...or tries to...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Collections: In bowls

Taking a look at what ends up in household bowls is a bit like having your head examined, isn't it? The things you put under glass are things that need to be protected, but bowls are restless, fluid, transient. They hold what you pick up along the way, for as long as you need them. They hold the moment.  They're your everyday life.

Around here, a bowl's main job is to hold beads too nice to store away. But they share space with feathers and needles and stones. The solo earring. An origami balloon. Sea glass. Buttons made on a marathon button making afternoon.That unnamed thing that fell from a tree,

and leaves that will be beautiful for no more than a day.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Among Us

Here's the source of my preoccupation with mushrooms:

As a teenager, I had a potted plant in my bedroom, an umbrella tree that had been given to me as a gift. It grew so fast and was so vital in its way that it seemed more like a pet than a plant. It popped a new branch of leaves monthly, turned to follow the sunlight as it moved across the room. I polished it. I talked to it. I re-potted it. It grew from knee high to shoulder height in two years. I took this personally. I loved this thing.

But vacation time came, a two week long trip this time. I had found a water-stained paperback book from the 70's, Living with Houseplants, the cover featuring a semi-hippie couple in bell bottoms surrounded by spider plants suspended in macrame. In it the nice semi-hippie couple wrote that the best way to insure that my umbrella plant lived through my trip would be to wrap it up in plastic, water it profusely, and let the greenhouse effect do its work. So I did.

And when I came back, my umbrella plant was extremely alive. But not just the plant. Inside the pot, outside the pot, were over a hundred little mushrooms. White caps, long stems, sprouting from the wet dark potting soil, gazing up at me, all leaning slightly like a crowd at a concert. My first instinct was the recoil, the ewww, the revulsion that accompanies any kind of excess. But after that, fascination took over. The idea of this. That these mushrooms had been there all along, sharing my room for over three years, concealed, dormant, patient. Waiting for the odd chance that conditions would change and their time would come. Their time would come and they would have their chance to bust out in all their tiny white glory, to, simply, mushroom.

They wind up, in paper version, in my work all the time. Quite often I concentrate on them when the real experience of my embroidered objects is beneath them, or behind them, but I won't let them go. The idea of something underneath, undiscovered, of something lurking, waiting, choosing its time to surface is a very important metaphor for me. It has parallels in the way our minds work, our bodies function, our environment behaves. And mushrooms and fungus, well, they're beautiful.

And wonderfully strange.

I found all of these at the Orchid Society, in the dark places along the walking paths.

Settling into the hollow trunks of chopped down palms,

Cupping rainwater,

Living among us.

(click above)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The desk where I live...

The studio is a kind of chicken and egg thing-it's sometimes hard to figure out how much of the development of your work is decided by the space you make it in. I've only had small spaces to work in so far, and I have always stayed relatively small. But I've been watching ants and turning over rocks and collecting dead bees for as long as I remember. I have no idea what I would do in a giant loft with floor to ceiling windows and splattered concrete floors. Would I hunker in a corner, lurk along the walls? Would I get all expansive, consider space larger than my desk top? I can't tell you how many times I've been told to work larger. I know they're probably right, but my concession to the artistic temperament thing has always been covert - I nod politely, concede that they may be right, like a good girl, and then go back home and do what I want.

This small space, this desktop, with its avalanching yarn balls and pliers clattering to the floor and  boxes of beads upended by my errant elbows, is the center of my universe. It's tight, it's the pinpoint axis on which I try to balance what I know. The raw material comes from outside its orbit, but, once inside the circle of the light cast by my broken lamp, experiences try to sort themselves out. It's where I mull and stew and obsess over things, where I mix radio stories together with conversations I've had, diagnoses and arguments and pleasures and long passed memories. It's the same for anyone who sits at a desk, making something, artist or not, that solo space picked out of a larger one, the same way little kids stake out a small section of a huge room or a wide field of grass.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In the Company of Orchids

My neighbor's orchids put me in the mood to go back to the American Orchid Society last Sunday, to see what my true orchiding neighbors had been doing since I went there the first time, years ago. I remembered a concrete circle and the beginnings of a garden, and a greenhouse, but not much more. Well, since then, it's filled out. To say the least.

It's filled up with trees that look like they're draped for a costume party,

and walks that circle and encircle

lily ponds

and deep shady places to stop and sit.

Here, outside the greenhouse, the orchids tower.

Inside the greenhouse is a conjured jungle.

In real life, in person, they seem more like strange inventions, hybrids of insect and flower,

Not cheeky, like the flowers down my street that thrive in relative neglect, but things you give your time to, your head and heart to.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


They're things with no practical use. And they're usually small, easily trampled, creased, crushed or blown away. Things you come across, things you find when you're doing something else, that fit into your pocket. Objects with an entirely different plan, most of them never marketed to you, never designed to grab your attention. If and when you get them home you have to put them someplace that keeps them from the dog, the cat, the kids, the heavy handed, the vacuum cleaner.  Some place that sets them apart. From yourself as well. From your hand, though not your gaze.

Bones. A squirrel skull. Feathers, wings, a fragment of a hornet's nest. Bowls and vases and cups too small to use. Tintypes of people you'll never know anything about.

Doll eyes. Feet. Hands. Heads. Shells meant for the tiniest of sea creatures. Shed cat whiskers. Dragonflies that could snap like matchsticks. Bees curled up as if asleep.

Bits of quartz and pods and milagros and burrs and sea glass and the toy volkswagen your Dad kept on his own shelf. Things that you could live without. Things that would be the easiest to throw away. But somehow, always, the hardest to.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Bell Jar

I've been asked more than once to put my work under glass, something the Victorian in me actually likes. But the small pieces I've made have survived cat attacks-that's part of the point to them, that they aren't real, and they aren't delicate. I clean them up with rolled up masking tape. But there is something tender about the zone of silence, and melancholy in their distancing and limitations. Something ceremonial about raising up the dome of the bell jar, letting people see up close.