Thursday, December 31, 2009

we had a great 2oo9 and i hope for happiness and wonder for all in 2o1o. happiest of new years to you all.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

i'm spending this week cleaning out drawers, reorganizing closets, throwing away things that we've been keeping out of habit for a decade. all the things that are keeping our house from functioning smoothly. i draw no inspiration from tv shows that make heros out of nazi organizers, or that take rooms and strip them into vacuous lifeless boxes full of color coordinated department store crap. i draw inspiration from my own home. i love my home. i just need to get rid of the stuff i don't use, need or love. my wall of books in the dining room is perfection for me. if i ever try to over-organize this, something has gone terribly wrong in my brain. this is the top half of my wall of books. the bottom section is 2 feet deep to hold all my large art books. books are the foundation of my life and our house is built around finding homes for them. one of my favorite book features is the built in bookshelf on one wall of our staircase. when we were restoring our 150 year old limestone house, i felt such excitement when i saw the inside of the walls, the lathe and plaster, the beams....i didn't want it all covered up again forever. so, on the staircase, we removed the top layer of plaster, exposing the joists and lathe & plaster of the other wall. in the several inches between we created shelves. i love glancing over my books every time i run up the stairs, and seeing 150 year old plaster oozing between the thin strips of wood holding it all in place.i have learned to shelve my books two layers deep, where i can. i have a fabulous old corner cupboard that i absconded from my parents garage. my father had kept his tools and gardening equipment in it for 30 years. but i thought it was much better suited to books. it's about 7 feet tall and full of books, 2 layers deep.i'm also firm in my belief that my books need to be surrounded with all the other curiousities that i find interesting. so they are at times haplessly thrown together. but it works for me. i need/want to see all the things around me that i love. in fact, several years ago, i decided to take the dors off our kitchen cupboards so i could see things better. i find if i don't see the things around me, i forget they are there. this is so much more manageable for me. but back to the books. there are so many. and i love each of them. this summer when i was moving studios i moved books with the wheelbarrow, loaded on a blanket to keep the remnants of dirt out of their pages. i still have the garage stacked high with the books i haven't moved. that will be a project for next summer. but the book room at chasing lightning bugs studio has enough beautiful piles that it is a perfect winter hideaway.and now back to organizing. and cleaning and preparing our house and our books for a new year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

christmas is a wonderful reminder of the solidity of home and family. and christmas means a beautiful winter day in the home my parents have lived in for 35 years. my childhood home that is as much a part of me as my skin. my father has been stripping the layers of paint from the 140 year old front door. and i love what he's found. and the contrast against the pristine white 10 foot walls and mellow pine floors that came from the property. there is no season when this house doesn't embrace us as one of it's own. but at christmas, with the fires burning and the fields covered with snow, there is a warmth and safety that isn't matched at any other time.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

here's another collage corkboard. i call it a perfect marriage of form and function. i have a couple large ones to make today. this is my last day in the studio before christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

yesterday this was one of the collage corkboards that piles of paper and glue produced. it was a magnificent day with beautiful light, the sun bouncing off the lake and into my little room. the paper is wild now, very little of the floor is showing, so many choices. i made two others. i'll try to get photos. and i'm making a large one today. i'm still planning to put some 1 inch twill across it in a few places......but i need to pick some up this afternoon.

Monday, December 21, 2009

i am happily transitioning upstairs to my paper room tucked under sloped ceilings. piles of books and old dusty pages that have long been forgotten hold my attention for hours as i sift through to find the exactly right old illustration. some printed pages are deeply grooved with each letter pressed into the paper leaving dents. it feels like braille to me. sitting on the wide plank floors beneath the window looking out to the lake, and our side yard beneath with snowed over horseshoe pits and tomato plants that weren't pulled up in the fall, is my idea of happiness. this is my work today. i'll sew a few hours a week to keep enough quilts in the studio. but the next 6 weeks, i'll be knee deep in paper. making stationary sets and individual cards. envelopes that are folded from exceptional old papers. calligraphy on printed pages. corkboards that are like little pieces of art. and sometime in early february {i haven't looked at a calender yet} the paper open house will happen.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

