What I Mean When I Say I’m Running

I’m running. I never found a therapist here, but I ran four miles today. I’m clearing my head. I’m going up a bunch of hills to prove I can. I’m heading to the (flat) bike path to see how fast I can run the last mile. I’m meditating. I’m grateful for this body that works (remember when I could barely walk due to Lyme pain?) so I’m going to go move it. I’m working something out. I’m working towards a goal but I haven’t shared it yet. My head is too full. I’m angry and I’m going to leave it on the road. I’m looking forward to feeling my muscles ache in that good, post-hard-workout way later. I’m feeling shitty. I need to get out of here so I want to come back. My legs feel full of pent up energy. I’m running.

Stitching for SJSA

I’m a volunteer stitcher for the Social Justice Sewing Academy (is that not the best name, or what?). That means occasionally in the mail I receive quilt blocks created during workshops that are in need of stitching. This past fall, I got the chance to help facilitate one of these workshops for the art classes at Baltimore Poly. It was fantastic to assist these high school students as they worked to realize their sketched ideas in cloth. After the workshop, I took seven blocks to work on. I mailed the first three of those this past week.

The flag above is in the shape of Baltimore City. I added very little to this block; I made sure all the edges are sewn down and stitched over the artists’s lines for the words and flag outline.

This artist is making a statement about gun violence and the Baltimore City PD. It involved some very tiny stitching to get most of the words he included in his drawing onto the image (a couple were just too long for the available space).

I’m glad I was able to get so many onto the block though.

This is definitely one I can relate to personally. Again, it’s hard to see the tiny stitching on the bottle (I had to switch phones and I need a primer on this one’s camera; it’s not saving them at the size I’m asking it to). It says “Rx Brain Chemistry 1/day.”

I enjoy stitching, and because these are so portable, I can take them with me and stitch while I’m out at other events, which leads to conversations about what I’m working on, what SJSA is and what they do, and social justice in general. When the blocks get back to SJSA, they are incorporated into quilt tops, which are then quilted by volunteers, and SJSA works to get those quilts into exhibitions, giving these kids’ voices a wider audience. It’s good to be a small part of that.

2019: Claim

I did not choose a word in 2018. I also didn’t post a thing here, although I occasionally thought about it. But this word I sketched above is a continuation of the last third of 2018. I spend a huge amount of my time facilitating the goals of the four people I live with. This is part of parenting, yes, but things are out of balance here. Some of that I can’t do anything about. We have some added challenges in my family that aren’t mine to discuss publicly, although they do affect me, my energy, my time, and my ability to plan anything, because things can get unpredictable. That’s on top of the regular duties, which are also kind of excessive. The second half of last school year, for example, I was routinely spending four hours a day in the car because none of the kids had transportation from our neighborhood. This school year, my middle schooler entered our local high school, which comes with a local bus stop, and a wee bit of time opened up in the morning and afternoon, and I claimed it.

I began volunteering at a local environmental education center, using one of my college degrees, plus long-ago experience and general passion. It’s a generous volunteer program, in that volunteers get to actually do skilled work. We also get excellent training opportunities, and, for me, that all-important sense of connection to a place. I also began offering an after-school art class at my daughter’s school. Neither of these things were possible when I was driving my son to and from middle school, and both are, in the scheme of things, small small steps. I did think, long ago, that by the time my kids were this old, I’d have more room to stretch myself. I thought going back to work would be possible. Heck, I figured family travel would be logistically possible. We’re not there yet. I have to move mountains just to go teach kids about the Chesapeake Bay for five hours one day a week, but I claim that as necessary. I decided CLAIM was the word for this year because I need to keep doing it, or else I will just fold in upon myself like a collapsed star.

I may even start writing here regularly again.

Upcoming: Arts in the Park

My kids and I will be at Arts in the Park this Saturday (more info here) selling lots of lovely handmade items. They’ll be selling beaded bracelets to benefit red pandas, and I’ll be selling sewn, knit, and dyed items (mainly to benefit their craft supply fund, I suspect!). It should be a fun day for families so if you’re local, stop by and say hello!

