Friday, February 26, 2016

LAW 82: Floating Empire gets an extreme makeover

We have lived aboard the Floating Empire for almost two years now. In that time we have learned, the hard way, just what design errors we built into her. Oh yes, of course that sounds like a great idea, lets do that! It will provide us with……. Well now that we are really clear about what works and what doesn't we have started on what amounts to an EXTREME MAKEOVER of the space. Hey, that's what's great about living in a place that you designed and built all by yourself, you only have yourself to blame and can make any changes that you want to.

The first to go, we're going with the open plan

So we are two days into the project and have made some awesomely amazing changes. She feels like a new boat already and if we did nothing more, but we will, we would be much happier with the space.

Look no walls/no privacy
The biggest improvement we have made is in the galley/living area of the boat. We built in a very frustrating choke point with the fore king posts. Yes, they did provide us with a great deal of privacy, as they were just aft of the door. But whoever was working in the galley had to move for the other coming and going with things from outside or even from the breakfront. The solution was to remove the bookcase, the panel that backed it and one of the two king posts. Since the walls are not weight bearing we felt we had to keep, sister and brace the remaining king post. The result? Well we can't quite hold a dance, but instead of two foot space we have closer to five feet of waltzing room. Even if the cat gets into the mix there is plenty of room.

Yes, i know i'll hit my head

So far we have open up the space, removing the bathroom walls in preparation for flipping my studio space and the bathroom as well as opening up enough room to elevate our tiny refrigerator to eye level. This was of particular importance to Mungo, as he really dislikes getting down on his knees t rummage through the frig. I was unconvinced of the importance of this move until it actually happened. After all i was losing art display space. But i do have to say it is far more convenient.

The project for Day Two of Extreme Makeover was building the settee. As you can see it is roughed in. It still needs to be finished. Routed, stained and upholstered. But it is already proving to be more comfortable and more generous in its seating. Not to mention the cat thinks it is pretty cool as well. Speaking of the cat; Magellan is not at all pleased with all the change that is happening in his only home. Nope, he does not like the sound of power tools and is convinced that the world is likely coming to an end.

Really? Get back to work!

Tomorrow we will start moving things around in my studio. Sunday, which promise to be a beautiful day will see us moving my drafting table into position, taking down part of the stern wall of the boat so we can take our 'bathtub' out. It is too big to move out through our door, so down comes a wall and out it goes.

Okay, we're done for the day

Stay tuned, many more adventures in Extreme Makeover are coming. Don't forget to check out The Floating Empire for more technical information about the Extreme Makeover.

More later,

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

LAW 80: this, that and the advent of spring

I know that that #@+*** groundhog did not see his shadow. The last week or so has unfortunately been way to winter like for most of us. Sigh. Yesterday the weather finally broke, it was in the mid-60's and people we had not seen all winter suddenly appeared to gaze longingly at the river and their boat. Today of course it is raining. But spring is coming, the birds are migrating and making an unholy racket as the dawn breaks. Aaah spring!

In the style ofRobert Motherwell ice/snow painting

Over the weekend we ventured to downtown B'more with friends to the American Craft Council show. This is an annual event which we do not always attend. It is just too much of too much to be doable even once a year. We always make an attempt to at least walk by eery booth; although i do not think that we done justice to say, the last three hundred booths we walk by. And i do mean walk by, you could be there for weeks(impossible as it is only a three day show) if you engaged with say, one out of three vendors. Do not get me wrong, there is so very much beautiful, creative stuff, but i at least start suffering from visual burnout after about two hours. The stand outs for me this year were the furniture makers, unbelievably gorgeous, huge, and way beyond my price range sand one 'jeweler' who was making the coolest, funky accessories out of discarded industrial stuff. Many other people at the show felt that way as well, as this booth was mobbed the severals times we strolled past it. Oh yea, if i had, say a $1000 budget to buy hand made clothing i could have picked up one, maybe two outstanding pieces. Sigh.

Now here's your problem.. i told you

I got my sewing machine out last week for the first time in, hmm, years. As you can tell Magellan was oh so very helpful as i was servicing it. I was inspired by some clothing i had seen on a Facebook group that i belong to, Textile Art Collective. You know how you have clothes that you just can't bear to part with? They have sentimental value, or you just love the way they looked, before you spilled red wine, spaghetti sauce, etc, down the front. Well, i have one such t-shirt, many actually and since i had a test leaf from the Green Man piece….. I'm not quite finished with it, and will show it off soon.

the end is in sight

Speaking of the Green Man project, i am working on leave number four. The end is in sight.

We are in the throes of the big rehab project here on the Floating Empire. I'm doing final drawings for stage one today. Keep an eye out for more info.

Stay happy and creative, check out the news at the Floating Empire.

