best—but the photos do not have to be wonderful to work.

Over the next few days I’ll be considerably less wordy and show my progress as I go.

Here is the start of No. 1. This is the Garden of Gethsemane. The background fabric had the faint image of what appeared to be a figure kneeling.

faint image of kneeling praying

I use a fine wale corduroy as a stabilizer for my stitching; and here is the figure emphasized by an outline from the back.

sitching kneeling

Next I added the trees. These are cut from black cotton organdy backed with a fusible.

adding trees

The trees were stitched down and some hand embroidery added to the figure. The piece is not mounted yet and so I will have some time to consider adding more embroidery to emphasize the figure.

But I must keep moving. Thirteen pieces remain for inspiration and implementation.

Bella and Biscuit

Last November, I spent a weekend in Longview doing disability exams for Social Security. The days are very long and hard—with applicants scheduled every fifteen minutes. In that time I am expected to review medical records, do a brief history and physical exam, document in writing and dictation the results addressing each of their medical problems. Some are there looking for a handout while others are in desperate straits—some by their own doings; others by misfortune.

The pandemic was still in full swing; the hotel offered no dining capabilities and even the vending machine was nearly empty.

The owner of the clinic where the exams were conducted owned two dogs–both rescues. One was named Biscuit–obvious from the color of her fur and the other was Bella, a rambunctious puppy of just 14 months. Biscuit spent much of the time I was sitting to review records and dictate with her chin on my knee looking up at me; while Bella when she had a chance would take a flying leap and land all 80 plus pounds of herself in my lap. The owner kept apologizing but for me it was much like the come-back party for the Neonatial Intensive Care Unit I attended one Christmas as a resident—the children were squealing, laughing, throwing cake, spilling punch–and in gneneral being active busy two and three year olds—a far cry from the tiny helpless infants lying on the Ohio beds with tubes and oxygen.

Bella and Biscuit made those two very long days tolerable.

In appreciation, I made two artwork pieces. The bases were a fine cotton embroidered towel from my mother-in-law’s linen closet,

Here are Biscuit and Bella

I converted them to black and white in Elements.

I selected fabrics, appliqued with needle turn applique on two matching tea towels.

They are presented on stretcher bars 11 by 18 inches. I mount the artwork on a larger piece of fabric usually either black or cream colored linen and put a piece of archival foam core behind the artwork.

It was a fun project. Using linens as a background has proven to be both challenging and inspiring. The quality of these linens is wonderful and it is a joy to work with such fine fabrics.

Cleaning up Crumbs

Maybe it has something to do with the way I was raised–rarely throwing away anything or maybe it is a fondness for these bits of fabric or just the soothing rhythm of my sewing machine as I stitch or the fairly mindless relaxation of combining these fragments together—but last year I was amazed and appalled to find I had an entire document box full of 6.5 inch sewn scrap squares.

I sew bits together, then trim them and re-combine until I have a square 6.5. I have lost and bought three of these rulers in the past few years. The pile of scraps never seems to diminish but they make good leader-ender pieces for all the other things I do.

While this may not seem too monumental, this year I put ‘doing something’ with these squares as my #7 on my UFO list—the number drawn in January for the American Patchwork UFO challenge. I’ve done this challenge three years in a row and while I didn’t always work on the UFO drawn for the month, it has been surprising how many of them have been completed—along with some others that never made it on a list.

There are still many more blocks to use in another project—and more crumb blocks are in process; but I was pleased with this final pieced top. Now all I have to do is think about a backing and get it quilted and bound.

crumb quilt in process

As it is now February, a new number has been drawn—and I am happy to report it is now completed and ready for quilting…I have a backing ready for it and will get its label done this afternoon. Photos will be posted after it is complete.

Have a Seat

This week’s assignment was ‘chair’. Given all the images appearing featuring a certain older gentleman from the Northeast wearing mittens and seated in a chair, I suppose the topic was inevitable.

I like to think about the topic during the week and consider various options. I thought about what makes a seating area a ‘chair’ versus a bench or a stool or a couch. And then there is the ‘chair’ of a department or committee.