Summer Sewing

My creativity is MIA this summer. I’m just exhausted, mentally and physically, plus having pain flares. Lyme Disease messed up my joints and a typical day includes some mild pain at some point, but it got so bad a couple of weeks ago I went to see my rheumatologist, who ordered loads of labwork that all came back perfectly normal. Never mind I do a couple of errands and fall into a coma-like sleep as soon as I’m home. Perfectly normal! Anyway, I haven’t painted or sketched or played with fabric creatively in a long while. But I hate the feeling of not being at all productive, so when I’m feeling like this, it’s a good time to turn to garment sewing. Following a pattern is like doing math problems; I don’t need to be creative, I just need to follow directions.

I started with a second Seneca skirt, using Cloud 9 knit. I love this style of skirt and love this pattern. The first one I sewed is a bit heavier knit; the Cloud 9 is nice for hot days.

Seamwork Seneca at amyhoodarts.com

Then the Washi dress, which I’ve looked at before and thought it wouldn’t work for my figure. Actually, it works quite well. This is sewn from Cotton + Steel and it’s so, so soft.

Washi dress at amyhoodarts.com

I’ve had the Gallery Tunic pattern since before we moved to Maryland. I’ve even had the fabric. When I first printed out the pattern and taped it together, I was so aggravated just from that process that I set it aside. Since then, I’ve upped my sewing skills through sewing for my daughter, and I’ve found a copy shop that prints the wide-format files. Two years and much sewing after first buying the pattern, this shirt was easy to put together. I think I might make another one.

Gallery Tunic at amyhoodarts.com

You don’t get a modeled photo of this shirt because even though it’s a very lightweight fabric, it’s too hot to wear anything with longer-than-short sleeves.

I also tackled the Zinnia skirt, one of my stash of Colette/Seamwork patterns, using chambray. This was my second garment with an invisible zipper and it went in easy as anything. I really need a better picture of this skirt, as it’s adorable. This was taken in the basement in the midst of air conditioner repairs, after it had leaked (hence the mess and the towels on the floor). Happy to report the AC is fixed now, basically a full replacement inside and out, and luckily the closing came with a home warranty so it was for a fraction of the full cost.

Zinnia skirt at amyhoodarts.com

I think this was the point at which I sewed my daughter two pairs of shorts, one using left over chambray from this skirt, but I don’t have pictures. I make her shorts every year, but I don’t seem to take pictures of them.

I bought two yards of Cotton + Steel canvas when I went to check out Domesticity, a new fabric store in Baltimore, so I used some more Seamwork credits and sewed the Seabrook pattern. It’s an adorable little bag and I do love banging in grommets.

Seabrook at amyhoodarts.com

At this point I temporarily ran out of garments to sew (no worries, I now have another Washi cut out and waiting to be sewn), so I began sewing together strips of scraps for something to do. At the end, I had a quilt, which will go to my quilt guild’s collection for a local Head Start program.

donation quilt at amyhoodarts.com

At that point I switched over to some knitting. I’m still waiting for my creativity to revive but at least I’m being productive.

Sewn: Many pockets

The local art supply store that carries my pencil pockets let me know they’d need some more, so I went on a little sewing spree this past week. These are so much fun to make mainly because I treat them like little canvases. For some, I use upcycled fabric or fabric from my stash, like so:

zip pencil pouches at amyhoodarts.com

The greenish fabric is from a pair of my husband’s pants that got an unmendable hole. I’ve printed it with a linocut* of one of his bicycles. The denim is also upcycled, with fun accent stripes. The linen is stamped* with a hand-carved stamp, and the rest of the fabrics are from stash. The gears and the fish, by the way, are fabrics my middle child picked out for pajama pants. I always buy extra because he picks the best patterns.

