Thursday, December 18, 2014


Imagine my surprise this morning when i discovered that the two whitish blobs i glimpsed through the tufftex wall of my studio, on closer examination turned into a fish and a half. Evidently one of the two resident Blue Herons decided that our stern deck would be a charming al fresco site.

What i can't wrap my head around is not hearing any of this little dinner party. Admittedly we did have dinner with Sam and Catfish last night. So maybe we weren't invited to the party because we weren't here.

Will they come back to finish the leftovers? Is the mostly intact fish meant to be a present? Perhaps a menu suggestion? It was placed much closer to the stern door than the half-eaten one. i have read that the Chinese used to train pelicans to fish for them. Hmmm..... at any event, so long, and thanks for all the fish.

more later,

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


represent a very different way of collage making for me. There are at least two significant variations: #1 is of course the vertical nature of the piece and #2 is tied intimately to #1; i cannot work in my normal fashion, which is to lay out the composition pretty much in its entirety  prior to glueing everything down. These differences are at once liberating and disturbing. Liberating in that it is a faster, less deliberate way of working, in which  random coincidence plays a much more important part in the design process; disturbing for much the same reason, the process of building, watching a collage grow under my hands is for me, a very satisfying core element of the process.

As an aside, many years ago i took my first fibers class with Walt Nottingham. Walt's exceptional skill in the classroom and undeniable passion changed my life in a fundamental way. What he said in his introductory notes to that class in 1973 stays with me to this day; 'Some people are only interested in the end product, others, myself included , care far more for the process, the ritual of doing'. I am a process girl myself. Friends, colleagues and students have all remarked that i will find the slowest, most precisely obsessive way of making things. Its true. The repetitive nature of ritual making whether as a tapestry weaver, a papier mache sculptor, a book maker, or a collage artist soothes and satisfies the maker part of me. Collage, as well as satisfying the compulsive urge to make things provides an intellectual connection to history and culture. I, as do most collage artists, have a preference for a particular type of material. I use almost exclusively art books, art and culture paper media from the 50's through the 80's as well as 'how to' media from the same era. These bias' inform the work, referencing as they do the world i grew up in, as well as my passion for art. This is why, when you look at the 'Male and Female Gaze' panels the faces looking out at you may not be familiar, as they do not gaze out at you from contemporary supermarket tabloids or internet sites. Their history, the meaning of their presence, their importance is likely hidden from you, mainly by your own cultural references. If you care to look you may find them opening a window to my mind.

more later

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Of course; since the weather has turned cooler(cold according to Mungo) we are perforce, spending a lot more time inside the empire than out. These means among other things outdoors  that my exterior paint work is done until springtime. I had hoped i would have gotten more done but as usual life got in the way.

As if i did not have a sufficient number of 'irons in the fire', i have embarked on another new project. I decide i was going to collage the two walls of the bathroom that flank our composting toilet (which we love). The starboard (right, ya landlubber) side is the "Male Gaze", the port, "The Female Gaze"; complete with 'Dadaist' word game poetry. All of my images are generated  from art and culture magazines, spanning the mid 1950's to the mid 80's. The wall panels are 50"x 16", and as you could surmise, will not be finished any time soon. I envision an ongoing dialogue between the imagery and the headline poetry. If you have any favorite examples of the male or female gaze, or excellent headline poetry please feel free to share it with me.

More later,

** Oh ya: ARTICIFICATION, v. The art of esthetic embellishment of the physical environment by the hand of the artificer.

Kindly check out our other blogs, Floating Empire and Onboard Cooking.  You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Changing the way you work can have a profound impact on what you make. It is a very cool; Mungo would claim cold! Saturday, following a similar Friday. I have been obsessed with the new drawings, to the point that my collage work haw slowed way down. I started a new collage in the Divided Mind series late Thursday and twiddled most of Friday away putting together a solid, but uninspiring  central image. This morning as i sat down to work i decided that this was not the collage i really wanted to make. I carefully set aside all but four of the original pieces and essentially started started over.

My normal practice is to assemble the entire collage with out permanently fixing anything down: layering, trimming and marking before glueing. This of course means that i also have to disassemble the entire piece pretty much to put it all back together. Rather ironic huh? It does work well, allowing me to produce beautifully layered work which would be next to impossible to do if you were glueing as you go. I have a tendency to focus on what i perceive to be the central image and fill in the background later. Hmmm...