In the end I found this chair sitting on a neighbor’s front porch. In this area chairs are put next to the front door to allow a setting place for bags of groceries or a purse while opening the front door.

many people tend to have chairs on their front porch. This provides a resting spot for bags of groceries or a purse to allow opening of the locked door. Some porches have a set of chairs on them for evening contemplation and sometimes for morning coffee although coffee is usually consumed on the back porch.

Flat lay photography

Several years ago–I would guess it was with the cell phones that could take fairly nice photos, there was a fad of posting a photo of your meal–particularly if you were at a restaurant or if the meal was special.

The past week’s assignment of flat lay means placing the camera directly overhead to take a photo of an assortment of objects–frequently food or maybe collections of things.

I had missed the previous week’s assignment of ‘long exposure’—I tried several option but got some lovely blank images and a blurry moon photo—gave it a try but not successful.

Flat lay usually requires good direct natural light for the best results; however, we have had intermittent rain and fog and overall dreariness to match the frustration of the COVID vaccine situation.

I did manage to get this image.

For those of you who have read a few books, you may recognize the reference—-and no, it doesn’t spell out anything at all–it was a group of figures I thought were fun and fairly easy to reproduce.

Maybe a few of you will figure out the reference; I had long been fascinated with this idea and now I had an escuse to try it out.

Spalls, Scrawls, and Williwaws

Notice the new title for my blog posts.

This course has encouraged me to think about this blog and life in general. After thinking about why I wanted to have a blog—and in this time of isolation, it would seem I should have been eagerly plying the keyboard and clicking the camera shutter—-but I haven’t.

All of us handle stress differently; I see a lot of anger and finger-pointing and misconceptions—the idea that a different calendar page will change our life’s situation or ink on a piece of paper prevents hurricanes.

But I can only deal with the world around me.

If you know me at all, you will know I like words, weird words, specific words, unusual sounding words. When I came upon the lesson instructing me to change the tag-line of my blog—well—that is just plain fun and good for several hours if not days of entertaining hunts through dictionaries and thesauruses (I guess that is a proper word).

My new tagline is the title of this post.

So before you click to the search function to figure it out, here it is:

Spalls are the sharp bits broken off a rocky face. I don’t write or say all I think or know–but just bits and pieces. It cleverly rhymes with the next two words.

Scrawls probably needs no explanation–my hand-writing is not the best, better than some and much worse after the tumor on my brachial plexus was discovered and removed. (the brachial nerve is what runs your arm–one on each side)

Williwaws are quick outbursts of wind from a mountaintop toward an ocean. It was the title of Gore Vidal’s first book written at age 19 as a first mate; but as a pun of sort—I live in Beaumont—French for beautiful mountain–Beaumont is coastal and speaking/writing can be referred to as windy.

So there you have it—-a new tagline with a fantastic explanation.

Finding a path

Like a lot of other people, I dream about what I might like to accomplish in the New Year.

Like a lot of other people I wrote a lot of resolutions, tried the concept of focusing on just one word as the inspiration/impetus for the year-.

And then there’s the project idea with writing out the various steps needed for completion—a la Franklin planner—–which turns out is probably the way I work best.

One of my goals/projects has been to improve my understanding and use of Spanish. I learned a fair amount of Spanish ‘on the job’, took Spanish in junior high—a century ago—attended some church services in Spanish…practiced Spanish on mission trips and in restaurants along with taking a formal class in Mexico and in Arizona. Both fun trips with lots of sight-seeing on the side and wonderful meals and memories.

I am working now with Duolingo……muy facil except for learning what is masculine and what is feminine. Husband commented a Spanish noun is made of two parts—the article and the word–whereas English we don’t separate them—that makes some sense—but still it is rather humorous to think of testicles and scrotum as being feminine.

Another goal was to improve my web presence in terms of this blog. I’ve been writing on it for quite some time, not always so regularly and usually with photography. At first I would not write anything unless I had what I thought a spectacular photograph…..well, maybe not quite spectacular but certainly interesting and well composed. I also learned how to input them from my photo site—that site has grown unwieldy and I need to deal with that huge task.

I read several blogs and have been impressed by some of the mechanics and the look of their blog—and thusly this year I am taking a course in blogging hosted by WordPress.

