Tag Archives: art

Floating into another year


Something happened about ten days into November–I blinked once and suddenly everything was coming at me at light speed. This didn’t really stop until a good week after Christmas. It was a little bit like being picked up by a big wave, then letting go and just riding it until it dumped me rather unceremoniously me on the shore.

I’m still sort of picking sand out of my teeth, but, you know . . . in a good way.

Now I’m riding the waves again, three or four of them at once as I try to focus on some big projects that should keep me occupied well into the new year, and, if I’m lucky, beyond.

Shutting up now and leaving you with a few images from the intervening weeks. I’m especially fond of the first few, taken in an abandoned swimming pool halfway up the side of a mountain in the Catskills. Yeah, I know, right?

Art and updates to follow soon!



And a wee bit of Christmas, including a million pans of cinnamon rolls packaged up and delivered, and a few moments of stillness.



(Note clever use of turned off outdoor grill as a temporary fridge to keep rolls from rising before they could be delivered.)

With many thanks to Santa for–among other lovely things–replacing my grew-legs-and-walked-off copy of Seven Samurai!

Back soon with projects and plans–happy new year!




Art lessons

I spent last weekend in Vermont with some folks from my dojo at the home of our teacher (a gorgeous cabin he and his family built with their own hands). It was a great weekend. We ate (a lot), drank (more or less moderately), roasted a whole pig, hiked around in the woods marveling at things like the beaver pond, the requisite fall foliage, the dark dark skies (enabling us to see many falling stars–or alien scout ships, depending on who’s doing the telling). We even squeezed in a tiny bit of karate.

One of my fellow students, an artist by inclination and training, has been helping me with my kata and my art. He believes there is a connection, so I packed amongst my weekend gear two cheap sketch pads and a box of conte crayons–relics of the one pathetic art class I took in college (not saying that was a long time ago, but the sponge sheets between the two tiers of the crayons turned instantly to dust the moment I picked them up).

I got these things out during a quiet part of one afternoon when the nine of us were just sitting around telling karate stories (and tales of a few alien encounters) My fellow student/teacher set me to doing quick motion sketches, and when he decided the crayons were slowing me down (“Faster! Bigger! No thinking!”) he had me swap them for a little pot of black ink and a brush.

Now, I’m untaught and awkward. And I think too much. But I had a blast doing these and have kept it up a little since getting home. Not saying that anything I did was “good” (or, in most cases, even recognizable as human beings), but it was soooo much fun.

And I’m not completely convinced it helped my kata. But in class last night I got the kumite set I’ve been laboring over right all the way through. Nobody said perfect, okay? But at least I’ve got the basic choreography down right.

Hee, hee. Where did I put that sketch pad?

A little wall art

More wall hangings–some gifts I made this morning for some people who have been very helpful to me lately:

Hui Neng: “The meaning of life is to see.”

From Basho:

a cicada’s shell

it sang itself

utterly away

And a Chinese proverb: “That the birds of worry and care fly over your head, this you cannot change, but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.”

The quotations are printed on some of my suminagashi pieces. A wonderful easy craft–great for teachers’ gifts at this time of year. I did a little tutorial for them back about . . . well, about this time of year! Seems to be the season for thanks.

Everybody’s a critic

Okay, I have a confession to make. I am the woman who stands in front of you in line at the post office, taking my own sweet time as I select just the right stamps for whatever I’m likely to be mailing.  I understand that you have places to be and things to do and that this is the only post office in this small town, but I have my standards.

I went to the post office yesterday to mail a package to First Child at college, but while I was standing in line I got to admiring the posters advertising the new 2010 stamps. No flags here (okay, they do have some nice enough state flag stamps, but these still don’t float my boat). But they definitely had some good stuff. I figured I might as well replenish my stamp supply and spent my time in line trying to decide between the cats and dogs animal rescue stamps or the Lunar new year stamps. Or maybe the Katharine Hepburn stamps–very chic.  Or maybe Cowboys of the Silver Screen. All good.

But then I saw them: abstract expressionist stamps. Gorgeous. I mean, who wouldn’t want to get a letter with a tiny little Jackson Pollock in the corner? Right? Art for only 44 cents.

I mailed my package and said, “And a sheet of the Abstract Expressionist stamps, please.”

The nice bearded guy behind the counter shook his head sadly.

“All gone.”

My face fell.

“But,” he said, by way of cheering me up. “You wouldn’t have wanted them anyway. Most of them looked like somebody had dipped a chicken in paint and let it walk around on the canvas.”

“Some of those chickens,” I countered, “are very talented.”

“Maybe,” he said. “But I still don’t want one hanging over my sofa.”

I may have to take a field trip to the next town over to see whether they have better taste.

Art practice

I was away for a while, living the life of the monks. This isn’t quite what you might expect. There’s lots of some things you count on–meditation, hard work, silence, simple vegetarian meals . . . and of other things, not so much.

