Monday, October 26, 2009

Another Portrait

Speaking of fall and the desire to return to inside work and creativity, I'm making a portrait of Shannon (my niece) and Chris for a wedding present.

Annie says that my portrait style reminds her of Alice Neel--a TOP Compliment in my book!
On of my many, many retirement dreams is to apply for a grant to do portraits and stories about some of the many interesting people here in Port Angeles.

I'm lengthening Shannon's chin, as Annie suggested. I need to get a better set up for photographing paintings...too much glare, as it's been too cloudy to use sunlight.

A very unusual treat: 4 days off in a row! and no obligations except to work on my art projects and walk and eat and see plays and read and watch movies....What a life! It is allowing me to work several days in a row on the portrait, to have a creative continuity for which my job doesn't usually leave enough energy. In the day and a half I have left, I also want to get the Hot Flash book flowing. Last night I designed a page number logo and discovered that there is a lot of good material in one of the picture/word journals I kept during the time I was deciding to move and moving...more on that later.

Signs of Fall

David and I went on our annual pilgrimage to Iowa, where I saw a few hints of the coming change.

As fall wends its way across the country, my attention turns from the outside, to inside projects. I taught two classes at the beginning of October in Sequim, where wide skies are framed by the Olympic range, starting to show a bit of snow on top.

The students in my paper doll and doll making 101 classes at the Fiber Arts Festival were way more interested in creating new work than in the scenery outside.

The Crab Festival the following weekend in Port Angeles was an opportunity to talk up the new Port Angeles Arts Council and display the painted wine barrels, available for bids online until the first week in November. Mine is on the left.

To my East Coast friends, who think of crabs as annoying body parasites: No, ours are the pink and delicious kind that we Love to eat, when we can afford them or when we know someone who owns a crab pot. The line for food at the crab festival stretched for a block, so I went down to
the west end of town and bought my own.

I was inspired by one of the food demonstrations that Sandy Long and I saw, to make crab salad with avacado and cilantro, using Farmers' market cherry tomatoes. The original recipe also included apple and mustard, and was Delicious! Sandy was right on the spot to get a sample from each demonstration. Notice the West Coast tall cup of coffee in the upper left, from beans roasted by our local Princess Valiant. The demos were by Bella Italia and Karen Long's husband, who is now operating out of Itty Bitty Buzz...sorry I can't remember the business name. Their crab puffs are awfully good and they do catering.

I'm trying to do a LOT of walking, as the cooler
weather makes buttery foods even more
enticing than usual. My kitchen is in the center
of the house, as it should be, and it's almost enough just to smell a piece of bacon cooking.

Even better to eat it, with a heated goodie from Bell St. Bakery...I'm especially partial to the cheddar scones and the cheese danish and the chocolate croissants...

There are some spots of color here almost as good as my beloved Vermont. In the Northwest the red maples may have been imported, since I see them mostly in town, and always framed by tall, tall evergreens.

I can mark the changes without leaving my computer desk by the big willow down the hill from me, decked in bright green-gold in the moments when the rain stops for sun.

I've learned that falls and winters here mean many dark days, sometimes unrelenting rain pounding on my skylights, but with enough bursts of sun to keep me going, and the Many, Many varieties of gray and mist and downpour and drizzle that give the "thirty-seven names for rain" of my painting title, Moment of Pure Joy.


Monday, October 19, 2009

A Meditation on Mothers

All of us have mothers of one sort or another. A part of my working on my own life, with the help of studying Buddhism, and other systems of cataloging thoughts and feelings as well as images and ideas, has been to dance around my own story of my mother and me.

Those of you who have followed my work for years are familiar with sculptures I've made to explore and celebrate my grandmother's (mother's mother) life. In my book, DOLL MAKING AS A TRANSFORMATIVE PROCESS, I've delved into the mechanics of coming to understand my relationship with my mother, my ex-husband, and how I and others have used doll making to deal with powerful issues.

Each year my youngest brother and I have made a point of going
to Iowa to spend time with our's nice to have siblings at these times, and to know our own limitations. We stay with our brother, Steve and his wife, and never more than 5 days, and help each other in times of stress and a risk of "losing it." Families sure do know how to push each others' buttons!

Such a sweet lady...but with such power in our lives! Buddhism teaches that we give away any power that others hold over "stories" passed on from generation to generation. The burden of what happened, what should have happened, what should happen.

A wonderful gift that Mom has given all five of us is enough confidence in our artistic talent to go ahead and use it. As the only girl in the family, I feel our commonality, but also can see our differences. She encouraged me to learn a trade, so I'd never be dependent on a man to support me. And since no man has ever expressed a desire to support me, I am Very Grateful.

Here we are touring historic Galena, IL with niece, her fiance, my brother, David, Mom, Steve's wife, Linda.

We see small things we can do to mother our mother...Do all women dread growing up to be their mothers?

I see that she gets a good deal of satisfaction out of my achievements, things that she would have enjoyed doing, but has helped me do instead: my books, my shows, my classes, my house that I built, my independent life.

She is more vain than I am and more religious, and I am more organized and able to negotiate with the world than she is. As I get older and more self-aware, I am less afraid of becoming her...but that has taken over 60 years!

I know I will look back on these visits and be very grateful that we have had time and the self-knowledge to be kind to each other.

At the top is In My Grandmother's House. The picture is my mother as a child, with her mother and father and brother and a symbolic story of their lives. The bottom image is Mother, What Did You Want?, about mothers and daughters being so connected, yet reaching for their own individuality.

Barb Strembecki of let me know this evening that we might be able to run another session of Doll Making as a Transformative Process on her site this winter. Let her and me know if you are interested. LIFE makes GREAT MATERIAL for making ART!


Sunday, October 11, 2009


Questionnaire: What does the term HOT FLASH mean to you? What images do you see? Associations? When you were young, how did you think about women over 25/40/60? What did you always dream of doing? Have you done it, and if so, would you tell us about how you were able to fulfill your dream? Have you done/accomplished anything since you turned 25/40/60 that has surprised you, surprised your family or other people? If so, how has that achievement changed how you see yourself? Has it changed your remaining aspirations?

What advice at your age now....would you give to yourself at age....? Would the younger you have listened to the older you? How would that have changed the way your life is now? Do you know that women can lose their hair, too? What is Woman's heaviest burden? Greatest Joy? What was/is your favorite age and why? What do you wish you'd known sooner? What is your favorite form of self-expression or what would you like to try?

If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what, if anything, would you regret not having done? What inspiration would you like to share with other women? Is it better to be a man or a woman?

I am looking for contributions of short stories, poems, essays, answers to the questions, images of ANY art form that you have created or that you feel would be inspiring to other women and express the theme of HOT FLASH in the broadest sense.

Please email me with any questions, send images with as much detail as possible: good quality jpg's can be emailed to me at or you can burn tifs to a CD and mail to me at 3007 South Laurel St., Port Angeles, WA 98362 Please include a picture of yourself and mailing and email information for you...I will edit.

Sending your information and images to me implies that you agree to participate in the book. Each participant will receive two copies of the finished book, so include information for me to mail them to you.The project will take shape over the next four months, with planned publication in the spring/summer of 2010. The format will take shape as I compile the raw material. I'll keep posting examples here for inspiration for all of us.