Today i made a deliberate choice to change the way i work: since i was starting with a brand new folder of unsorted, uncut images i decided to change the process as well. First i built the 'background' out of whatever caught my fancy; glueing down all the pieces where they touched the edge of the picture frame, building an interesting composition out of color and shape with little concern given to the narrative element. Next i laid the four saved pieces down, adjusted the positioning, added some scraps of shape and color and wow! the whole image came together so smoothly it was almost spooky. I should note that i wrote this, well, at least a month ago. We have been having issues with reliable connectivity on the boat, and, well, i forget that i had written this. My apologies. Please enjoy the images.




is of course the tidal variations we experience here in the Middle River. This was not an issue in Wisconsin on the river that i grew up on. Take today for an example: it is a beautiful, blue sky, blustery cool - okay cold day. It is the first sunny day since last Wednesday. Unfortunately it is one o’clock in the afternoon with low tide not due for another 40 minutes; that wind, is of course out of the north; which combined with low tide makes it impossible for me to get off the boat other than by swimming, which believe me, is not an option. Brrrr. Nope, it is no walkie for Morgaine and Mungo this afternoon. Drat! It would be a great day to be out at Marshy Point Nature Center, wandering the trails enjoying the spectacular beauty of the Chesapeake wetlands. So if i can't be out there on the trails here's a selection of  some recent  images from there.

Here is Mungo at the end of the Iron Point Trail

The view from the observation bridge that crosses the marsh. To the right is Marshy Point Nature Center, on the left about 200 feet from the bridge you enter Gunpowder River State Park.

No, Andy Goldsworthy was not with us, nor did we rake the leaves to create this image. It is hard to beat Mother Nature at the art game.

If you have taken Art Appreciation you should recognize the progenitor of this image.

Enjoy, more later


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Wooden Signs

In the midst of preparation for the Labor Day party at the marina we call home, Tom (the owner) said he wanted new fun signs for the bathrooms.  We talked about it and came up with a couple of workable bad puns:  Buoys and Gulls.

After some research, Mungo found a font style we all liked;  he cut and distressed the wood planks, and after staining and sanding I transferred my designs onto the wood.  I painted everything, then added a second layer of painted distressing.  

Viola!  Here they are.  Anyone looking for a great hand made wooden sign?  Let me know. . . .

Thursday, September 25, 2014



Rainy days. Slow days. Rainy days are always like snowy days, the sort of day that seems to last forever and is expressly designed to stay curled up in bed or in front of a fire. I’ve always wondered why that is: other than our inherent dislike of being wet and cold. Today is one of those days. It has been raining steadily since about 11 o’clock last night. I got up early this morning after losing the battle of bed vs bladder yet again. I made coffee, crawled back into bed and waited for the world around me to transform with the coming of the light. Except it’s raining and the clouds are low and although dawn comes, it comes with a peculiar yellow green light: the sort of light if  you are living in the Midwest sends you scurrying to the basement. So; in bed, coffee in one hand, a good 18th century historical novel in the other, i came across a description that resonated. It was a passage about sleep when the nights are longer than the days, about how our sleep patterns change when it is dark  longer than we normally sleep . It came to me that this morning seemed to last forever. Rainy days are slow days after all. The only clocks we have here on the Floating Empire are embedded in our cell phones and computer. I don’t look at the clock on the wall; it’s been years since i wore a watch. My awareness of time was distorted because the normal markers of sun position and light were missing. Oh well, whats the rush? It’s raining today.

More later,

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thinking About Art


Yesterday was our second grey, windy day in row. The temperature had cooled to a reasonable high in the mid 70’s, the humidity however, yep, stayed way up there; well you can’t have everything. Altogether a lovely transitional day between summer and autumn. The type of day seemingly designed for thoughtful introspection. After finally finishing my latest collage of the Divided Mind series, #5, “The Education of Piaget”,
i proceeded to do just that. I gathered together the work i have done this summer, tacked it up on all available wall surfaces in my studio (and beyond) with the intent of looking at what i ‘ve done since we moved on to the Floating Empire. I find a periodic art reality check is a good idea. Sometimes you see things you wouldn’t with out looking at everything altogether. Which is of course the whole idea behind portfolio reviews.

Well, so beyond a lot of detail work we’ve done on the boat and decorating the exterior wall of the front deck; a project i have yet to complete, not to mention lots of embroidery, i have continued to make collages, six of them to be exact, started a new drawing series (something i never had time for when i was gainfully employed), and i am playing around with the concept of creating functional sculpture, rather a la Deek of Yup, i can sure tell that i will be so bored now that i am retired. Right!