My assignment for this lesson is to identify my ‘ideal reader’. And if that seemed overwhelming to take a look at the blogs I read and figure out THEIR ideal reader.


Slice of life

Not dismal or angry or angst driven but not sugar-coating things either.

Interested in observing life—but maybe that is the same as the first.

common interest–photography/arts/nature/science

Process—not necessarily in something I do.

NOT interested in political commentary or proselytizing of anything

Shangri-La Orange Texas

The above photo was taken two days ago in Shangri-la Gardens, Orange Texas. Due to Covid and the recent trio of hurricanes, much of the Garden is closed and there is a one way path through it. The fountains were not running and although a beautiful day perfect for strolling through the garden, there were few visitors and very little was in bloom. Gardening is always a game of patience; there was a lot of clipping and planting happening—promises for the future.

And now I will check off completion of this lesson, take the quiz and move on to the next lesson.

Exploring the Possibilities

Canon 50SX, minimal cropping. This is a black walnut collected from my farm in Wisconsin. I have a huge bag full of them waiting for me to crack open, collect the meat and use in culinary explorations; the husks are used to make walnut ink and dye, the shells can be ground into pincushion filling and mulch. What other uses/possibilities are there? My word/phrase is Explore the Possibilities

Each week, Ricky Tims issues a photo challenge. The first one each year is always a focus word. It is always fascinating to see what images people have chosen to represent their word or phrase; some take some take some thought to make the connection between the image and the word.

I was surprised to see my metadata show up as part of my image here—so I won’t write more about black walnut usage.

My dad would crack the walnuts for about fifteen minutes on the anvil in the basement putting them in an old pie tin and then he would pick out the meat during evening television time. Sometimes he would make fudge on a Sunday afternoon using those black walnuts.

Sometimes I sit on our front porch and crack/pick out black walnuts. Easing the frustrations of the day while whacking away at those hard shells, sampling the occasional bit, and remembering a different time with the problems and concerns and worries of those days long forgotten–and only the memory of the taste of those nuts and the sound of my father’s voice and the grin on his face and the callouses on his hands.

Sweet Gum and Pitchers

Fall in Southeast Texas is not nearly as dramatic or colorful as it is in Wisconsin where I grew up—but if you look hard enough, there is some color to be found.

We live on the outskirts of the Big Thicket. The section near us has a wide diversity of plant life and ecosystems ranging from pine forests to cypress swamps to marsh. During our time here, we have hiked many of the trails in the several sections here. One section features a controlled burn every so many years.

Then there are the sundew plants—and the pitcher plants—insect eaters. We did not expect to see the sundews but there were plenty of pitcher plants.

Is that an Alligator?

The day was a bit chilly with a bit of a breeze but sunny, a good day to take a walk around the levees at Cat-Tail Marsh in Tyrell Park. It is the tertiary treatment area for the city’s sewage system and although that sounds rather off-putting, it is one of our favorite places to go walking.

The ponds are separated by various levees all topped with either gravel or grassy roadways perfect for walking/running/bicycling. I don’t run anymore, unless someone yells fire–and in which case, it might actually be a fast walk. But it is a lovely place to walk, there are birds everywhere, some days more than others.

Today we saw egrets, ibis, a little green heron or two plus lots of coots and gallinules. The gallinules seemed to walk on water as they traveled across the water hyacinths in search of lunch/supper. I suspect they don’t really separate out meal times–it is just eat all day as long as the sun shines and even if it doesn’t.

We were thrilled to see what we thought was an alligator with just its eyes and snout showing above the water line–and worked hard to get some great photos—but after a bit of maneuvering decided it was just a bit of vegetation floating along—and then we did see an alligator on the opposite bank–but neither of us wanted to venture close enough for a great photo.

see the snout and the two eyes
his head was stuck under the vegetation

Even so, it was a pleasant day—and we returned home–me to my sewing room to work on a project, Glen to look at his photos. I’m starting to compile this year’s photos in a single album labeled Texas 2021. I suspect we will have much more of pandemic lock-down/limited travel. I miss my friends and my family—the orchid society, the astronomical society, my quilting friends, the motocross/racing…..but then missing them will make the time we can meet again all the more sweeter.