More later,

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

LAW 78: Stitch one, Tug two; or life with a studio cat

Those of you who live with a feline personal assistant will know of what i speak: stitch one, tug two, is, very literally an everyday occurrence in my studio. Magellan the MagnifiCat came to us as a rescue cat slightly less than a year ago. We were warned when we adopted him(we actually had to take a "quiz") that he was a high maintenance cat, a personal assistant so to speak. Since we had both recently retired and had no plans to be away from the boat for extended periods of time we thought this would be cool. It is. But…. everyday, everyday is a struggle for primacy. Who's rocking chair is it? We even went out and bought him his own chair so he could sit with us at the table as we surf the internet, discuss politics, Magellan is supporting Bernie! He even often joins for meals, no he doesn't eat off the table; he just likes to be with us. Like i said, he's a personal assistant.

My chair. My sunbeam. Mine i say

So. Stitch One, Tug Two developed from this summer's game of Girl On A String. There is a YouTube video. Ahem. Once we moved back inside with the advent of the colder weather Magellan figured out that there was endless opportunity for attention when i was in the studio stitching on my latest project. Now mind you, he only has one toy. At least he has only one toy he plays with that we actually purchased for him. Even that has been modified through use. The fuzzy balls and ropes were originally attached to a plastic 'fishing pole'. That of course became steadily shorter as it broke off during vigorous play time. Hey i'm a creative person; he really likes it, so i just re-purposed it with a very long boot string.

Please note the great diagonal tension created here.

Voila! A new lease on life, and a far more convenient attachment. For me at least. He will literally play the tug game for a half hour or more at any time. This can be very counterproductive when it comes to getting things done in the studio. It is after all extremely difficult to embroider while playing tug. Since i am not an alien, nor a Hindi goddess, not having more than one pair of hands i had to improvise.

Don't know about you, but i'm not done
Lucky for me, the embroidery hoop i use is on a stand, which works pretty well as i have both hands free to stitch with, although not another pair to play with the cat. The solution was actually pretty simple. I tied my end of the string to the stand of my embroidery hoop. Mungo tried tying the string to my toes. That didn't work very well, besides it is to cold to be barefoot right now. Being tied to the embroidery hoop keeps a nice tension on my side of the string. All i have to do is reach down and tug occasionally to keep him pacified. In the meantime i get great 'love paws' massage on my feet.

What can i say? Off?

Oh ya. We often have these most amazing dialogues about Marcel Proust. Did i mention my studio assistant is a talker? Meorrw!

You can see how helpful he is. I should hire him out!

Finally finished another leaf on the Green Man. Only five to go.

More later,

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

LAW 77: Beauty and Abundance

Beauty is of course; according to the truism 'in the eye of the beholder', which leads to relativity. A thing's beauty is perceived on a sliding scale. It's position and rank on that scale is determined by human perception. Said perception depending on experience, mood, education, time of day. Any number of variables affect our response to things.

Some people would find this image of a rainy misty morning not beautiful. That is so sad.

Middle River misty rainy day

I have found myself thinking about this quite a bit lately; mostly because i have been reading Brian Walsh's thought provoking book,"Beautiful and Abundant".  What i resonate to in this well written, thoughtful exposition of positive thinking about the earth, humanity, and our mutual future is it's optimism. He has a very valid point; the environmental movement has been it's own worst enemy, the constant emphasis on the negative, horrible doom we face has discouraged many people from ever doing anything positive. Don't get me wrong, the book isn't perfect. I find it repetitive, but i am willing to overlook that because i find his position, his message invigorating. Yes, we all can do something to make this place we live in a better one. So stop whining and do it.

Okay, the meal is beautiful, and home made. Only one bowl qualifies.

The whole idea of beauty, particularly the idea of the beauty of handmade, functional things is one that i have spent a lot of time investigating and trying to implement in my home life as well as my artistic practice. Since i know a lot of artists many of the people i interact with are also involved in this life long investigation. Many of us have bought or traded works of art with friends, have experienced the thrill of strangers  admiring and purchasing art work we have made. Mungo and i have always wanted to know who made the things we use; a hard goal to achieve in a world that offers a plethora of cheaply made, inexpensive things from various third world countries. Don't get me wrong. Mass produced consumer goods can be beautiful. I own some fine examples. That does not however provide the feeling of  deep connection that is so satisfying that exits between the known maker and the thoughtful user.

Beauty everywhere, inspiration surely!

Karen Fiorini of Clay Lick Pottery posted an image and comment about customer satisfaction on her Facebook page, so Karen this one is for you. Ever since i read that, i've been thinking about the idea, Japanese of course, of Shibumi, the beauty of the everyday object, the object used, treasure, broken, mended. Loved. In 1997 we commissioned  Karen to create for us a set of four pasta plates. Our only request, we wanted cat imagery. Below you see an image of one plate, still  in use. It's 2016.

Frittata and mice?

As you can see from the empty plate image it has been well used. We still have all four of them. How many made in China objects can boast an all most 20 year life span, a lifespan of nearly daily use. This is not good china, brought out twice a year to impress the guest. These are beautiful, functional, handmade every day plates. This is Shibumi. Well done Karen!

There are signs of use, and love. Shibumi

More later,

Thursday, February 4, 2016

LAW 76: Transitional Work

Mungo and i started planning the Floating Empire over a year before we seriously got down to the building of the boat. So i had some time to come to terms with the fact that i would have to change the way, certainly the scale of the work i was doing. The images of the work i am sharing today represent a pivotal change in scale and emphasis. I went from working three dimensionally; creating abstract, organic paper sculpture within the range of the human body to much smaller, on the wall pieces. To today, primarily making hand sized books.