More later

PS. So this what the studio looks like after about six weeks of making art.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Art, Again; Learning to Draw


For several years i taught “FUN da MENTALS” of art at the college. For those of you not familiar with the Catch 22 labyrinth of community college curriculum  ART 101, or Fundamentals of Art is an art basics class that a student must take prior to taking any “required” art class on their degree path unless they can prove competency, or have taken at least two years of art in high school. Most of the students enrolled in this class have had little or no experience or exposure to the physical practice of art making. Most believe that they will go on to get a degree in computer graphics/design. But i digress, you have sixteen weeks to lay the ground work for a life time of art practice. Like i used to say in Art Appreciation, 30,000 years of Art History, 16 weeks, hmm….

The most common statement out  of the mouths of 101 students is, “But i can’t draw!” The proper response to that statement is - of course you can! It is a problem with a two part solution; 1. training, and refining the relationship between the hand and the eye of the student, and 2. practice. Of course the amount of practice drawing to achieve competence is quite beyond the scope of a 16 week art class. Most students in this class complain that one homework assignment a week is too much. You can begin to see the problem. The best you can do in this classroom situation is to make the class as non-threatening and as fun as possible. Hence, “FUN da MENTALS”. The line, the idea of mark making is the true fundamental building block of all art practice. One of the first drawing exercises i had my classes do was simply to make marks on a piece of paper while listening to short excerpts of different styles of music. After they get over the initial silliness that always accompanies this exercise i had them analyze  the shapes and relationships they saw in their scribbles. The ultimate end of this exercise was to develop a composition that exhibited unity, variety, positive and negative space. In other words creating a -good design - using only lines in all their limitless variety to create texture, gray scale value and other visual interest. This exercise has the additional benefit of introducing the concept of abstraction while building confidence in and experience in using the fundamental tools of pen, pencil and line prior to drawing still life, figure drawing or in plein air.

Now that i am ‘retired’ and i have time to explore all of the avenues of art making that i want to i try to do at least one of these drawings a week. I have always drawn in a surrealistic abstract style. The current series of black and white line drawings i see as an interesting series in and of themselves. They are part of the conscious downsizing of my life. One question that i need to be able to answer for myself is, can i be happy with just a pad of paper and drawing tools? Or do i need more stuff, more art making stuff to feel that my creative urge is properly fulfilled. I’ll let you know.

More later,


Wednesday, August 13, 2014



Yesterday was one of those gray, rain filled days. It rained non-stop from about 10 in the morning until about 5:30 p.m. Around 8:30 in the evening it started to rain, again. Days like yesterday come around with an open invitation to do nothing more than curl up with a good book and laze the day away. Or just maybe, to go to the studio and make art. Which is exactly what Mungo and i both did. What with the gray cloud filled skies and torrential at times downpour it simply wasn’t a good day for going anywhere or doing anything. I finished the fifth collage of the summer and Mungo wrote almost twenty-five pages of his new novel. Altogether it was a very productive day. Here is the newest of my collages.

Divided Mind #4, The fifth

After supper and before it started raining; again, we took the time to walk the docks and enjoy some fresh air. There is an elusive freshness ti the air and earth after a major rainstorm. A clarity that we often don’t notice in the rush of the everyday, working world. You certainly could not say the same for the water. The river turns a creamy brown, as if a giant had poured cream into their coffee. It will stay this way for several days. Coupled with the record breaking rainfall (almost 8” recorded at the airport) were extremely high tide and winds mainly out of the east which blew excessive amounts of water up the river. It is normal for us, even at high tide to have to step up to get off the boat. Last night we were actually stepping down. The water was up to the bottom of the docks. This turned out to be a problem for our resident duck family. Somehow two of the remaining four ducklings got separated from mom duck and their siblings. Normally being in a different set of slips in the marina wouldn’t be an issue, but with the water so high the ducklings could not swim under the docks. We spent at least a half hour watching the increasingly frantic actions of mom duck - - quacking all the while as she would jump up on the dock, trying in vain to teach each pair of ducklings the trick of flight and dock walking. Ultimately we acted as duck herders and got two of the babies to swim out and around the docks so they could be reunited. At one point i think Mungo was deliberating getting into the water and swimming them around.

This morning as Mungo was baling out our inflatable dinghy we realized that we had the ultimate dog days of August lounging space. Hmm, fill up the Intex, with cool water (it does float even filled over halfway) make a batch of Painkillers, and relax.

See ya in the pool.


