Thursday, 15 October 2020

Summer Reading List

I've been a library geek for longer than I can remember.  My mom tells how at the age of 3 or 4 she would take me to the library and I would sit quietly, listening raptly to stories read by the children's librarian. 

I remember the library at my Elementary school where we could check out 2 books at a time.  My favorite series was biographies of American women.  I read about Dolley Madison, Harriet Tubman, Annie Oakley, Helen Keller,  Eleanor Roosevelt, others.  There must have been men subjects, but they didn't interest 9 year old me.


At about 10 I was old enough to ride my bike alone to the local public library and it was one of my favorite outings.  In the summer I'd sign up for the summer reading program.  When I'd finished a book I'd ride over and add that title to my list, which I seem to remember the librarians kept at their desk.  I have a feeling somewhere in my "family treasures" box there's a certificate or two congratulating me on the number of books I read. 

When my grades in high school were not the A's and B's expected of me, my parents removed all the books in my room.  They thought that's what kept me from making good grades.  That wasn't it.  I kept reading what I wanted, I just said it was for school.

After college, when deciding what I'd do with my life, I looked over at my husband and realized he got to play for a living (he's a musician).  Wanting to play at one of my favorite places, I attended library school, became a reference librarian, and worked in college and research libraries for 20 years.

Courtyard between the old and new buildings at the BPL.
This was my first library job.

This year I embarked on a new summer reading program.

George Floyd's death made me want to educate myself about racism and the Black/African-American experience.  I set out to read memoirs, essays, scholarly texts.  Honestly I don't think I've read this many books with footnotes since college.  It was easy to find reading lists. Not as easy to read the books.  My daughter made quite a few helpful suggestions.  Summer is over.  Unlike when I was in school, I won't get a certificate or even a pat on the back for this summer reading program.  In fact, sharing this endeavor has made a few of my white friends very uncomfortable.  Oh well.  I read for me and I'm glad I did.  I learned a lot, not the least being there's a lot more to learn. 

Here's what I read, in the order I read them.  I highly recommend every one of these books, tho I'll be honest, the ones I connected with the strongest were written by women. 

Coates, Ta-Nihisi.  Between the World and Me. NY: Spiegel & Grau, 2015.

Kendi, Ibram X.  How to Be an Antiracist.  NY: One World, 2019.  

Eddo-Lodge, Reni.  Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race.  London: Bloomsbury Circus, 2017.

Mitchell, Jerry.  Race Against Time: A Reporter Reopens the Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era.  NY: Simon & Schuster, 2020. 

DiAngelo, Robin J.  White Fragility.  Boston: Beacon Press, 2018.

Fleming, Crystal Marie.  How to be Less Stupid About Race.  Boston: Beacon Press, 2018.

Glaude, Eddie S., Jr.  Democracy in Black.  NY: Crown Publishers, 2016.

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Stenciling with Seth Apter

Well, he wasn't actually here, but his designs were and  I loved using them!

 I use a traveler's notebook as a catalog for my art supplies.  Instead of putting samples in my catalog, last month I gathered the stencils and dies I have that were designed by Seth Apter and made this page in my art journal.  To get the full scope of this stencil I needed a larger space.  And his designs all work so well together, it was fun to use them to get creative.

I used acrylic paint for the stencils.  Book pages and gel prints from my stash for the die cuts.  The background is spray inks, water based stamp pads, and a generous amount of water spritzed on. 

 Close-ups of mixed media pages

I added my signature handwritten French paper scraps.  
Stickles and Liquid Pearls for  dimension.

This month's StencilClub from Stencil Girl is a mash-up between
Seth Apter & Mary Beth Shaw.
How could I not sign up?

Distress inks in rainbow colors applied thru the stencil

Scribble writing with dip pen & permanent ink.

There was so much juicy color left on the stencil, I spritzed it with water and laid the back side on the adjoining page.  Alone it didn't look like much, specially where the yellow inked images were.  But by scribble writing over the stencil, the light colors stand out and I got to write out some of the things that've been bothering me lately.

Friday, 7 August 2020

Rescuing a Tough Day

Yesterday was a particularly difficult day for me.  Last week I called an out of state friend and shared that I was so sad about the current state of our country.  Her response of "Of course you are, dear," made me feel connected.  At least I wasn't alone.  She shared prayerful thoughts and inspirational things to read.  I felt better for awhile.  However, this week I've felt very alone again.  I've been in what a teacher friend of mine calls an "ugly head space" for months now.

At the end of June I shared with a friend how bad I felt about George Floyd's death.  Over the years she and I've gone out to lunch, talked about a lot of things and I really thought she would say something like, "Of course you do, dear, so do I."   Not her response.  Not even close.

I've been trying to sort this friend's response out ever since.  My sorting out has been very clunky.  It became all about me.  Was I clueless about a friend?  Does it say something about me to have a friend who made racist comments?  If we go out to lunch again, do I say something?  Will I ever want to go out to lunch with her again?