i love when our village gathers. we are a community within a larger whole. the city happens around us, but we are a little lakeside village. 33 years ago we hosted the sailing olympics when the summer olympics were in montreal. and because of that we have a sculpture structure in our harbor that housed the olympic flame during the events. this morning, before dawn, we were roused by a string of trucks blaring music and announcing the flame was on it's way. edgar was barking. we were asleep. once we figured out what was happening, we got ourselves half dressed and down the stairs. our neighbors were on their doorsteps. tom grabbed the camera off the dining room table. people broke into little groups to watch and wonder. the flame jogged past. people chatted. we took edgar up to the corner to get a coffee. i love when the village gathers.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

this morning our walk was a little magical. the weeds were covered in snow. the lake was still. the air was gentle and sunny and full of the scent of firewood. not smoky, just pungent. i can't settle into a house without a fireplace. when i was younger, renting houses at college, i had cedarwood incense that filled my dingy little rooms with the heady aroma of firewood. i loved that incense. it was a little tiny block of compressed wood chips. what a great idea.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

i walk across my backyard to get to my studio. every morning. and i make the same delightful trip home at night. last week i stepped out of the back door of the studio, heading toward the warm glow of the kitchen lights, and i found this first. the moon smiling through the trees at me. i'm glad i had my camera hanging on my neck (and my arms full). there are so many little things throughout my day that make it full and happy. that give me smiles and pause. i had a woman burst through my door this week to say she hated the color of my sign. that if i wanted business i'd have to change my sign. that made me giggle all day. i love my sign. i had tea with friends. i snuggled a sleeping 3 week old baby isaac. i made 4 quilts that i love. and all 4 of them sold. i watched the soprano's while i worked. my husband brought me coffee. i found a new use for a fabric i love. my week in the studio was full and beautiful. and in the end the moon smiled on me. i'm pretty sure this coming week will be just as wonderful.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

a glimpse. a phrase. a note. stillness wrapped around calm. silence that highlights the dusty background. i sit in my workroom and sew. and think of the moments i want to make into words. or the paper i want to cut. and the light i want to capture on the page. i fill my head with all the dreamily undone. it all remains an undulating dance of change.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

we have a brand new baby in the neighborhood. tom & i went over last night to meet little isaac and congratulate his parents. he is so tiny and vulnerable, yet simultaneously strong and vital. it was lovely to sit and stare into his warm little face, his tiny mouth automatically suckling and his hands curling into fists and straightening out into shockingly long tiny perfect fingers. they had a very dramatic and frightening birth experience and as we were talking about it, i was struck with the reality that when my grandmother was having her babies, she would have died had she experienced something similar. that reality was enormous to me. my great-grandmother was an unofficial midwife, the woman who was called to assist with births . and i'm certain she was helplessly part of many births that ultimately ended in tragedy. each new life is enormous. welcome, little isaac, to the journey.

today is my grandmother's birthday. she died 12 years ago. but i have a big piece of her in me. the stories of her life as a wife and mother on the family farm in 1930's prince edward island fuels my daily work in the studio. i think of her often while i'm sewing and wish she was sitting across the room giving advice.

Monday, November 16, 2009

things are a little one dimensional lately. i only sew. and walk with edgar. and crash on the couch with my husband watching mad men or shows we've dvr-ed. i guess it's simply the time of year. i have alot of stuff i have to make. and just not enough time. but i still am energized by what i'm doing. i'm planning the stuff i'll make next. and....i'm living for the day i can get upstairs to my paper room and start building collage again. the process is simple. while i sew, i plan and create momentum for the art that will eventually come to the boiling point and charge it's way out. years ago i would try to force the art all the time. after several years of this i lost the vision, the perspective and grew discouraged. but it would never disappear entirely. it always is there. not necessarily patient. but there. and now after many years, the rhythm is established. it is good to find a way to make everything i need to make.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