I also bought some utility cotton and dyed it.

hand-dyed pencil pouches at amyhoodarts.com

I love these so much. All of these are printed with hand-carved stamps*, except for the stripes, which were done with a flat-sided chopstick, spaced by eye. I love that one. And the butterflies, and the scallop shells…I love them all, did I mention?! Having the control over the color of the background fabric is amazing because then I can be sure my ink shows up.

While I was at it, I sewed up some small pockets too, again using a mix of fabrics.

basic zip pockets at amyhoodarts.com

First offer for these goes to the two local stores that currently have some of my pockets, and whatever remains I’ll list on Etsy. I’m also always happy to sew to order, and as a reminder, I still have two upcycled zip pouches available, to benefit the National Park Foundation.

* I use both linocuts–carvings into linoleum–and hand-carved stamps–which use a softer carving material. I’ve seen “linocut” used to refer to stamps and it’s a pet peeve of mine because they’re so different! Linoleum works much better for designs with fine lines, like the bicycle, and it’s a little harder to carve. When I first switched to linoleum from stamps there was a learning curve on what made a good design; it’s not simply transferable. And I use different inks with each. Anyway just my little PSA that these two things have similarities but are not interchangeable.

Image + Imagination: Anne Arundel County Juried Exhibition

This exhibit is opening tonight, and I’m really excited and pleased to be represented. I have a textile piece, “Fractured,” included, and I want to tell you a little bit about it.

"Fractured" textile art at amyhoodarts.com

Creating has been up and down this year. It took me a bit to get back into the studio after moving and the Inauguration, and when I did, I began by sewing my feelings. Sew, slash, sew, slash, trying to get the inside out. This piece was the result, and what I intended. Something shattered, something broken, something fractured, but still in one piece. I almost didn’t submit this one. I first thought, It’s just piecing. Will that be taken seriously as “art” for a juried exhibition? I looked at it again and felt that if it were paint, ie, a more “traditional” fine art medium, I wouldn’t even be thinking twice, so I submitted it. I am extremely pleased that this textile piece is included in this exhibit, and I’m looking forward to seeing all the artwork. The Mitchell Gallery has been giving peeks on its Instagram feed and it all looks wonderful.

Announcements!

baby house finches at amyhoodarts.com

A nest chock FULL of baby house finches

A rather housekeeping-ish post ahead, so I thought it best to start with a photo of the baby house finches nesting on our front door. We expect they’ll have to fledge any minute now because how on earth are those five birds squeezing themselves into that nest? They might just fledge when they start falling out, I don’t know. Aren’t they gorgeous? Little dinosaurs with beautiful wing feathers. My door, on the other hand, is a sight. Much poop. We’ll deal with it.

So, news! I’ve revived my dormant email list for news and added inspirations. Sign up is on the right. But let me share a few things here as well….

In March I sold some items to benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center. This month I’m selling zip pouches made of upcycled woven plastic birdseed bags. The images on them are fantastic! The full purchase price, minus listing fees, will be donated to the National Park Foundation. I think these pouches would be great for summer explores. Making things to sell in order to donate is one of the ways I’m dealing with my anxiety over every new announcement. It’s a little bit of, Here’s something I can do. It’s not the only thing I’m trying to do, but it’s part.

If you’re local to Annapolis, MD, or planning to visit the area, I have work in two upcoming shows downtown and zip pouches in two local stores. Maryland Federation of Art’s Spring Member Show runs from May 4 to May 26 at the Circle Gallery in Annapolis, and Image and Imagination: Anne Arundel County Juried Exhibition 2017 is at Mitchell Gallery from May 23 to June 11.

I still have pencil pockets at Art Things in Annapolis, and The Twisted Bead in Edgewater just began carrying my zip pockets in multiple sizes.

