9-1-06 Tell me what is wrong with this
picture...no, not a watercolor, a situation. Today is my birthday.
This is my day, right? It should be special, right? I got
up early this morning as usual (4 AM or so), did my routine online stuff,
then rushed out to exercise at 8 AM so I could get to the Arts Council at 9
AM. I do volunteer computer work for the organization. Today's
job was setting up the online and offline email filters and solving a few
general computer problems for the director. Fine, no unexpected
glitches, except it ran longer than I expected, so my husband and I ended up
eating lunch at Main Street Cafe because I didn't have time to cook
anything. From there, I rushed home so I could put up some freezer
corn and cook finger food for the Arts Council reception tonight.
Managed to get that done and the food delivered by 4:30. Rushed home,
took a shower and was back at the reception by 5:30. BTW, this is a
great show, "Woven Asia," the collected works of David and Jennifer
Zurick. (In the next couple of days, I'll shoot it and share
pictures.) [Editing here to offer
this link to pictures from the exhibit.] David is a geographer who has spent much time in the Far
Jennifer is a basketmaker. Both of them lovely people, wonderful
friends. Between the two of them, they have a collection of work that
would be the envy of any museum or gallery. Awesome stuff!
Illustrated Atlas of the Himalaya was just released, so this was a
combination art show and book signing. (My husband bought a copy for
me for Christmas...but of course, I'm not about to set it back until
Christmas day. Now...now!) Great book, gorgeous photography!
During the opening of the exhibit tonight, Dave did a slide presentation
sharing photography of the region and his insight into both the geography
and culture. I was impressed, both with the slides and with his talk.
Excellent job. Hmmmm...now where was I going with this entry? I
was going to complain, wasn't I? Complain that this was my birthday
and it should have been special. Sheesh! It was special!
I was treated to lunch out. I attended a wonderful exhibit. I
got to spend time with friends. I came home with a treasure of a book.
What an ingrate I am. Happy birthday, me...and it truly was a happy
9-2-06 I have a
basket demo scheduled a week from today at the Kentucky Artisan Center
at Berea, so I've been gathering
materials and weaving a few baskets to have on hand. I'd like to
have several started and in various stages for the demo. That always
makes it easier to explain how various steps are done. The staves or
spokes of these miniature baskets are usually hosta leaf stems because they
are substantial enough to stand up to the constant twisting and pulling
involved in the weaving. Heaven knows, I have enough of them
growing alongside the
walk. These plants were here when we bought the place, planted in
the full sun, a terrible place for hostas. Every year the leaves
blister and sunburn, but the plants thrive. Go figure. For
weavers, I use various plant materials - daylily leaves, mulberry root bast,
woolgrass leaves, Siberian iris leaves, Peruvian daffodil seed stalks.
The baskets look wild and hairy
while I'm working with them, but eventually, everything comes into place and
it becomes a basket.
9-3-06 Umph! Why
the "umph"? Because I forgot to put the hosta leaf stems in the
refrigerator. Yes, I know, I keep weird things in there, but that's
where they have to go once they're wet. Otherwise,
this is what happens. In order to
weave with plant materials, they have to be brought "into case" or "in
order." If you're familiar with stripping tobacco, you'd understand.
Dry plant materials, such as hosta leaf stems or daylily leaves will crumble
if they're dry. They must be moistened slightly and allowed to soften
before they can be used. I mist these stems and leaves and wrap them
in a wet towel until they're pliable, then put them into a plastic bag.
If I'm not going to work with them immediately, they go into the
refrigerator. Otherwise, a mold will form on them and they will
deteriorate and quickly rot. I had wet the pictured hosta leaf stems a
couple of days ago and meant to refrigerate them, but forgot. You can
see what happened. With some plant materials, this doesn't really
matter if I go ahead and use them up immediately, but that's not possible
with hosta. The stems become slick and sticky and impossible to weave.
So much for those. Another bunch is waiting underneath a wet towel and
they'll be ready tomorrow. NOTE: Refrigerate them, Gin,
9-4-06 Watercolor will take a backseat
this week to baskets and garden renovations, but I do have one picture
started. This one had a title before the brush ever hit paper.
It's called "Here Comes the Sun."
The title comes from Fred First, the man who shot the picture that is the
inspiration for the watercolor. Fred is a writer, and he maintains a
in which he shares many things, and among them are some excellent
photographs. This one is of his granddaughter, Abby. He has
graciously given me permission to post the
picture I'm working on.
This is likely one I'll revisit and redo when my skills are good enough to
do it justice. Backgrounds have been my bugaboo from the beginning, but this is very close
to what I wanted. Yes, there are things that I would have been done
differently. I can see places I wish the sunlight had hit, and I would
have been better satisfied with a darker foreground, but I can live with this,
at least with this iteration. I've removed the mask
from the little girl, and I'm almost ready to do that. Just need to screw up
my courage. I'll do a couple of drafts on scrap paper as practice before
doing this one. I'm beginning to understand why many painters do a
rough draft of their picture to work through any problems they might face. That
really seems to be the logical way to go about it, but there is a part of me that
doesn't like doing it that way. There is always the fear that I'll do
a really good one on a practice sheet, then do a less than perfect job in
the painting itself. Mind games. **For
those who have written to ask "what the heck are buckeyes???"... I
never thought to explain the image on
the homepage. I just assumed that everyone knew what buckeyes are.
Apparently, I'm wrong. The pods in the picture grow on an
Ohio buckeye tree (Aesculus glabra). Inside the pod is
a seed with an "eye." It looks
very similar to a Chinese chestnut except that it is completely round rather
than flat on one side. Unlike chestnuts, buckeyes are supposed to be
poisonous, though squirrels eat them. Local lore says that carrying a
buckeye in your pocket brings good luck.