it's hard to believe that in just a little over a month we are going to be in the full swing of the holidays. i am busy now, preparing all the items that i've promised my customers. alot of time in the studio making stockings and napkins and quilts and totes. it's a nice time to let the people in your life know how special they are. so i'm making lots of nice, thoughtful little tokens that speak volumes. it's fun for me. there is a lot of happiness and love that goes into everything i make. and i have only a couple more weeks to get the studio stocked and ready.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

our big blue boy, edgar, turns 5 today. we just returned from our walk through the harbor. gorgeous crisp morning. now i'm off to the studio to make napkins and aprons. but he has the cats to keep him company. happy birthday edgar.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

i've never known november to be a barefoot month. but last night, when i stumbled from my bed at 2 a.m. to take edgar outside, there were no shoes by the kitchen door, so i plunged out into the night barefoot with just my cotton 'marie antoinette' nightshirt on. i was not the least bit uncomfortable. the wood porch floor was gentle on my feet and the air was warm. like an evening in late august. what a rare night this was. and i stood in the night, just barely dressed, completely enjoying the moment, while edgar sniffed around in the carpet of dead leaves. neither of us wanted to go back inside.

Monday, November 9, 2009

our days have been so lovely. but by 5.30 pm we are all wrapped up in night. the fires lit and lamps on. these long dark evenings settle around us, waiting to be filled. the darkness stretching before us. this is when i draw the most. i pull out notebooks and my tiny tin box of conte and jars of ink and pen nibs and start making a mess. tom plays guitar and i scribble out drawings. maybe we watch a hockey game. or a favorite sitcom. but, the long dark evenings of late fall and early winter are when i itch to draw.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

the harbor is empty, boats lining the edge of the water. a crane lifting them gingerly and dripping. so naked and vulnerable. a boat hibernating on shore is sad in a singular way. my favorite, a wide wooden yacht, who waves and smiles in the water, is now sitting stiff and cold in it's winter hold.

the light is strong. we walk with bulky coats. the fire smells warm and there are still a few leaves that whisper on branches. i will wash the floors and make quilts. november is strong in my bones today.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

we live in a large town, not a large city. but a large town. we have a university. we have a military base and a military university. we have a community college. and several prisons. we have teaching hospitals and a thriving tourist industry. and we have a wind farm. massive wind turbines that change with the light. i call them 'the angels'. they stand just across the lake from us on wolfe island, looking out over the lake at us, at times glowing with their mammoth wings moving in the wind. they harness the energy that the wind generates off the lake and filters that to our power grid. a sustainable power source. i am pleased that we can offer clean and sustainable alternatives. and i'm equally glad that i'm not living directly beneath them. it was difficult for me to watch during the construction phase, as the pristine vista of lake and island that feels like part of my home, was changed forever. there are 86 turbines, each of them 400 feet high, which is a dramatic change.
however, now that we have lived with them for over a year, they have re-created the vista and have become the view i now embrace. finding a way to function in a sustainable way comes in all shapes and sizes and is a lengthy process. so, we try in our home to make changes that make a difference. we are minimizing disposable paper products in our home. we use cloth napkins. and cotton cloths for cleaning in the kitchen. and lots of tea towels. i started making tom hankies a couple of years ago and he always has one in his pocket. i make them to be fun and functional. stylish and re-usable. we are all able to make our own homes function with just a little less waste. it gets simpler and simpler. and that, i suppose is my point. living simply.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

october is my favorite walking month. the light is distracting. the air is still gentle in it's crisp chill. edgar and i have beautiful walks along the water. and at times while i'm in my workroom sewing, i wish i was out walking with edgar. this morning is damp {not quite raining, but probably will soon} but we will still have a little tour. we are lucky to live on the lake and have the lake's simple drama as part of our daily routine. we walk on the grounds of a hospital that has been around for 150 years or more. the old buildings interact with the new. and the walkway along the water is full of trees and rocky ledges and pebbly beaches. i am sad to say goodbye to october. i feel like i lose a friend every time this month rolls past.