I’m getting more confident in what I make and do, and in talking about it. I still struggle (always will, I think) in getting down to it sometimes. So much else competes for my time, and when I get out of the habit of just going in and working, it’s harder to get started. I mean, this is obvious for anything, it’s just that a habit can so easily be knocked out of whack (sick kids, extra things in the schedule, whatever) and not so easily established again. So it’s a constant effort. There is always more going on in my head than is actually productively happening. And I still feel like I’m at three-quarter speed. Better than just after the inauguration, but not fully functioning. (Still struggling with reading books and inertia in general and with sleep, always.) Anyway, some random thoughts at the end of this post on creative effort, I guess. Oh, and it turns out submitting to shows can actually result in being in shows but never submitting guarantees not being in any. Hmm.

Field Trip: Philly

We don’t travel much (for various reasons), but at least we have always lived close by to interesting places we can visit for a night or two or even a day trip easily. We planned two nights in Philadelphia over the kids’ spring break week. Even that didn’t go to plan! Two of the kids were sick so we needed to delay it, but we got there eventually. It’s only about 2 1/2 hours away by car, and we arrived midday on a weekday (versus a Sunday, like we’d originally planned). We’d thought we could visit a museum first, since hotel check in was much later. Ahahaha, no. There is no place to park in Philadelphia! We finally found a parking garage that wasn’t full and it was this little tiny space where you left the keys and they stack the cars and we immediately left because three of us felt like we couldn’t breathe just driving in. Anyway, once we went to the hotel and left the car I didn’t hate Philadelphia so much. We walked everywhere and didn’t drive again until we left.

We tried to touch on everyone’s interests in three days, so we visited the Constitution Center, the Franklin Institute, and the Museum of Art. That is a lot of museum-ing in three days. We also walked a lot, and ate quite a bit, because we found some good gluten free options, like Sabrina’s Cafe and Waffles & Wedges. That was actually a pretty long walk from the hotel, but gluten-free waffles! That’s a rarity. Plus cute streets like this.

Philly street at amyhoodarts.com

We also stopped at Rittenhouse Square on the way back to rest on the bench by the goat, which was, at 5 pm on a Thursday, the place to be for toddlers and dogs. We all enjoyed interacting with both. And while we took other pictures in other places, I’m just sharing art museum photos because that was by far my favorite part.

We decided to pay the extra to see the American Watercolor exhibit. It was definitely worth it. The admission desk had told me photography was fine as long as no flash, but neglected to say no photography at all in this exhibit, and if there was a sign I missed it, so oops, here are two photos (I did apologize when notified–I didn’t know!).

This is Isabella Stewart Gardner’s sketchbook.

Isabella Stewart Gardner's sketchbook

I really love her museum so I snapped a pic. And hmm, this signage just spoke to me, if you know what I mean.

The women behind the men at amyhoodarts.com

The exhibit explained how watercolor was looked down upon at first because it was just what children played with and ladies dabbled in. But then! Then the men embraced it and rebranded it as so American in its carefree-ness…or something like that. I’m glad the curators made sure to point that out. Plenty of women were already quite skilled in what was available to them. Sigh.

Moving on! The kids wanted to go to Arms & Armor after that, so my husband stayed with them while I got to go hunt down the Mondrians all by myself. I found them. This photo’s perspective is a bit skewed because I took it while sitting on the floor, because I needed to stare at them a while.

Mondrians at amyhoodarts.com

There were two more in the room behind me! I find the minimal approach and geometry very calming. When I get really anxious, my tendency is to try to order everything, because order and predictability feels calmer. Looking at a Mondrian, I feel, Ah, somebody has already done that for me. The gift shop had a print of the one on the right so I took it home and framed it.

Mondrian at amyhoodarts.com

Then I worked my way back through the modern art into impressionism and it was all lovely and I was all by myself the whole time, which is a gift, because I could just sit and stare at things as long as I wanted. Like this Degas dancer.

Degas dancer at amyhoodarts.com

I got myself a membership, so I can go back and see the things I missed.