9-7-06 If I seem a bit absent from the
journal, it's because I'm trying to get ready for this Saturday's miniature
basket demo at the Kentucky Artisan Center. It doesn't involve much
getting ready, other than starting several small baskets so they can be
displayed in various stages, making it easier to explain how they're made.
Unfortunately, a series of partially completed baskets doesn't make for good
journal pictures. If you're in Berea, please do stop by and introduce
yourself. I'll be there from 10:30 until 3:30. **I'm also
working on a website for the Berea Arts Council. Right now all they
have is a rudimentary site for their workshop schedule. The
organization is doing some excellent work in the community and needs a
presence on the Web. BAC runs primarily on volunteers, none of whom
have any experience designing websites. This is one niche that I can
fill in order to help out. When the site is further along, I'll share
the URL. The Arts Council has some exciting plans for next year if
you're interested in quilts, both traditional and decorative wall hangings.
9-9-06 Had a great time with the demo
today. It was a slow weekend caught between last week's Labor Day
holiday and the coming fall foliage rush, but there were still plenty of
people to talk with. It was an interesting crowd. As many men as
women, or maybe more, stopped to spend time asking questions about the
basket materials and weaving process. I met one couple from Wisconsin
who had visited the Center last March and admired the baskets. On
their way back through today, they stopped specifically to purchase one and
were pleased to find me there weaving. The Artisan Center treats
demonstrators like royalty. The staff is there to help you get in, get
set up and is constantly stopping by to ask if you'd like a cup of coffee.
Given that coffee is my beverage of choice, I kept them running. Then
at lunch, two or three of the management staff join you for lunch on their
tab at the café. Come breakdown time, the staff is right there to help
carry out and clean up after you. I'm of the opinion that all demos
should be handled this way. Of course, with a vested interest in the
matter, I'll admit to being prejudiced. During the demo, Gwen Heffner,
the Information Specialist, always stops by and shoots pictures. The
demonstrator leaves with a printout and the pictures on disk for their own
use. Very nice touch. Gwen was having camera problems today, but
she still managed a picture of me and the
daylily leaves and one of a basket in
progress. I had twelve baskets displayed. Unfortunately, the
pictures of those didn't come out well, but the
baskets looked similar to these
that were at the Artisan Center in May. Good day. Thoroughly
9-18-06 A few weeks
ago I bought a couple of mushroom logs from Tim Hensley, the brother of a
friend. I figured it would be next year before we saw anything out
of the logs, but surprise, surprise. We had
mushrooms this morning!
There were just three, but given that I wasn't expecting them at all, they
were a delight. They were also tasty! Sautéed them in butter
with a couple of cloves of garlic and some scallion tops. Added a can
of crabmeat at the last minute, just enough to warm that. Tossed all
that with cooked fettuccini, lots of fresh grated parmesan and a couple of
tablespoons of lemon juice. Stirred in just a little milk to keep it
from being dry and topped the dish with fresh parsley. Mmmm! I'm
eyeing this bunch of mushrooms growing up
on Center Street. I've been told they're eatable, but I don't really
have enough nerve to try them.
9-26-06 Finally finished
the Berea Arts Council
website and got it up this morning. If you've got a few minutes
check it out. Even though the Arts Council works almost entirely on
volunteer effort, it does an excellent job of promoting the arts locally.
Neat people working for a good cause.
9-27-06 The Yahoo papermaking list is
hosting its annual Swatch Swap. I've participated for the last five or
six years, and in the process, have been able to get swatches from all over the
world, lovely 2"x3" pieces of paper made from every imaginable fiber.
Gorgeous stuff. Over this past year I've made precious little paper.
Seems I've been involved in everything but papermaking, but I don't want to miss
out on this, so I've been casting about for the last few days, seeing
what was available. Many plants are summer hardened and difficult to
work with now, but there are still lots of things available. Today I was doing the annual fall
flowerbed cleaning, and there was a large section of gayfeather (Liatris
spicata) that needed to be dug and
plants had been topped after blooming so they wouldn't reseed, but I
left the stalks to hide some rather unattractive plants behind. There were
plenty of leaves, quite enough for the swatch swap project, so I cut the
stalks off, stripped the leaves and cooked them up. These particular
leaves, like a few others I can think of, are a problem source for fiber.
While the veins do run parallel, indicating a reasonable source for fiber,
the central vein or main stem of the leaf is considerably stronger than the
fiber veins that run on either side of it. When the cooked leaves are
beaten, the fine veins break down but the tougher, central vein doesn't
break down completely. All well and good for an interesting paper with
the lighter colored central vein floating through the dark green fine
fibers, but it makes pulling a pill. Oh, the central vein is broken
down enough that it doesn't "drape" over the sides of the deckle, that's not
the problem. It's the super fine fibers from the rest of the leaf that
create the difficulty. These fibers clog the screen and dramatically
increase drain time, particularly when pulling thick sheets.
Fortunately, I planned on thin swatches. You can clearly see the
central rib fibers in this
picture of a swatch. The fine fibers in these leaves also mean a
high shrinkage sheet. I'd forgotten about that (duh) and made the
mistake of trying to dry them on glass, something I don't usually do unless
I'm pressed for time, which I am. My first indication of problems came
shortly after I put them up. I noticed a few edges beginning to curl
away from the glass, and I knew what was going to happen. If I left
them there, they would twist and curl and even pop off the glass. I
took them down and finished drying them in the press, something I didn't
want to do because of the time involved. Sheesh. If I'd read my
own journal, I would have known not to glass dry these things. Anyway,
I have nice, flat swatches now, just hope I have enough.