Category Archives: community

Making + Listening

Now that Issue Two is out in the world, I really want to get my hands into some off-computer creating. Of course lots of art-making goes on while creating the magazine, but the last push is very much on the computer, and the very last bit is sorting out the tech-stuff, which is getting easier but still gives me a bit of a headache. So it was a treat to put together this card to send to a pen-pal.

notecard at amyhoodarts.com

That’s a hand-carved stamp printed on Kraft card stock, colored in with a colored pencil, surrounded by a glued-on watercolor/salt effect border. Yay! Making things with my hands is so…necessary.

I also started a pair of socks for my eldest, having finished his mittens. (He has gloves, too, but at 12 he still appreciates and wants hand-knit mittens from his mama. Love.)

beginning of a sock at amyhoodarts.com

He isn’t typically a bright-color kid (his mittens are black), but he only wears handknit socks to bed, so I’m guessing that explains this rather bright yarn. We were more concerned if it felt okay. It would be nice to have these finished in time for Christmas, but knitting socks for him no longer means quickly whipping up some kid-sized socks; it’s just the same as knitting a pair for me. His new snow boots, in fact, fit me. (!!) However, he’s a good-natured kid and will happily accept partly finished socks and a promise, if it comes to that.

As for the listening part, I’ve been listening to my youngest nonstop. We’ve also been listening to Christmas music, but when I need a break–and sometimes I do–I turn it to the 80s station to pep myself up a bit. And I’ve been overdosing on Of Monsters and Men and loving it.

How about you? What are you making and listening to? I’m linking up with Dawn again here.

Ready to Mail: Nature Exchange

We were pretty excited to sign up for the Mudpuddles to Meteors Nature Exchange. All three kids wanted to participate, so getting everything wrapped and ready to go had to wait until my schooled boy was home to join in. It’s all ready to get into the mail today, the deadline day.

When we signed up, I figured it would be fun to share part of our world. We really love where we live. (Ahem: I could do without winter and snow, but what can you do?) But of course, this project involved much more than just sharing. We spread out all the possibilities for packaging and agreed on at least twelve items to send. Then we needed to write up tags (writing!), which also involved precise identification so we could include the Latin names. We generally know what we’re looking at, but we wanted to be sure we got it right for our Alaskan recipients.

identifying our finds at amyhoodarts.com

I gathered our relevant field guides, in this case Peterson Field Guides: Atlantic Seashore, Peterson First Guides: Shells, and Save the Bay’s Uncommon Guide to Common Life of Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Coastal Waters, and we set off identifying. We counted the teeth on the crab shell. We compared the descriptions of blue mussels and ridged mussels, bay scallops and sea scallops. We copied down correct spellings. We wrapped them carefully and taped on the tags:

boxed up nature exchange at amyhoodarts.com

Very few of our items were small enough to fit into an egg carton, as suggested, so we used a larger box, and later I cushioned everything with newspaper as well. It will soon be off to the post office, and we’ll wait for our package and a chance to learn about the local nature of someplace far away.

What a great idea by Dawn and Annie of Mudpuddles to Meteors–thanks so much for hosting!

A Bit of Embroidery

A while ago I experimented with transparent wash-away stabilizer for embroidering on darker fabrics. These are the two designs, both inspired by Haeckel, that I embroidered on denim that I salvaged from a pair of my husband’s ripped-up jeans.

Haeckel on denim 1 at amyhoodarts.com

Haeckel on denim 2 at amyhoodarts.com

Once I decided that worked out okay, it meant I could embroider on the fantastic dark brown Japanese cotton I’ve had in my stash. I love this fabric.

salsify-inspired embroidery at amyhoodarts.com

This design is inspired by a plant I saw and photographed in Montana. It’s new to me, and Twitter helped me identify it as most likely Western Salsify. It’s gone to seed here, like a dandelion does.

western salsify at amyhoodarts.com

It was all over the place when I was hiking, and I was just entranced by the delicacy of it. I thought it would be interesting to post the photo as well as the finished embroidery–you can see how I simplified, choosing to try to get the feel of it rather than get bogged down in trying to capture every detail. I also used slightly different colors.

I can get lost in detail sometimes, and I need to remind myself that what I’m trying to do, with stamps and embroidery, is distill what I like into a workable design, not try to reproduce something exactly. And that, too, is where the fun comes in–a finished design can go in so many directions depending on what decisions are made. I could come up with something completely different, still based on this flower photograph. It makes it all so much more fun.