Batik: First Experiments

batik fabrics at amyhoodarts.com

I spent about a week (off and on) dyeing batik fabrics. When I first wanted to learn how to dye, it was with batik as the ultimate goal. Batik is a resist method–you apply wax to the fabric, to protect it from being dyed–but it feels a lot like printmaking. Printmaking and fabric are two of my favorite things. I decided to practice and use the results to make my son a quilt. He chose the colors (green and orange) and I discussed ideas with him, but this was my project. I’m using Color Your Cloth by Malka Dubrawsky as my guide, but I used low-immersion dyeing, which results in a textured color rather than uniform.

I started simply, by applying wax to white fabric and dyeing once.

batik fabrics at amyhoodarts.com

The circles were made with the plastic tube from the inside of a bundle of produce bags, and the triangles were made by fashioning cardboard into a triangle. I was aiming for orange for the bottom, but I learned that deep yellow creates a better orange than lemon yellow. This is a reddish orange.

Then I applied wax to dyed fabric, discharged the color from the unwaxed areas, and dyed again. This is so much fun.

batik fabric at amyhoodarts.com

This fabric was dyed green before wax was applied (using a cardboard rectangle). Then I discharged it and dyed it black. I was using the wax out on the deck and by the time I got to this piece, the sun had warmed it a little overmuch and it was a little runnier than it should have been. I just went with it. My son and I love this fabric.

batik cloth at amyhoodarts.com

This was also dyed green, wax applied with the end of a cardboard paper tube, discharged, and dyed orange. It vibrates (complementary colors will do that) but my son really likes it.

batik fabric at amyhoodarts.com

This fabric was created by dyeing cloth green, adding wax, discharging, adding wax again, and dyeing deep yellow. HOW COOL IS THAT? You get three colors on one piece of cloth! This is the only piece I tried that with this time but it’s definitely something I’ll explore more.

I did three yards by dyeing, adding wax, and overdyeing.

batik fabric at amyhoodarts.com

This first one was dyed turquoise before applying wax, then dyed lemon yellow. This was a little iffy from the get-go because I was putting a lighter color over a darker one. It’s very subtle. I thought about adding wax again and then dyeing the whole thing something darker, but my son likes this, so I kept it. Wax was applied with a potato masher.

I used a different potato masher for these next two.

batik fabric at amyhoodarts.com

Lemon yellow overdyed with cerulean blue.

batik fabric at amyhoodarts.com

Lemon yellow overdyed with light red. This has some circles mixed in too.

batik fabric at amyhoodarts.com

These last two were overdyed together in orange. The top one was dyed light grey, wax was applied with a cardboard diamond, the fabric was discharged, and dyed orange. The bottom one was dyed turquoise, wax applied with a cardboard rectangle, and dyed orange after discharging. The bottom one is a bit more of a rusty orange because the fabric still had a slight turquoise tinge.

I learned so much experimenting like this! I like applying wax with cardboard–something about how the cardboard absorbs the wax a bit made it easier for me, after practice, to control how much wax transferred to the fabric. The metal potato mashers were actually a little more difficult to control. I decided early on to embrace the unpredictability with this process, though. I don’t mind wayward drips of wax; I think it adds to the interest. I really love the effects that can be had using discharging, because you’re not limited to colors that mix well together.

The whole process is time-consuming, uses a lot of water for rinsing and boiling, and is physically wearying! If you ever wondered why hand-produced batik fabric is so expensive, there you go. I have a great space in the basement with a utility sink, second washer, lots of concrete floor space, and a table and shelves. My son called it my “lab.” That’s where I dye, rinse, and discharge, although it’s probably not ventilated quite well enough for the bleaching process. I was applying wax on the deck but then moved indoors to my art studio area, which was a little better on my back, too.

Like I said, though, it’s time-consuming, and I didn’t do any sewing. So now it’s time to shift back to that. My daughter’s quilt just needs quilting–I needed that to sit while I thought about it though. It’ll be the biggest quilt I’ve done and I’m a bit daunted at doing it in my home machine. That’s first on the list, though, above piecing my son’s. I definitely have the dyeing bug though.