Saturday, August 9, 2014



I like to make things (make art) using a variety of techniques and materials. Over the past nine years i have devoted a great deal of my art making time to an exploration of the art of collage. My interest in collage was re-ignited the first year i was teaching Art Appreciation at Carroll Community College when i discovered the work of Hannah Hoch. 

My first major collage project was “52 Weeks”; which was a way to motivate myself in the studio the first summer after i moved to Maryland. My practice prior to this move was large scale, abstract sculpture, not feasible in my current space. “52 Weeks” was a commitment to create a collage a week for a year, ergo, “52 Weeks”. Yes, a major commitment, however a more likely one than a friend’s (Dan Johnson) who wrote a grant that required him to create a piece of work every day for a year. Yes, a lot of artists are more than a little crazy.  Obviously some ground rules were necessary to keep a handle on a project this large. I really only had two, one the size of the paper i used, 8.5” x 11”, and the paper it self, which was a mid tone khaki. If only you could throw out the first few collages like the first pancake of the batch! I kept a journal about the process. The entire series as well as my writing about it is available at

My collage practice was predicated by the physical limitations of my new studio space. Does this sound familiar? Little did i know…
I almost never use computer generated images in my collage work.  Most of my sources are art history books, arts and cultural magazines from say the 50’s through the 70s, once i scored an amazing run of Southby’s auction catalogues at a local Goodwill, handyman’s periodicals and stuff even older, there are some amazing images in woman’s magazines from the turn of the century, 19th that is. I think that i don’t use the computer generated stuff because i almost never work to a theme. Ergo i never (almost) have a specific image in my mind - i prefer serendipity to uncover the image that will work best. I may ‘know’ when i sit down that my intention is to create a work that will fit into one of my ongoing series, such as “Divided Mind”, or “Womandela”, etc. The shape of, the narrative and imagery of each piece happens through the process of making and i never really know where i’m going until i get there. Maybe a little like therapy?

Divided Mind #1, 2014

Early on in the collection process i learned very quickly that i could not keep the books i was buying to cut up as books. They simply take up to much room, and here on the boat they also weigh too much. In the beginning i was buying up collections, often twenty plus books at a time - rapidly running out of room here! So i initiated a practice that i still follow, which is cut and file. I will sit down with two or three books per session and go through the entire book, harvesting any image or text that jumps out. These are then filed either by title i.e., Horizon magazines are simply filed as such, with the date. Art history books i usually cut than sort by style, religious, portrait, still life, etc.

But wait, don’t throw out that empty shell of a book, you might be able to use it to make more art. Altered Books are fun to make. I’ll do an entry on altered books soon.

So where do they come from? How do i put them together? I sit dow with a blank piece of paper and a folder of images and i start looking. Naturally content will be predicated by the material being used. Sooner or later an image strikes my fancy, i cut or tear it as my whim takes me and i continue looking. Each of my series have formal structural elements - “Womandala” the mandela pattern embedded somewhere in the composition, “Divided Mind” uses the split portrait, to reveal whats on a man’s mind. So it goes, wander through more imagery, cut our a few more pieces, put them down, look at the relationships and all of a sudden a narrative begins to develop. Move images around, look at the color and spatial elements, reject the image i started with because it no longer fits the narrative and continue on. Of course by this time, particularly if i’m working with Horizon (an arts and cultural magazine published from the mid 50’s thru the late 70’s) i have stopped to read at least three articles.

Womandala #1

I never glue anything down in my collages until i have the entire piece laid out. Why? Because during the composition process i find myself constantly shifting the edges, changing the layering until the piece gels. If i am working on a large very complex piece i will often take photos of the work at this point. I’ve “ruined” more than one piece by neglecting this step. Okay so its glue time. I use Aileen’s tacky glue although any PVA glue will work. I like Aileen’s because it is slightly more viscous than most of the white glues on the market, so there is less chance for unsightly ooze developing. So first i determine which piece of the careful crafted puzzle  i have just assembled is the background, the piece that lies underneath everything else. I lightly mark with a pencil any reference points i can, gently mover all of the elements that overlap it (of course everything else will move as well, photo please) flip it over, apply the glue, and unless you are 100% sure that you will never want to change the layout, don’t run your glue all the way out to the edge. You just might change your mind! Reassemble the pieces, correct the relationships, choose the next piece to adhere, and so it goes.

Womadala #3, Unplugged

Most of my current collages are completed within three days. The smaller size lends itself to a fairly rapid mode of work. When i was an active partner at OFF TRACK ART (check them out, 11 Liberty st, Westminster, Md) i would often create a piece during my shift, usually a three hour stint. Working with that sort of deadline was a way to sharpen my design skills. Enough meandering. I will write more later about image choice, messaging, etc. Until than check out the Hannah Hoch link, (the Guardian article is very interesting) if you are unfamiliar with her life and work, and check out my website, for “52 Weeks” and other cool art. Enjoy the images.