I’m linking up with Dawn this week for make + listen, even though I only made the flower-inspired embroidery this week. As for listening, I keep landing on Indigenous while in the car. Good stuff. How about you? Do you have any new music suggestions? I’d love to hear them.

Snapshots

gold

October has been a beauty, with mild days for most of the month and gorgeous colors. When I saw these leaves one morning this past week while waiting for the bus with my oldest, I was immediately reminded of Robert Frost’s poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay. Unfortunately, just a few days later, we were waiting in weather more like this:

frost

Also pretty in its own way, but much colder. I’ve been feeling the effects of the decreasing amount of daylight, I think, because most evenings find me dozing on the couch. Frustrating, because evenings are my work and blogging time, and I feel behind in just about all of my projects at the moment. Hence this catch-up post of snapshots of our days.

running shoes

My sanctuary + my lifeline.

On Mondays Amanda posts writing prompts on the Kindred site, and on Thursday, she shared my photo and words in response to the idea of “sanctuary.” I am terrible at sitting meditation, but I’ve found that running helps bring me out of my mind and into my body in a way that is sanctuary indeed. Another thing that has helped me this past year is the writing of Pema Chodron. I’m currently slowly reading Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion. I read one or two teachings at a time, every now and then, and let the words sit.

at the beach

On one of the last milder days last week, we headed to the beach to collect items for Mudpuddles to Meteors‘ nature exchange. We just heard our match partners live in Alaska. Fun!

making cheese

Checking the temperature of milk that will become ricotta cheese.

My 9yo wanted to know how cheese was made, so we looked it up at the library and he placed a book of recipes on hold. This past week, he made ricotta cheese–twice, actually, because the first time (using the book’s recipe) didn’t yield much cheese. Perfect! More opportunity for learning, as he Googled recipes to see how they were different from the one in the book. We used his ricotta cheese in baked pasta, but he wasn’t impressed with it. (I was! I thought it was yummy.) He would like to make Monterrey Jack next–”an orderly cheese,” in his words. I think the gloppiness of ricotta displeased him. I’m not sure he’s seen it in its natural state before; he’s always just eaten things made with it. However, he also said, “I love math–when it’s used for cheese-making!” This is self-directed learning, folks, and it’s a wonderful thing.

goat note

We are a little later with wrapping up her goat project than I’d hoped, but G’s enthusiasm for printing goat cards waned a bit, and then I waned a bit, but we’re back on track now. We changed in all her coins for dollars, and we’re heading to the bank on Monday to deposit it all so I can write a check. I interviewed her and typed up a letter to Heifer International explaining her project, and she is including this note–on one of her note cards, of course. I can barely stand it. Biased mama, yes, but I think she’s pretty amazing and awfully sweet. I am also extremely thankful for the family and friends, both near and far, who supported her project and helped her raise $120. She never thought it wasn’t possible, and so many of you helped make sure she was right.

I’m hoping to get my evening energy back so I can get back to making progress with Issue Two of Art Together, and a tutorial I’ve agreed to create, and more embroidery, and that sweater I’m knitting… I’ve no time for hibernation! I hope you’re enjoying nature’s “hardest hue to hold” before we slip thoroughly into the starker colors of winter.

Make + Listen: Watercolor Painting

I’m joining up with Dawn one day late for her weekly Make and Listen Along posts, but I can be excused for tardiness because we’re on Day 7 of a 9-day business trip over here! Yesterday (Day 6), we set up for a watercolor painting session.

painting session at amyhoodarts.com

Tuesday morning, the playground at the park was littered with gorgeous, vibrantly colored maple leaves, and we took some home. My 4yo and I went downstairs to try and capture the colors with paint. By the time I snapped the photo above, she had moved on to painting a still life, a collection of objects she gathered from upstairs. You can see she’s working on the rainbow.

When we sat down with our leaves, paper, and pencils to make a sketch before painting, she had the idea to trace the leave’s outline. I thought that was an excellent idea, and I did the same, loosely, and then added in some more detail freehand. We were mostly concentrating, after all, on trying to capture the colors. Here is her finished leaf, with a mix of reds and orange.