Friday, October 16, 2009

i love the quiet of my sunny little room lined with bolts of fabric. the bare pine plank floors are warm on my feet, even now with the dramatic temperature drop. the tables are full of fabric squares and spools of thread. the window looks onto the street, with overgrown garden plants framing my view. my fabrics tell me little stories. all the patterns and colors. gathering them in a garden of patches and calling it a quilt is like writing a novel for me. i watch the story grow stronger and the characters develop. that is where i find my serenity. so on sunday, october 18th, from 12 - 6, i am inviting you all to the grand opening of chasing lightning bugs studio. i hope you will taste a little of the serenity in the items i make. feel a little of the story. and just enjoy an october afternoon by the lake, in a flurry of autumn brilliance.

Monday, October 5, 2009

we went to the market on the weekend. we are fortunate to have a thriving, bustling farmer's market in the heart of our little city. it sits safely in the square behind our city hall and operates 4 days a week. the cast of characters varies, and yet also stays the same. three seasons the tables are stacked high and colorful. in winter, it's sparse, but always open. tom was making turkey for dinner. we found fresh peas. mixed greens. leeks and tomatoes. eggs. radishes. baguette and honey. and a pie. it was perfect little shopping trip, strolling through the streets, planning our dinner. all of it locally grown or baked. when we were making our list, on our way, we both wanted peas, but didn't expect there would be any in october. the man from napanee had peas. $3 a pint, still sweet and tender. we bought two pints and had enough for 5 well as the dozens we ate while shucking. our six year old neighbor sat on a stool in the kitchen with us, guessing how many peas would be in each pod and eating most of the ones she shucked. and did i mention the radishes? my favorite addition to a salad.

it was a perfect shopping trip to the market, an energy filled afternoon in the kitchen and a lovely dinner and evening with friends.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

there are few intimacies in life that can be shared the way a book can be. words on paper in beautiful worn editions, smelling of damp dust and appealing to my need for a few moments of quiet and solitude. i am drawn into book stores, mostly used book stores. or any place i can find a little treasure for my shelves. paris has my favorite books. little shops that are collapsing under the piles of volumes. sellers along the seine. old paper markets that set up in the square at certain metro stops. boxes of books and paper under tables at the marche aux puces at montreuil or saint-ouen. a book that has been held by many hands, that has absorbed the energy and emotions of people from different generations, is a special gift. it's enough to hold one of my favorite books for a few minutes, opened randomly, gulping a few sentences or swallowing several pages. with my favorites, that i have read and re-read for decades, i rarely need to read the entire book. it's a visit with the characters, the language, the images, the places. when i read the entire book i inhabit it all, but a little visit is sometimes better. there is no simpler pleasure than a brilliant book plucked from my own collection.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

photo courtesy of theresa bodi yaroshevich

the raspberries are finished now. but it was only a few weeks ago that they sat sun warmed and ripe in their prickly little maze. my fingers cracked and stained with the juice. scratches on my arms. the warm explosion of sweet in my mouth. my lips stained a little deeper red. and it was only a few weeks ago. now the stores have little plastic boxes of berries. but no allure. they still have a small taste of summer, not like the berries we find in winter that taste of dust and refrigerators. but raspberries that have been gathered in an afternoon, that there are war wounds from the gathering, are still the perfect temperature and sweetness and juiciness. and the moment can sit in me for months, years even. the sun on my neck, the brambles scratching bare legs, and the taste of one single berry is the essence of an afternoon well spent.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

i love this old house. an old farmhouse. with the 'new' house built behind it {it's not in the picture, but the 'new' house looks like it was built around the 1890's}. this beauty has weathered so much. watched it's generations live & work & grow & die. and it sits there with authority, even in it's weakened state. old houses develop characteristics like a face. they often smile. in rare instances i see a scowl. but it's mostly a wry little smile. i was noticing today as i drove home along country roads from lynn's baby shower, how i love the houses that sit at an angle to the road. the old houses. the old working houses. farm houses seem to work along with their inhabitants. there is an energy that invades the whole property. years ago my aunt told me that old farmhouses are most often built facing south. so they seem to twist away from the road, to find the sun.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