More later

Hannah Hoch, Art's Original Punk

Also check out our other blogs floating empire ,Onboard Cooking

Friday, August 1, 2014

Making Time Making Art


So many people i know think of themselves as artists. most of these people don’t make art; or make very little. Why? Most of them will tell you its because they don’t have the time, or they don’t have the room, or they want to, but they’re not very good, if they just had time to take that class…..

While i will be one of the first to tell you, yes, you do need to have to time to make art. I will also tell you from personal experience that it is always possible to make time to make art. I know, i’ve done it. for the last seven years i h ave worked full time in a retail management position and taught between one and three for credit classes a semester at the local community college. I was also a founding partner in a cooperative art gallery. Which of course meant meetings and other time consuming obligations. somehow in spite of all of this time sucking labor i had three solo shows, numerous group shows, scored representation by a New York City gallery, was invited to participate in the Florence biannale (couldn’t afford it) managed to keep my wall at the gallery (Off Track Art, Westminster, Md. check them out) refreshed with new work.
American Bounty, collage and text, July 14

How? Did i sleep? Yes i did - well i will confess to getting up at two or three in the morning if a deadline loomed. How? Did i eat? Absolutely! How? I made the time. Making art, making stuff, is one of the most important priorities in my  life. So i made time for it. No excuses, just did it. Went to my studio and made stuff. I am a morning person, so a glass of juice, a cup of coffee, and a smoothie and i’m good to go. It didn’t matter to me if i only had an hour, or all day, i was in my studio and working. I love the morning light, mornings are my favorite time of day to work. I cherish the days i can work without artificial light. So the time issue, well its not really an issue. Not if you really want to do it. Not if you have to do it. Does it sound like and addiction? Yes, it does. Does it feel as if i am compelled? Yes, i am. But making art makes me a better person, so i do it every chance i get.

I have to confess to being more than a little freaked out during the whole construction of the Floating Empire and dismantling of my studio and our home of the past ten  years. i closed up my studio in March, we put the boat in the water in the middle of June. I didn’t start working in my studio here on the boat until July. I was afraid that i would turn into a raving lunatic bitch after being cut off from the source of my creativity for that long. It was close, but the Floating Empire is a huge art project in itself. So there was some relief there.

Harlequin Blue Romance, colored pencil and pen, July 14

The other myth, the space issue is one that i would also like to take on; ‘I don’t have anyplace to work, i don’t have the equipment’, is as big a crutch as ‘I don’t have the time’. I have less than 90% of my supplies, tools and equipment with me. Yet i still make art, and do it every day. Even if its only a half hour in the morning before you go to work, or a half hour before dinner, or before bed and all you have is a pad of paper and some colored pencils, go ahead make art. Make stuff. Treat yourself, you’ll feel better.
Green Fish, Blue Fish, colored pencil and pen, July 14

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Life The Road Not Taken


Every road before you means there is one behind….. It is fear and regret that keep us rooted to one spot and we miss much of life standing there watching the world pass by.

The passage above i excerpted from a mediocre  freebie coming of age fantasy enovel which should remain nameless. It is perhaps the only gem in the 170 or so pages. I bring this all up because of a conversation Mungo and i had with a young man who is the most recent intern at my old art coop. We were in town the other day to collect our mail and drop things off to our storage unit and get things. (see Floating Empire the Sequel) Anyhow…. As we were describing our adventures and lives to date intern X made a statement that went like this:  "Maybe i should just skip the career segment….."

Although skipping the career segment of your life would not in the past been a path i would advocate i currently see some glimmer of wisdom in doing so.

We (human society) appear to have a blind date with greed and her big brother environmental disaster. I am not the first person to recognize our infatuation with the dance of death that comes to us robed in the back tie elegance of unrestrained corporate, capitalist greed.

Stepping off the edge of the cliff - like the Fool of the major arcana - takes a great  deal of courage; courage that we in this society to not recognize or approve of. Our culture starts our conditioning at a very early age. We are taught to not take chances (at least where it is important) …taught to conform, taught to want the 3000 square foot McMansion and all of its inherent cultural goodies and obligations. We are taught to upgrade to the next, newest, best and brightest car, phone, TV, and a myriad of other semi-disposable consumer goods. And what do we get? Debt, spread out between a variety of international, offshore financial institutions. We voluntarily enslave ourselves through the medium of financial instruments. We spend years servicing a debt load that appears to have no end in sight. Every time we hold out that credit card, sign on the dotted line  we sell a little more of our souls. Most of us start this cycle with our education debt. We become the property of our corporate masters. We are not living well.