Open Book #1

These "Open Books" represent a transition between the sculpture and the work i focus on today, which is primarily, the book as art. Art you can touch and use and hold.

detail, Open Book #1

 The 'Open Books', are of course not open. Some of them are tied or sewn in a way that you can access the words that are written. All of them are translations of my prose work. Translations into one or another magical alphabet. All of the completed text was  cut up and the order shuffled. I think it's fair to say that as books, the 'Open Books', may well never be read.  That's okay. Mystery is sometimes a magical, inspiring experience. As i was creating them i often thought of them as Rosetta Stones; ways to decipher my heart.

Opne Book #2

Reading them as an artwork, well, that's a different ball of wax altogether.

Bottom detail, Open Book #2

The  paper is some hand made paper i was gifted, and held on to for many years before using. The sort of translucent paper, was actually packing materials that i scavenged, stained and used. Both papers proved quite difficult to tear, for entirely different reasons

Add caption
 I've always been fascinated by the forms that i see in nature. I have used scavenged from the landscape stuff in my work for years. Yeah! More recycling.

More later,

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

LAW 75: Dreams and schemes and other artful things, mainly mini-quilts.

Don't know what it is, maybe something in the water, but man i have been dreaming like a crazy lady lately! Last night's dreams were real doozies! I did come away from that particularly unsettling set of dreams with the idea for a new book, as well as a collage. I don't think that i am willing to go into the lurid details however. Suffice to say, strange……

A little sun and the garden grows

I realized as i was going through some of the older posts that somehow i had neglected to publish images in a consolidated fashion of the fabric fantasies i have been working on. You've seen bits and pieces of the GreenMan in progress, and some of the Eye of Horus, but nothing altogether. So i thought is would share images of the three that fall between the Eye and the GreenMan.

Detail of sunface

After i finished the Eye the next project up was a simplified version of the Sun card from the Rider Waite Tarot deck. I've always kinda felt that the infant crusader on horse was an unnecessary embellishment so he disappeared right away. And of course into every sky, some clouds, so there they are. The flowers are rather self explanatory, aren't they?

garden flowers in process

I guess i still wasn't done with the sun imagery when i started working on the next piece. The design for Solar Cat, originally had two kitties, but somehow they didn't fit onto the piece of backing material i purpose cut for them. Funny how that happens. So, the lounging cat goes, leaving the sitting pussy all by himself, and very lonely looking i might add. So, he got a sun. By this time i was starting to think about how much fun it would be to 'violate' the picture plane. Moving beyond the picture plane has become a very accepted practice. I wasn't real happy with my solutions for the solar flares that extended beyond the backing fabric. Ah well, life is after all a learning process.

Rather an Indian cat and sun i think

The Great Blue Heron is a departure, as for the first time i did not use fabric that i had dyed or printed. But, i have had this particular yardage for a very long time. So, it's mine. yes indeed. Looking for simplicity in design with this one. Trying to cut down on the time and hence the expense. Since i do these all by hand they can get pretty pricey. In retrospect i wish i had couched the outline of the heron instead of using the cross stitch. Again, a learning process.

or maybe from the desert, a detail at any rate

All of these pieces are relatively small, and equipped with a pocket and rod hanger. If you are interested in any of these, or the possibility of a special custom design, please feel free to contact me.

Rather imposing aren't i?

Check out what's new at the Floating Empire

More later,

PS: I'm working on leaf 7!

detail of heron body

sun face detail from Solar Cat

Monday, February 1, 2016

LAW 74: Odds and Ends and a new slideshow

So as promised here is a slideshow of the series 52 Weeks. This collage project was started in late spring of 2008. After finishing a year of teaching at Carroll CC i felt the need to refresh my creative juices. Since i had just recently re-discovered Hannah Hoch(due to above mentioned teaching gig) i determined that i would create a collage a week for an entire year. Seemed doable, if a trifle excessive. Still, i reasoned with the right sort of parameters  i could make this work. I settled on a common format, size, 8.5 x 11", all done on a tan laid paper.  Orientation, wether vertical or horizontal was predicated by the image choices. Generally speaking i sat with a piece of paper, prepped with an inch matting margin all the way around, than simply started leafing through my files of imagery until i found a starting point, building on that until a narrative/image developed. I don't glue anything until i am happy with the entire composition. Sometimes a particular image would start as the focal point, only to be discarded as it no longer fit where i had first placed it.

So the weather has turned warmer again. The snow is rapidly melting. The melting will be helped along immensely by this afternoon's rain. Gorgeous sunset the other night. Definite red skys!

Looking towards the sunset

I am finally in the single digits in the leaves to go on the Green Man. As you might be able to tell, there will still be plenty of work to go after i finish the last seven. Yes, even i think i must be crazy.

Yea! Only 7 leaves to go, and than...

Last but not least, as you may be able to tell from the photo below Magellan and i have an ongoing dispute over ownership of the rocking chair in my studio.

It's the look that says it all!

Check out our companion blog,

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