lately, i've been waking up in the middle of the night. i love the silence and lonely darkness. but i can only wait to fall back to sleep for so long. the moon usually makes long, leafy shadows on the wall above the bathtub. and sometimes i can hear the rustle of animals knocking over garbage cans. or raccoons crying in the trees around the house. and if the wind is strong, the branches scrape across the roof. if i don't fall asleep in 15 or 20 minutes, i read myself back to sleep. there are usually cats on our bed. and my husband asleep beside me. so, i pull the covers over my head, with my book and my little reading light. and there is a glowing tent where i feel like i'm 8 years old again, with a pilfered flashlight and archie comics that were hidden under my mattress, tented in my bed long after i was supposed to be asleep. with the same moon spreading different braches across different walls. but more alike than different. i love the same things about it now, as i did then. the sheets are exagerated folds. i can hear each breath i take. and it seems like no one on earth knows where to find me. until i want to be found. and reading just seems sweeter when you are hidden away in a duvet tent.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

we had a little vacation today. it's our anniversary. and we had the best day. a weekday with no plans and only your own whims to please can be a great re-connect day. it's the sort of day that was easy to find in youth. class is easy to skip. even work is easy to skip when you're young. but for us, a day that you wander around downtown shops, buying little things that catch your eye and basically killing time is the sort of luxury i forgot i wanted. a day off is great. it's a day i usually get caught up on all the projects that i need to do. but today neither of us did that. we had a lazy morning making breakfast and then wandered downtown around 1.00 pm. as if we were in a new city or a vacation spot, instead of our own city. we bought a few clothes and went in some shops we wouldn't have normally thought of going in. we had a really early dinner since we'd had such a late and lazy breakfast. and then home to walk the dog and watch a movie. a great day.

Monday, September 21, 2009

friends came by the studio as i worked today. i cut squares of fabric for quilts and ironed scraps that will be cut into smaller squares. the sun was strong. the energy was bright. i planned a new size for a quilt. and i talked to courtney about letter writing. after she left, i continued to ponder on the fading art of hand-written correspondence. there is an intimacy about a hand written letter that is rarely equalled. letters come from a silent place. ink and paper, such a physical extension of the hand and mind. the writing of a letter becomes not only a transfer of thoughts and ideas, but also an aesthetic communique. the variations of hand-writing. a coffee stain. the rapid scrawl of a sudden idea. the jagged edges of paper ripped from a spiral bound notebook. or the creamy silk of fine stationary. i have boxes of letters, saved from different stages of my life. the round loopy girlish writing of letters received while i was in boarding school. the longer, more serious missives while in university. and living in paris, the swoon when i saw a white envelope and it's angular address. letters from men i loved. and from men who loved me.

i also have collections of letters i have purchased from estates. they are fascinating, even without knowing the full extent of their context. i have one little bundle, tied in a tattered and faded light blue ribbon that are saved from the 1920's. letters of a summer love and the heartbreak that ensued. another collection that ranges from a son's letter to his parents, in the 1890's, telling of his intention to marry, letters from his father to the future daughter-in-law, letters between the newlyweds, letters from this couples child to her parents, and ultimately letters telling of the death of her father.....3 generations of a family, distilled to pages of writing.

will we have such historical treasures to leave future generations? letters carry more than words in them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

i feel safe and loved and part of something real when i am in an old building. and an old building that i spend years in becomes a part of my family. there are several members of this family of mine.....our house, my childhood home, my grandmother's home and the art building.