I got a call from my daughter yesterday evening -- at the end of the "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day."  I was not giving my usual cheerful responses and finally my daughter said, "What's wrong, mom?"  Over the years we've had loads of conversations about social justice.  She's a very thoughtful young woman, who keeps me on my toes about what's right.  She's taught me a lot and corrected me when I've said thought-less things.  Last night all she was was loving and supportive.  She gently suggested that maybe I was just feeling sorry for myself, and then, working to make me feel better, shared all the things she does or doesn't do when she's feeling sorry for herself.  She shared that when she feels hopeless it's because it doesn't look like things will ever get better.  But, she said, things are getting better, even if there's more to do.  And she reminded me there are things I'm doing to help make the world a better place.  She actually said almost the same things my husband had said earlier in the day.  Somehow coming from her I was finally able to hear them and feel better.

My new mantra is from the Dalai Lama:

"If you think you are too small to make a difference,
try sleeping with a mosquito."

Saturday, 21 March 2020

What Do You Want Your Art to Look Like?

Who knew that taking a depth year would mean in-depth time at home, in-depth conversations about health and viruses, in-depth time alone?

The first week of February I went to NYC for a wholesale gift show.  I also viewed art at The Met and MOMA.  Sadly I got the flu while there, so at home I spent the rest of the month inside. . . healing, pondering my life, saying goodbye to an old friendship that no longer suits.  It was quiet and contemplative.

I got so used to staying in, that when Massachusetts issued a stay-at-home order in March, it wasn't a big change to my life, or so I thought.  What didn't register were the weekly things I just did as a matter of course:  Sunday lunch at a local Mexican restaurant with my husband after church -- they may not know our names but they know our favorite table and drinks order;  lunch at the local sandwich place where I do know all their names and they know mine, where I bring my own bamboo-ware and to-go cup to cut down on one-use plastic; occasional trips to Michael's to be inspired.   I miss those people & interactions.

With all this time at home, and the freedom from deadlines or things I need to do, I decided to tackle the year-long online art workshop I'd signed up for.  I recently got the prompt for week 12 and since I was only half done with week 1, I thought I'd jump back in.  I sort of liked what I'd done before, but when I followed the rest of the instructions I absolutely hated my overall piece.  The more I tried to fix it the worse it got.  Finally I tore the pages out, walked into the room where my husband was selling on eBay and announced I was having an existential crisis.  I can be so dramatic at times!

Bits of the page I did like

My husband was great.  He closed the lid of his laptop and said, "I assume you want my thoughts on this?"  I did.   He asked me if I was taking the course because the teachers & students were all so enthusiastic and it would be fun to be part of the group?  And yes, I replied sheepishly, that was a strong reason.

And then he asked "Do you know what you want your art to look like?"

I'm not sure anyone has ever asked me that question.  And I was ready.  I do know what kind of art I want to make.  I know what I want my art to look like.  I know I can take inspiration from others, but in the end I want my art to look like mine.

I felt so free with that realization, took the ideas I liked out of what I'd done, and made something completely different.

stencils, paint, stamps, embossing powder, ink & collage

close up

This morning as I sat at my work table I wanted to write about my experience.  It felt like a new step in my artist's life, it deserved a journal with nothing from the past in it.  So I went upstairs to find something to write in, found a book with blank lined pages, then proceeded to decorate the first pages.  While I was waiting for the glitter glue to dry, I wrote this post (and may I say I have way too many bottles of Stickles). 

Stencil, gel prints, glitter glue

The start of a new journal of art musings

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Taking a Depth Year

 Photo by Syd Wachs

As 2019  heads toward it's end and 2020 gets ready to begin, my friends who participate in One Little Word have been writing about what's next for them.   What word will they choose, what word will choose them?

For quite a few of them their word next year will be DEPTH.  This article  at was shared on the message board and it sparked a lot of thought for me.

It begins like this:

"I keep imagining a tradition I’d like to invent. After you’re established in your career, and you have some neat stuff in your house, you take a whole year in which you don’t start anything new or acquire any new possessions you don’t need.

No new hobbies, equipment, games, or books are allowed during this year. Instead, you have to find the value in what you already own or what you’ve already started."

That aligns with my husband's determination that by the beginning of July we will go through every box currently cluttering up the house and barn.  We will finally know what we have, what can be tossed or sold or completed!  He's pretty insistent and I'm glad.  I really do need the threat of dealing with my shit or watching as it gets tossed into a dumpster.  I mean, really.  Some of those boxes (mine and his) haven't been opened in 20 years and it's more than time to deal with the clutter and not having stuff hanging over our heads.

The article goes on to say that this new way of being would teach a person:

" live without regular doses of the little high we get when we start something new. If we indulge in it too often, we can develop a sort of “sweet tooth” for the feeling of newness itself. When newness is always available, it’s easier to seek more of it than to actually engage with ..." already owned craft supplies, unfinished art projects, fill in the blank from your own life.