The Fool is not unaware as he steps off the cliff. He is not taking a blind leap of faith. At least not always. The Fool starting out on his journey with only what he can carry easily, accompanied by his faithful companion is starting a new journey, making up a new lifestyle, learning as he goes how to live. Learning how to live well without all the trappings he's been led to believe he needs and wants. Live simply, live well. Well maybe intern X should skip the….

More later,


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The view from my bedroom window


Changes with the time of day, weather, and direction of the wind. I seem to always be cropping and framing a new image. It is a creative bonanza. I can feel whole series of work developing; photographs, water color, line drawings, paint.Plenty to keep me engaged.  How could i possibly be bored with this richness all around me?

Drawing or painting in ‘plein air’ is always a challenge. Particularly capturing the essence of light. I remember spending hours as a teenager, sitting on the front porch of the house i grew up in. I was attempting to capture that particular shade of black-green-black that i saw in the surrounding trees just after sunset. i was never satisfied with the the results.

I haven’t gotten my water colors out yet, still playing with line drawings, blocking and composition. Perspective, along with careful line drawings of a moving boat is an exercise designed to drive the meticulous artist crazy. As the boat shifts with the wind or waves so does your perspective. All of a sudden there is a plane, an angle you didn’t see before. Erase and re-draw? No, its futile, rather capture the moment, capture the movement. Hmm, maybe this is where we see the beginning of cubism?

As boats go the Floating Empire is remarkably stable. In still air and water there is almost no perception of movement. Than the wind shifts and you are looking at the boat in the slip across from you from a different perspective.

I know that Mungo has addressed the idea of having enough time in a recent post, i have talked about it as well. Having time to do what you really desire to do, or to do nothing at all is one of the gifts of living simply. In some ways retirement reminds me of life before the JOB. Once again, thinking about the halcyon and horrible days of my teenage years; i would spend hours perched on a favorite rock in or next to the river, simply watching the water, the wind, the light. Sometimes with my sketchbook in hand, often without. A “responsible” adult would wonder what i was doing, occasionally mutter something about get a job….Once again i am blessed with the time to simply sit and be present in the moment; watching the water, the light, the wind. 

Just before dinner yesterday we were on the dock. About three feet from the stern of the boat an osprey dove into the water, coming up with a sunfish.

more later,


Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Steady as she goes: Being present in the moment

Mungo asked me the other day if i thought making art was different here on the Empire than in my land based studio. i am quite sure he had in mind the number of sharp things i regularly use and the number of Oops, or oh… he had heard emanating from me over the years. A piece isn’t really finished until you bleed on it, right?

I think that i may have surprised him with my answer, which was no, not really. After a few moments of thought i did have to concede one pretty major difference(which really shouldn’t be one at all), the need to be very present in the moment. If it doesn’t sound absurd in the context of living on a boat, being grounded.

Book making, like baking requires very careful measurement, like all food prep, requires control of a sharp (very) sharp blade - be it an Xacto  knife, pair of scissors or your handy chef’s knife. You must have your sea legs and hands. You must be aware of the wind and the tide. You must hear the incoming/outgoing boat traffic, the creak of the spring lines. Be able to hold yourself, your knife, your brush, your needle still as your home on the water sways, swings, stops and sways again. You need to be present in the moment. What a great way to live!

More later,


Saturday, July 12, 2014



I actually started making art on the Empire last week. My studio space is still very sketchy and cluttered with things that i will eventually find a home for but for now i am for the most part working out of boxes.

In the ‘real world”, my version, i get cranky, irritable, and what i would call ‘spiritually constipated’ if i don’t make stuff on a real regular basis. It feels as if it has been forever since i have been able to sit down in the studio and let the creative juices flow. Mind you, this is not to say that the construction of the Empire was not a creative project. Oh no, not at all.