4yo's fall leaf watercolor painting

And here is mine. This was built up with many layers of paint, as we’re learning to do in the watercolor class I’ve been taking on Saturday afternoons.

autumn maple leaf, watercolor painting

While we painted, I simply had Pandora playing through the nifty wireless speaker I received for Mother’s Day this year. I’ve been playing it in the morning, too, because I find having some music on helps keep me moving forward with all the morning tasks when there’s not another adult here to interact with. This morning the first song it played for me was Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s medley of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World.” This song was on a mix CD my husband gave me for my first Mother’s Day, when I was pregnant with our first child but not quite pregnant enough to announce it yet, and the song can still tear me up.

I love the Louie Armstrong version of “What a Wonderful World” as well, and used to sing it to my first baby as a lullaby, all those many nights when we paced the dark living room because he had colic. Now that baby is almost twelve years old, old enough to help his mama get out for a run when his dad’s away on another business trip (something for which I’m extremely grateful). Twelve years in an eyeblink, I tell you.

An Early Autumn Nature Walk

Last week my 9yo, 4yo, and I went to Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge–a favorite spot of ours, and close to home–for an early Autumn nature walk. Our visit is highlighted today at Mud Puddles to Meteors as part of their Hitting the Trail series. It was fun for me to walk around with camera in hand, looking for things to share with the wider world. We really love where we live and it’s always a treat to talk about a favorite local spot. Go check out the post, and stay a bit to explore everything else this new nature site has to offer! You can also find all the photos in my Trustom Pond Flickr set.

Making + Listening

I’m joining up with Dawn again this week with perhaps my most unusual making + listening post yet…

Saturday afternoon I had the first of five watercolor classes at a local art association. The class is very, er, loose, in that the instructor seems most comfortable just sort of imparting information as it comes to her. So we were given a demonstration and then more or less set loose on a still life. There are some things I like about this painting, and lots I don’t like. That yellow pear, for instance, went all, well, pear-shaped on me. But maybe it really was that odd shape. I don’t know.

Also, turns out I should have gotten different, better paper, but the materials list wasn’t terribly specific about that. And my tape was the wrong color (yes, there’s a right color–I have it now). I just mention this because signing up for an art class can be really intimidating to some folks! This, I know. And I remember how overwhelming it was the first time I walked into an art supply store with a materials list in hand. But see–even people who have taken art classes before need specifics! Don’t feel intimidated. If you do end up with the wrong stuff, one, it’s not the end of the world, and two, (cough) instructors should be really specific on their materials list if they expect something in particular. Also, ask questions. Whatever you do, if you want to take the class, don’t let a lack of confidence stop you. Sign up for it anyway!

While we were painting, music was playing. This is pretty much the norm in most art studio classes…but there was no discussion about it; the instructor chose the music. The first disc was a live Frank Sinatra performance. Meh, he’s okay. Not my favorite. But one of the songs was a bit jaw-dropping. I had to Google to find out exactly what it was. Turns out it’s “Soliloquy,” and you can hear it here or just go read the lyrics here. I was pretty much “ohmygosh” through the entire song. And then when the Sinatra album was over she put on some 70s easy-listening stuff that was so bad I don’t even remember the one song I recognized at the time–I’ve blocked it out. It’s not exactly the type of music I typically create to! I’m curious to see if that’ll be the playlist every Saturday or if eventually we’ll hit on something I can stand listening to…

How about you? Any interesting or unexpected making/listening going on lately?!

(Finally) Making + Listening (Too)

I hit the ground running when I got home from Montana…homeschooling, karate two nights per week plus Saturdays (for the boys), soccer practice and games (for the girl), launching a new venture, and I updated my Etsy shop, restocking pockets with trees, among other items. All of that meant I didn’t pick up my knitting (which came with me to and from Montana) again until last night.

This is a second Azami–you can see my first on Ravelry. It fits better now than it did when I modeled it for those pics, and I really like it. But I hated working with the called-for yarn, which was slippery and splitty, and I fear it won’t wear well. So I decided to make a second one using my favorite work-horse wool, Cascade 220.

This project will be competing for my attention, though, in the rare bits of free time I have lately. I have a stamp or two I want to carve, denim panels I want to embroider for a pouch, and more embroidery ideas in my head. However, when the air gets crisp, the knitting tends to win out.

As for listening, I think I listened to about three R.E.M. albums in a row while driving in the car this week. Today I landed on Florence & the Machine, which perfectly fit my mood. (Even the songs with possibly sad lyrics sound empowering to me, thanks to the music itself.) The day began with a heartwarming review of the Art Together zine by Jen (she’s got a giveaway going on, too). This afternoon I picked up my bib and race packet for another 5K, a big one (close to 5,000 runners) in downtown Providence on Sunday. Exciting! Good, good things.