this weekend is my 20th college reunion. i'm not one to enjoy large gatherings of the over-dressed and over-interesting. but i may have been convinced to attend if it hadn't been for the art building. this building sits in me as the core of my transition from child to woman. it surrounded me and let me bloom. i remember every inch of this building, a three level wooden structure, with a wide central staircase criss-crossing through the middle of the building. the front door shut heavily with a bang like thick solid doors do. the floors creaked. the windows were screenless and would often swell, refusing to open or shut. there was a dusty, dreamy quality to the air. a large gallery space took up one half of the main floor. it was windowless and echo-y. and a large room at the back for drawing classes, with huge iron presses against the wall for printmaking class. i fell in love in that room. probably more than once....there were many drawing classes. every corner of this building was special. upstairs where i had my painting classes. and a little corner i could call my own studio. the smell of oils. sneaking in after hours so i could keep painting. the wonderful lair of treasure and art that was my favorite teacher's studio. books. art. paint. and the damp smell of the basement with wet clay and alabaster dust. tables of drying pottery and every few weeks the glow of the kiln. the perfect idea factory. this building breathed with me. and now it's gone. several years ago it was torn down; i heard it was considered unsafe. thankfully a few years before, i'd taken my husband on a summer afternoon, driving home from indianapolis, to see the little university, and mostly the art building. it was a late summer afternoon. and the bulding was empty. and exactly as i remembered it. the dusty smells. the creaky floors. the open spacious feeling. i saw it all for the last time as i ran up the stairs, showing him every corner. and so i'm not prepared to return yet, without this central figure to my college experience.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

i appreciate september mornings in a different way. the sun has started to hang at an autumn angle, changing the light and making everything glow a little. but it's warm enough to pretend it's still summer. i made my favorite green tea this morning. green tea chai with honey. and hung a load of laundry on the line, before walking across the yard to the studio. there are few things more beautiful than a clothesline full of whites dancing in the trees. i'm drawn to both the simplicity and the drama. the deep folds in the fabric, like black cracks. and they really do dance through the air, bringing home all the freshest scents they can absorb, like fine wine infused with all the flavors from the soil and the air. an old russian woman once told me it would take 3 days for her sheets to dry in the siberian winter air. but when she brought them in, the entire house would sing with the scent of them for days.

Monday, September 14, 2009

it's almost autumn. but not quite. the air still smells of clipped grass. the windows are still wide open letting in the scent of lake and sun. but we close them halfway at night now. the crickets sing all the time....not just at night. the sky is clear. the air is bright. queen anne's lace still stands in the fields {and in my front yard where i sow seeds every spring} but not as thick and white as it was a few weeks ago. the nights are cooler. there is a reminder in the air that summer only has a few breaths left.

today i had friends stopping by the studio while i worked. and they brought their kids. luca is almost 3 and he thought i was very lucky to have a tape measure. he liked meeting edgar, but was disappointed he wasn't able to find any cats. and 10 day old clara bea who still naturally folds into the shape of a womb. her skin so clear and soft and new. she slept and made dainty little snorts as everyone took turns holding her and staring into her perfect little face.
and between visitors i made tea towels and a bowl of napkins.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

the back porch is where i go to be quiet. it's where i find myself when i'm excited & happy. it's where i need to be when i'm tired or frustrated or sad. i drink my morning tea on the porch and spend a few minutes writing in my journal. i hang our laundry on the clothesline from the porch. the back porch is where our life happens. our porch swing is covered with pillows and quilts, and often a couple of cats, and is never tidy. it's the perfect reading spot. edgar, our 5 year old blue great dane, perches on it, sometimes climbing up and sleeping with the cats. we have barbecues on the porch; our friends playing guitar and drinking beer under 'the stars'......the roof is full of little white lights we call the stars that are left over from our wedding (oh yeah, 9 years ago, we got married on the porch). last summer we watched 'breakfast at tiffany's' from the porch with the screen set up in the yard. and it was from our porch, that i watched my neighbor's little girl running under the crabapple tree at dusk, chasing lightning bugs. tom (my husband) had found jars in the kitchen, pressed a nail through the lids for air holes, and was teaching her how to catch lightning bugs to watch them glow for a few minutes in the jar and then let fly off into the night. during july, our yard is popping with lightning bugs, gathered under the crabapple tree and along the edge of the porch. everywhere. bursting little yellow lights. these moments represent the sweet and simple beauty in life that i never grow tired of. chasing lightning bugs.