98% of my studio is in boxes in storage about an hour from here. Toward the end of the tedious process of clearing out our apartment i started to panic about how much stuff (weight) i was contemplating relocating to the boat. So, what i have with me is a very bare bones set of tools and materials. I have my ‘portable studio’ which consists of a reusable grocery store bag full of goodies. The PS was a constant companion whenever i was teaching (as an adjunct professor i shared ‘my’ office with seven others) there being no room for storage of tools or materials in the classroom or office. It also went with me whenever i sat at the gallery. I was a founding partner of a very cool and groovy gallery, OFF TRACK ART, located inside of Carousel Glass, 21 Liberty st., Westminster, Md.  OTA is a very fab gallery and if you are ever in Westminster you should check it out! So, i have all my basic bookmaking tools with me, glues, brushes (it took a week to find the box of brushes), paint, pretty much everything from the top of my drawing table (an interesting and diverse selection of prime ‘stuff’), two sketch books and one lonely folder of collage material.

When asked i usually describe myself as a sculptor. When people ask me, wood, stone, metal? My response is well, no, i use non-traditional fiber related materials. When i get the confused Weimereiner look, i take pity on them and say, mostly i use paper, although i have been known to use pig gut. I use paper in a variety of ways, from large scale abstract figurative sculpture, altered books, handmade books, both blank (need any cool gifts?) and personal narrative picture books. I also cut a mean collage. Luckily for me, Mungo and livable space on the boat i am happy making books and collages. I have been exploring this very rich medium since 2005, and believe me when i lament that the one folder of uncut, unsorted material from Horizon magazine is lonely, it is. There are four five drawer plastic storage towers stuffed to the max with material, text and image in my storage space waiting to be used. But for now i will be disciplined and use what i have.

Here is an image of the first collage, “Fullerene Summer” created here on the Floating Empire. Befitting the smaller studio space i am working  with a relatively smaller format, 9 x 12” in this case. I’ve also stopped matting my collages, choosing instead to work all the way out to the edge of the picture plane (sometimes even beyond), presenting the collages in clear acrylic boxes. I like the idea of no frame or matt to distract or confine the work. This is a definite change for me.

If  you’ve been following the Floating Empire blog you will already know that i have been designing stencils and painting the front walls with protective images from a variety of cultures and traditions. Can’t be too safe you know.

We’ve been using an old oatmeal box (one of the cool Quaker Oats (well actually Giant round ones) to hold our composting material for the toilet. Mungo asked me the other day to decorate it. Why settle for the prosaic and mundane when you could have the colorful and funky? Besides you always need reading material….. right?

more later


Friday, July 11, 2014


It strikes me that i should early on address the three elements i have chosen for this conversation. So here’s a few thoughts about life on the water - living on the Floating Empire.

We have been living on the Empire for just over a month. The first two weeks we were at Baltimore Boating Center and scrambling every day to readdress our propulsion system, get in place (get it working), finish cleaning/clearing out our life on the land. downsizing with a capital D! There was no rest for the wicked (or for anyone else for that matter). No time to develop a new routine, no time to relax, no time to make a home. I did however l lose more than ten pounds.

After two weeks at BBC on an incredibly still Saturday morning we rose before dawn and bravely (and slowly) motored off on a very carefully chosen calm morning. (check out Mungo’s comments). Six hours later we were finally here at Middle River Landing, moored safely at our new home.

I just looked up the official definitions of retire, which run an interesting gamut, from leaving your job at a certain age, to going to bed to go to sleep, to withdrawing or retreat. So, here goes. In the classical sense of retire, well yes i am. I no longer work for someone else (according to the Supreme Court corporations are now not only people “someone “ but have religious rights as well - i so do not want to go there). I am living my life for myself (and of course with and for my partner Mungo). When it became general knowledge that i was “retiring” i was the recipient of much unsolicited  advice and commentary. Half of which went like ......’you’ll be bored, you won’t have anything to do, you’ll be back.” Always delivered in a rather contemptuous, condescending tone. The other half....’oh, i am so green with envy, what a great thing to do...... but i could never, because......’

As a member of a retail management team (AKA retail slave) i really didn’t have a life. Why? Because i didn’t have a schedule. Well, yes, i was scheduled to work each week, but the old 9 to 5 it wasn’t. Suffice to say i could be scheduled to be in the store as early as four in the morning, as late as midnight, any variation in between, or even overnight. Did i mention that of the four of us on the management team my schedule was the most regular as i also taught two mornings a week at the local community college?
 a view of the new cat shrine in the front loft

Enough. For the first time in more years than i care to count i am able to live by my own natural cycle. I am not setting an alarm clock. There is not a clock on the wall. If it matters i can turn on my cell phone to check the time. I am not so busy multitasking that i feel the need to “time” whatever it is i am doing. Whether that is how long it took me to finish the project in my studio or whatever is on the stove. Don’t need the timer. Rather i am present in the moment, watching whatever is happening.