I’m linking up with Dawn for the first time in a while. She also debuted something big this week–a wonderful nature site in partnership with Annie. Creativity abounds on these here Internets. And you? Any making going on? What’s been on your playlist?

Processing Montana

The pond at the ranch at sunrise, before I went for a run.

I’m back from my time at the Haven Writing Retreat. I’m sure I’ll be digesting this experience for a long while. I ended up there on pure instinct. It’s been years since I called myself a writer, at least the sort of writer who goes on writing retreats. I imagine those sorts of writers to be working towards publication, or at least working on a specific project. I’m doing neither. I chanced across the description online, registered the location and that all levels of writers were welcome, and felt I needed to go. I had many reasons not to–distance, expense, timing, and a nagging feeling that I was being selfish. We’re all familiar with those excuses, I think. But I listened to my instinct. I kept in touch with that voice, which had no supporting arguments but was insistent. It just said, GO.

Haven was transformative, and much needed at this particular time in my life. I knit out in Montana nature, I hiked, I ran through the misty sunrise, I spent time with women of all ages, and yes, I wrote. On the first night, we were asked to share our intention for coming on the retreat. This was mine:

My intention is to be far from home and everyone I know and see what comes out, given space, time, and distance.

Some amazing words came out.

While there, I also took advantage of a couple of optional activities, a guided hike and a session with horses. We weren’t riding; it was all ground work with the horses–and grounding work for the humans. In other words, equine therapy. Before getting back to the focus of this site–art, creativity, and projects–I want to share something I wrote after my time with the horses. The riding crop is used to define our personal space to the horse, and “B” was our guide with the horses.

I step out into the ring, riding crop in hand. I face the closest horse and move my arm from side to side. I hear B say, “I’m going to help you.”

“Why?” I want to do it myself. I keep my eyes on the horse but feel her come up behind me. She presses close, her right hand on mine, holding the crop, her left on my waist.

“Breathe in and relax. Let go.” I soften. The horse notices. B moves my hand from side to side with firm motions and then steps back as I carry on myself. The horse moves back. I move forward, arm still swinging. The horse turns and moves faster. I stride toward the next horse.

“You too,” I say. “Move.” The horse moves. I feel the power in me, the force of my intention, pouring out through my swinging arm. Back and forth with the crop as I broadcast: This is my space. This is my boundary. As I stride forward purposefully, the horses respond, always staying beyond my boundary. Soon all five horses are trotting in a circle around the arena before me. It’s fluid. I feel the grin on my face. It radiates through every surface of my body–my entire self smiles. I am in control of these horses.

After I’ve circled the arena a few times, B tells me to stop in the middle, take a deep breath, and lower the crop. The horses continue to move around me, powerful, but their power still under command of my intention. I stand at the calm center, still grinning, observing what my firm intention has produced: five thousand pounds of powerful equine flesh moving in controlled rhythm because of me, as I stand fearless in the middle, loose and happy.

(Finally) Some Making

I’ve been slow to get my making groove back, but finally this week I feel I can join in with Dawn for her Making + Listening series again. I’ve had a panel of trees waiting for French knots for quite a while, so I finally got to it.

I have a stack of fabric cut and a list of ideas. I need to get a move-on.

Also this week I re-ordered some postcards from Moo, with updated website/shop information on the back. I want to include a little free something with orders, and I thought, at least for now, these postcards are just the thing.

As for listening, there isn’t anything new on my music list. Mostly I’ve been listening to my younger two kids bicker. We’ve been a bit house-bound…my 9yo is being treated for Lyme Disease. He had several days with no energy at all, which, combined with his aches and fluctuating fever was enough to send us to the hospital walk-in on Saturday, where the doctor mentioned Lyme before my husband even brought it up. We’ve been limited to short excursions–the library, the karate studio–and a lot of time at home. I thought we could finally manage the grocery store today, but my oldest was sick in the middle of the night, which reminded me to be grateful for both my washing machine and the fact that this is not a solo-parenting week, because my husband handled the rug.

Oh, back to listening… I am looking forward to listening to this, as soon as it arrives. Has anyone read or listened to her work? She’s new to me.

Any making going on in your world this week? Anything new on your playlist?