Finding Time for the Muse

There was an old political cartoon, maybe it was about a past debt crisis, that showed a politician cutting off the end of a blanket and stitching it onto the other end to make it longer.   Many of my days feel like this, except instead of a blanket, I’m manipulating portions of time.  I collect strategies for time management like others might collect snow globes; except snow globes gather dust, while other people’s strategies evolve and yield insight.  Theoretically.

It’s hard to apply other people’s strategies to your own life.

A strategy might include “ruthlessness” in order to get more time for art.  Fact is, one artist’s concept of ruthlessness might involve renting an apartment and moving out, leaving the other spouse to raise the children; or leaving the family to go on a long road trip for the sake of having lots of time for art; and another artist’s concept of ruthlessness might involve serving leftovers or pizza more often and preparing fewer “from scratch” dinners, to yield more studio time.

About a decade ago, a writer friend told me about a writer friend of hers who took the first three hours of the day for her writing.  No matter what.  Company?  They fended for themselves.  I don’t know if this writer had children, but from my experience, they do not fend well for themselves in those early years.

All sorts of distractions offer themselves between the artist and the work to be done.  Many of these distractions come in the form of loved ones, and it can be hard to achieve just the right momentum, the right balance.  No growling as one turns toward the studio (although author Clarissa Pinkola Estes in “Women Who Run with the Wolves” advises women to show our incisors more often…); no tears as one turns to the kitchen (seems to me that in this world, in this economy, those of us who HAVE kitchens and who HAVE food to prepare are among the lucky ones).  How can we find a right balance between art work and the rest of life so that each dimension nurtures the other?  The Nike ad “Just Do It!” may offer part of the answer.   Einstein said that to do the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome is a form of insanity.   So we try different strategies.


Published in: on August 15, 2011 at 5:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Beautiful Sound of Rain

Blessed with the abundant rains the past few weeks, central Pennsylvania is looking a lot like Ireland right now.   In teeming rain this morning, Elsa and I enjoyed a slow walk.   I felt grateful to have a sweet dog to walk, grateful to be out in the world.  Grateful to enter the refuge of our front porch, out of the torrent.  Elsa was patient while I toweled her dry.

With a nuno scarf in progress on my work table, the studio will be a good place to be on this rainy morning.  The first thing I’ll do is remove most of the fiber I already placed for the design.  Among the many reasons why long studio days are preferable to shorter stints is that every studio day has its own vibe, theme, language; it feels good to find and sustain that vibe.  Intervals between studio stints bring along different themes, and what was gained can be hard to find.  If one is doing finishing work, or work-in-a-series, this interval does not matter much.  One of the reasons I love spinning and crocheting and embellishment is that this is portable work that fits in well in the minutes here and there.

But developing one-of-a-kind work that is not part of a series calls for a sustained focus.  When life inevitably intervenes, this focus is challenged.  It may or may not stand up to the challenge.   Then one is faced with a choice: keep working on a piece that no longer makes sense and hope to find the way back, or start over?

There’s a quote from a book by Julia Cameron, which I’ll probably misquote here: “If you give quantity of time to your art, God will supply the quality.”   I don’t see this as a spiritual quote, rather as simple reality.  There’s a quality — a sort of luminosity —  to wonderful art, and capturing and holding onto this quality is beyond the artist’s control.  No matter how one might strain to produce this quality, it can be elusive.  And yet, given a wholehearted focus and lots, lots, lots of time, suddenly as an artist you’re standing in its light.  Ah — just for a moment, then it’s gone and you need to seek it again.

I know it’s a luxury to work slowly and it’s also a luxury of sorts to be able to find moments here and there for creative work.  Is a passion for one’s work also a luxury?  Seems that the need for a more beautiful, functional, peaceful world offers work enough for each one of us to dive in, with passion, somewhere — and be bathed in that same light that the artist feels for a moment when something fine has been created.

Published in: on August 14, 2011 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

White Sangria

Three large peaches, diced

Two oranges, one lime, one lemon; halved, sliced thin, seeds removed

Place in large glass bowl and pour on a full bottle of peach schnapps.

Walk dog… attend to other time-sensitive matters.

Fill large glass with ice, some dry white wine, a ladle of that peach infusion and a bit of the colorful fruit; top with a spritz of natural peach-flavored Seltzer.  Stir gently.  Count your blessings and put up your feet.  Gather friends and/or good reading material.  Pet dog while sipping sangria.  Repeat.

Published in: on August 12, 2011 at 5:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lipstick Red and Tasmanian Raspberry

I’m working on a nuno scarf — pictures to follow when it’s done in a few days.