The unbinding of time is perhaps the greatest gift of retirement. It allows the body to adapt to its natural circadian rhythm, leisure for long conversations, creative time for the both of us, space and time to rebuild important routines of meditation and yoga that were shelved because we were to busy. Hours to read or write or walk or simply watch the water. I am not bored. The days fly by, but there is always time enough for love. (thank you Robert Heinlein)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

watching the weather

Watching the weather on the water

We’ve been on the water for three weeks. Our journey started on June 13th - yes that was Friday the 13th. We weathered our first severe thunderstorm while we were still on the hard. We have experienced a few bad storms since (including one that blew up out of nowhere last night) with a not at all close brush with the first hurricane of the season, Arthur. Living in a light weight structure like the Floating Empire involves us in a much more intimate relationship with the weather than most of us experience in our every day lives.

I grew up in the Midwest, smack in the middle of tornado alley. I have clear memories of being hustled into the basement by my parents as the sky in the southwest turned that particularly turgid shade of gray, green black, clouds swirling ominously about. Yes, this did make a major impression on me, to this day i am a geek about storms, and yes, as a child we had three tornadoes do major damage to a town just a few short miles from mine, with the damage erroneously reported as being centered in my home town.

We have a soft roof structure that stretches over horizontal supports that run the length of the boat with lightweight “barrel staves” that support the arch of roof. The roof material floats on the top of this structure so it flexes and floats with the wind and rain. We haven’t finished the ceiling yet. It will be insulated with a semi-rigid foam insulation wrapped in fabric (think major gypsy wagon here).  Yes, a chance to finally use all that fabric that has moved across country with me three times now. (see my previous entry on downsizing). The upshot of all this rambling is the roof breathes, it feels like a living, dynamic being. If you have ever been camping in any weather less than a perfect sunny June day you will know what i am talking about. It is a weird sort of rush to be in the meditation loft with the wind lifting the roof in time with my breath. Aum, breath in, breath out.

Living on the water you are by necessity much closer to the elements than you are in a house on the land. A daily check of Accuweather is de-riquer, sometimes on a more frequent basis depending on the predictions. Middle River Landing, where we are moored has a great website and we do look at it regularly for wind and tide information.

Is this paranoia? Hell no! Do i check the weather more often than i did on land? Not really, well just a little bit more...... My father was a bit of geek about bad weather so certainly a part of it is inherited. Also, in my former life (on land) i was a gardener. Another excellent reason to watch the weather. Today is a gray, rainy sort of day, no need to check the weather station for that prediction. Hot and humid, followed by hot and humid with a chance of storms in the afternoon. Life on the water.



Friday, July 4, 2014



The art of getting rid of stuff you didn’t even know you had.

Moving to a smaller space, regardless of how comfortable and well organized(really) it is can be a painful experience. With the right mind-set it can also be an exhilarating, liberating one.

I started in my studio in March, before we even started building the Floating Empire, knowing intuitively that it would be the most difficult part of our lives to downsize. After all i had most of a bookcase and a closet full of books i had barely looked at, much less, cut into. Not to mention, i’m not sure on first meeting that you really want to know what else my inner pack rat had squirreled away in the almost ten years that we had been in this particular space. I felt somewhat like the Red Queen dispensing summary justice - “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS”, while simultaneously  moaning.....Is there no pasteboard knight willing to save me....?

I’ve downsized my/our life before. Some things are easy to get rid of. Take the 120# of raw, clay that sat in my basement for ten years with out me ever sinking my fingers into its cool, wet, sensuous depths. Not a problem. Yes, i really did keep it wet. The three plus bookcases full of books, most of which had already traveled across the country twice, definitely an issue. Okay, we did get rid of some of the trade paperbacks when we left Illinois, we also sold a whole bunch of them when we owned our bookstore, but there were still way more than a rational human would want to cart around with them.

I have never had to put things into storage before. I know that this is a common issue within the tiny house movement. We all accumulate stuff that we don’t want to get rid of, but know intellectually that there really won’t be room for that ...(insert favorite piece of stuff here). I should have known that it wasn’t going to be as easy as it seemed when i devised this oh so clever two tier  packing system, which boiled down to STORAGE and TO THE BOAT, with of course endless sub-classification which determined each boxes’ position in the hierarchy of storage.
I knew that i was i trouble when in the course of moving things to their appropriate new home, boat or storage  i came across a box labeled, BOAT, seldom used baking and seasonal linens. Does this sound like a woman truly committed to downsizing?

more later