Sleep, for one thing. Though, oddly, once I settle in to the rhythm of the place,  I think I may get more sleep there than I get here at home (which, in itself, is not so much).

And then there are things you don’t expect at all.

Like an impromptu salsa dancing class at 7:00 in the morning.

Like being identified as a baker and being asked to make a dessert big enough for 50 people and getting to use what’s essentially a riding mixer.

Like being moved to tears by sitting for hours with an old man‘s worn leather slippers.

Like connecting with old friends. And making some new ones.

One of the best things was having hours of time to devote to art practice. We have an assignment, and I’d started on it at home. But being there, sitting with those slippers, making contact with all those people who were also touched by the life of this remarkable man turned my artwork in a new direction.

Still working with the cicada. Gone to ground.

As hungry ghost.


Taking refuge with others.

A good week, and one that’s got me fired up to jump into several back burner projects.

Still not, alas, the birthday present, on which I’m a little stuck in one key area. But something that might be Christmas gifts. And something else that might be my next book.

In the meantime, it’s awfully good to be home.

With art on the brain.

A little down time is a dangerous thing

Whew! Upright again after 10 days on the couch with my foot in the air. Tip: watch out for foot/soccer ball/dog mouth collisions.

The bad news: having a laptop computer takes away any excuse a self-employed writer might have to lay off work during a convalescence.

The good news: 10 days on the couch still gives one lots of time to get into trouble dream about new projects. I started lists of new projects, made notes about ways to complete unfinished projects, and basically ended up with some very exciting to-do lists, enough to fill many weekends when I’m off and many minutes and hours here and there when I should be working instead.

I kept my little idea book and pen by my side (right there with the antibiotics and the bandages and the DVD remote), and filled pages and pages with ideas, inspirations, and notes. And now I have more projects to do than I’ll ever have time for.

Indeed, a little down time is a dangerous thing.

Owing to the goodness and patience of my Better Half and the bounty of our state’s inter-library loan program, I was kept well inspired by the steady stream of books that came to me while I was down.

These are among the books that kept me inspired over the last 10 days (in no particular order):

Gwen Diehn’s wonderful (that’s redundant, of course–all of Gwen Diehn’s books are wonderful) book for kids on making books. Don’t let the “for kids” part put you off–it’s a great introduction to making books that don’t just lie there, and has given me new ideas for my sister’s belated (belateder and belateder by now) birthday present.

This one’s so great I’m going to have to get my own copy after I turn it back in to the library. I already have her other book on journals, so I got it out, too and added it to the stack by the couch:

This one taught me a lot and gives me confidence that I can pull off another project that’s on my list.

This terrific volume from Lark Books (whose whole catalog I would love to own–Lark people, are you listening?) is another one that goes on my to-own list. Even Second Child, who deliberately skirts the edges of much of my making-things drive (don’t worry, she has plenty of wonderful creative outlets of her own), got caught up in this one and spent a long time going through it with me: “Oooh, look at this one!” and “Could you make something like this for me?” (note to self–add more projects to the list).

I checked out a lot of books that began to look the same. But even after looking at a number that I won’t mention here because they began to feel a little same-old-same-old, I’d find a gem–same genre, but with a fresh, original take on the subject. This book by Holly Harrison was one of these–really worth going to get.

Here’s another I almost overlooked–at first glance I was afraid it was another of those “if you stick a paper crown on it, it’s art” books, but I was wrong, wrong, wrong–I loved this one and especially picked up a lot of tips about different techniques and materials from this book by Lynne Perrella:

Finally, this one was still hanging around from when I made the noren a month or so ago.  I checked out several newish books about printing (with an emphasis on printing on fabric), and some were good and some were disappointing. I won’t reveal the name of the hip, hot, newish one that I thought was wayyy too simplistic and not terribly inspiring, but I will say that this book by Lena Corwin is much better–this is one to buy if you’re going to buy a book on hand printing on fabric.

My art and craft book budget is pitiful these days, so my new technique is to look up on Amazon all the books I might want and then try to hunt them down through inter-library loan.  I’m astonished at how often I’m able to get my hands on the ones I want–and for free, too (good news for the poor, the broke, the frugal, and the just-plain cheap). Then, once I’ve vetted them, I like to support these authors/artists whenever I can, so I buy the ones I know I’m really going to want to refer to again and again.

Cheap tip:  open a tab on your browser for your online bookstore of choice, then open one next to it for your local library and bring up your account there. When you see a book you think might be useful, pop over to the library site and put it on your “request” list. I find that these books often become available within a very few days.

What?! you don’t have an account at your local library?! Go and get one immediately–it’s free and it enables you to maintain a list of things you want to have sent to you asap. You can also probably sign up to be notified by email as soon as the library gets the book for you. Between the Better Half* and me, someone from our family is at the library at least 3 days a week.