The silk fabric is Suzanne Morgan’s vivid “Lipstick Red” hand-dyed work.  The merino fiber I’m using varies from a luscious Tasmanian Raspberry Red, to a coral and some shades of pink, along with a slate grey merino and shimmering white tussah silk as a kind of whispery dance of light.   When this piece is done, if my work is successful, it will look alive and warm and radiant.

In connecting with the colors on my studio work tables this morning — all of the deeply red tones — I was thinking how in western cultures we associate red with the heart; but in the eastern consideration of the chakra (energy centers of the body) the colors pink and green are heart chakra colors.  A softer way of thinking about the heart: pink.  A sense that the heart is a place of abundance and growth and perhaps cool water: green.

Placing fibers on Suzanne’s amazing silk fabric, I follow the patterns of color so that once the scarf is done there will be rivers and pools of color; hopefully every inch of the nuno scarf will be beautiful, interesting and pleasing.  There’s so much I want to do in my studio right now that I have to remind myself to work slowly.  The silk fibers (they are not barbed) won’t mesh with the silk fabric; these wisps of fiber that undulate with the slightest movement need to be placed on wool fiber (that is barbed).

Waiting in the studio are two more luxurious pieces of Suzanne Morgan’s hand-dyed silk fabric: a blue that I’ll pair with periwinkle merino; and a green that will allow me to meditate on the heart chakra while I place all sorts of green fiber along its contour-like patterns.  In the quiet hours spent working these nuno pieces, rubbing fibers into silk fabric and rolling/throwing to shrink the pieces, I’ll be designing torque pieces in my mind’s eye…

Our new dog, Elsa, seems content with the slow and quiet pace of a studio day; and for sure, I feel content with her presence.

Published in: on August 10, 2011 at 3:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Torque: a ring-like band worn around the neck

As I write this post, on a soft and humid summer morning, the DOW is down about 350 points.  Uncertain economic times.  But really, don’t you agree that to be human is to live in uncertain times…?   We may choose to open ourselves to uncertainty, because in the unknown we find inspiration, meaning and expression; and in this way we’re kindred spirits with those who choose to spend time in what might be called sacred or magical.  It’s a trade-off: dallying in the misty playground of the collective unconscious means we are not reorganizing closets or crafting a business plan.  The idea that we can hold onto certainty is an illusion.  With practice, we can aim to be certain of some essential things that relate to our own behavior, if we are lucky.  I am certain that I will try to safeguard my granddaughter’s well-being when she is in my care; and yet, the other week she tripped over her own little feet while walking across the sun room and broke her fall with her face against the leg of a desk.  We both survived, but it was a humbling moment for me, three feet away and unable to prevent her hurting herself.

In the ornaments and embellishment of ancient people we can read their conversations with uncertainty.   While in Ireland I spent time entranced by the Celtic torques: neck bands, many of them gold, huge, twisted shapes that are simple in design but convey so much energy.  Some torques were embellished with animal images, others have geometric forms.  I want to create felted torques as a dialogue with uncertainty, infusing them with the most precious element: time.  I would love the wearer to feel protected, as if the torque conveyed the belief that along with the challenge of the uncertainty of our existence there is a companion blessing of connection and free will.   To lavish time on a work of art is to say that despite being aware of how short life really is, time has been taken to honor and celebrate something of beauty or other significance.   This celebration is not a thing, it’s an awareness: the knowledge that the touchstone offers.   We need reminders of transcendence so we don’t think that our souls fall with the stock market, as troubling and real as economic uncertainty may be.


Published in: on August 8, 2011 at 3:31 pm  Leave a Comment  


Yes, I know this is a blog about fiber arts.   What looks like a lamb and is as sweet as a lamb, but is not a lamb…?

Yes, our family has been rescued, with the arrival of Elsa, a three year-old Labradoodle.  She is settling in, and, as the photo shows, really blending in!

Our daughter and future son-in-law, Lizzie and Josh, along with Josh’s Mother, Nora, had been fostering Elsa.  Lizzie and Josh own and operate “Petiquette Pooch Concierge,” a dog walking/in-home pet care/transportation/dog Bed & Breakfast business in the very dog-friendly neighborhood of South Boston.  Elsa has been lavished with care and affection by Lizzie, Josh and Nora while waiting to be brought to our home; and before being in their care, she was loved by her original owners and their family.  We feel grateful to have Elsa, and so thankful to everyone who helped nurture her sweet nature along the way.

Elsa already seems to love being in my cozy studio, resting on the carpet that matches her curls.  I am looking forward to long studio days together, with Elsa snoozing under the work tables while I felt and resting by my side while I spin, punctuated by brisk walks in the neighborhood.

After travels this summer to Ireland, twice, and to Boston, twice, I am so ready to felt!  And so happy for the studio companionship.



Published in: on August 5, 2011 at 6:27 pm  Comments (6)