*Of course, some of us are retired and can read any time we want to. Hrmmph. Lucky man. On the other hand, my little taste of being able to read whenever I like was delightful, but if it means I have to be an invalid in order to do so, I’ll take health any day, thanks.

Tomatoes–hothouse, dirt, and ripe

No, not the kind that you put in your mouth, though we are finally approaching the time when we can renew our acquaintance with them here in the up-until-now rainy and cold northeast.  Last week, on a day when I thought summer might actually be coming because it hardly rained at all and I didn’t have to put on a sweater until after the sun went down, I visited my favorite truck farmer, Jake. When I took my corn and tomatoes to his till to settle up, he was at pains to tell me–apologetically–that those were his tomatoes, but they were hothouse tomatoes. “We won’t have real dirt tomatoes until August,” he sighed.

I can wait. And this will help to tide me over.

My Floating Ink blog has been honored with a Ripe Tomato for Blogging Excellence award.  I was surprised and tickled.  Fellow blogger and comrade in the (increasingly deep) trenches of freelance writing Ron Doyle gave this little honor to 15 blogs he admires and loves to visit, and–whee!–yours truly was in a prime spot on the list. Thanks, Ron!

First, go to Ron’s Blog Salad to check out the other blogs he loves–great ones about bicycling, humor, writing, parenting, food, travel, and all the rest of life.

Then check out the blogs below. Part of Ron’s plan is a sort of “pay it forward” approach–he’s asked each of us on his list to create our own lists of our 15 go-to blogs.

Here are mine:

whipup:  The hub of the crafting blogiverse, inspiring crafters and artists all over the world, showcasing clever and creative people of all stripes, and providing inspiration even on those days when you’re sure you’ve seen it all before and you could never make that yourself–you haven’t, and you can.

Sandi Kahn Shelton: A writing and life blog not just for writers;  this author of wonderful, wonderful, wonderful books (a 4th wonderful is in the pipeline) will make you laugh so hard that tea comes out your nose, and cry over characters that you wish were your best friends.

The Panopticon:  The incomparable Franklin Habit.  Funny, wise, snarky, erudite, and adorable. Ostensibly a knitting blog, but even if you’ve never knitted a stitch, reading Franklin’s posts will make you wish that you, too, were a cute, multi-talented, artistic, Buddhist, creative gay man whose alter-ego is a boozing, politicking, philandering, rabble-rousing sheep named Dolores.

Spirit Cloth: To call Jude a textile artist is like saying e. e. cummings dabbled in poetry. Astonishng, soul-feeding work. I visit there regularly but don’t comment as often as I should because there are only so many ways of saying “oh, my god.”

Whiskey River:  Disseminator of wisdom via an electronic chapbook.  Poets, zen masters, lovers, and fools.

Green Chair Press:  For lovers of books, makers of books, font fans, letterpress and type geeks, and appreciators of all sorts of typographic and literary beauty.

Woolgathering: Artist Elizabeth Perry’s daily sketch journal. She inspires me to see the beauty in the everyday–under her skillful eye a tossed-0ff sketch of a candy wrapper, a lighted lamp, a few cherries, even a pair of flip flops shows us the essence of the thing. And makes me think it’s not silly to subject you fine readers to sketches of staplers and jars of peppercorns.

Nichobella:  Healing through art. Acey’s journals, textile arts, and explorations of what makes us who we are take us beyond the level of “crafting.”

Contemplating the Moon:  Ah, if only. This blog introduced me to encaustics. Which I will never, never master. But I will always, always try.

Joe Pastry:  Want to know how to make your own pasta on your kitchen table?  Why you should make jelly rolls?  What kind of flour makes the best pizza in your back yard bread oven (because we know you have one of those)?  How to make Cornish pasties, an Alsatian onion tart, two kinds of fruitcake and your own homemade caramel? Course you do.

Tea Spot:  My friends and family know me as someone whose blood type is Earl Grey, so I was delighted to find Ana’s tea blog. Besides taking the best food photographs around, Ana gives you the scoop (get it? little matcha joke there) on all kinds of teas and how to brew them. Best of all, she shares info on where to find (and, often, how to make) yummy comestibles to go with them.   Japanese Hiking Donuts, anyone? Or tea-poached pears?  Put the kettle on–I’m on my way!

elsewhere: He takes you there.

3191: That’s the number of miles that separate photo-bloggers Stephanie and Mav in their respective Portlands. Their cameras are our windows on the quotidian beauty in their worlds that let us see the same in ours.

maya*made:  I read many, many, many art and craft blogs and would love to be able to list them all here. But since Ron says that 15 is the magic number, I have to pick one, and this is my pick.  Beautiful, simple, creative things made with love and shared with us.

the worst horse:  Had enough of those boots of Chinese plastic?

Now, each of these bloggers has to think of their list of 15–tag, you’re it.

And thanks again, Ron–hope it’s a beautiful day for a bike ride where you are.