When I read that I had an "ah ha" moment!  I love signing up for online workshops ~ art & personal growth are my favorites.  They are designed to let a person work at their own pace and really master the techniques.  They often go into depth and you get more than you would watching a youtube video (fun as many of those are).  They offer me the chance to learn and master something new!

But before I complete one course, I am often tempted to sign up for another one.  This happened last Autumn.  Two techniques I really wanted to master, two teachers I really enjoy, but I didn't allow enough time for either one.  Both classes are still unfinished.  

The idea of a "gap year" between high school and college has always seemed a great idea.  My youngest did this and the growth was life changing.  A friend's son likes the idea of a gap year between middle school and high school.  After I read this article from the director of The Stanford Center for Longevity, I thought maybe he has a point.  So this new idea of a "depth year," where I spend time on what I already own, know, want to master, sounds like a perfect blending of going deeper and expanding what a productive long life looks like.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Mastering the Layers, week 1

I really like gel printing!  I like the surprise factor of never knowing exactly what the print will look like.  Some of my prints I love.  Some, not so much.

Here are the prints I made during the first week's worth of lessons:

After I did the first day's foundational lesson, I kept playing.

These 3 prints were made after I discovered what happens when you try to make mud.  I wanted beige paint and knew I could make it by mixing the primary colors and white.  I mixed the colors on  a gel plate and then cleaned my brayer on a piece of paper.  What was cleaned off the brayer did not look beige.  I wanted to see if I could duplicate that effect purposely.  So again I put red, blue, yellow paint dabs on a gel plate, mixed them with the brayer, added white.  Voila, a pretty beige, at least that's how it looked on the plate. I added a favorite stencil and pulled off some excess paint.

These are the surprising prints.  Not very beige!

Day 2:

Grungy prints

Day 3:
Paint and stencil.
Paint, a piece of ribbed plastic, foam stamps.

I really like these prints.  There's a certain control, like maybe I could duplicate this.
The white and orange 6x6 gel plate in the corner is waiting for me to add something else,
though I don't know exactly what it will be.

Day 4:  Q.  What happens when you add lots of colors to the same gel plate?

 plate 1 --  first pull left, ghost print right

plate 2 -- first pull left, ghost print right

A.  Some interesting prints!

I'm using up a lot of old craft paint.  You know the kind -- on sale for 50c a bottle or 3/$1.  I've had some of it for a long time and it's time to use it up.  Not high quality paint, but it does make for some interesting results:  When I made this I hadn't figured out how to get less paint to come out, so these prints took a looong time to dry; if the paint isn't fully shaken it comes out separated; and the brayer slips and slides around if I'm not careful.

Day 5:  Q.  What do you do if you have an ugly or uninteresting print?
A.  Add more color and pattern!

 I made this print for the grunge lesson.
I thought I might improve it.

This looks less interesting than the original.
Sometimes "fixing" a print does not make it better.

And sometimes it does!

I love how vibrant this print it.
The camera didn't capture it all, but the background has a lot of very interesting green bits.

I learned about gel printing about a year ago when I watched a video on the blog at, where they sell the Gel Press printing plates.  Last October I saw that Carolyn Dube was teaching a gel printing class at Art-is-You, and it seemed the perfect time to try out this new technique. What a great introduction!

Mastering the Layers is Carolyn's 3 week online course which is greatly expanding my understanding of print making, how to use a gel plate, and, because it's Carolyn, FUN!

Friday, 16 August 2019

New Year, New Studio, New Class

Whether it's because September is the start of a new school year, or because so many of my childhood classmates celebrated Rosh Hashanah, this time of year always signals a new year to me.  I know it's only mid August, but I'm ready for the end of Summer and new beginnings.

We live in a large Victorian farmhouse that is too large for just the two of us.  The kids are grown and flown and only come home for the occasional garden clean-up weekend, Thanksgiving, Christmas.  We don't need this much house.

garden bed needing weeding

But a large house lived in by two packrats, has a large amount of stuff.  The process of getting it ready to sell is, well daunting, to say the least.  I have an art studio in the house (plus a barn full of creative and antique treasures).  My husband has stuff.  And over the years we have spread out, so there isn't a room without clutter!  All this has to be cleared out for the house to show to advantage.

cool stuff, but in such a cluttered state, who knows what's there!

A week ago I decided to move my art studio downstairs.  Where it was located was better viewed as a bedroom -- upstairs and near a bath.  Where I am moving is better viewed as a den and on the first floor.  It's a beginning nod to eventually staging the house.

Instead of moving everything that is art-related, I've just moved the supplies I use all the time -- paint, stamp pads, washi tape, glitter, paper, scissors, etc.  I figure if I don't move anything else in here for the next three weeks (except what I specifically need for projects and classes) it will help me clutter-clear the old studio, barn & various craft supply hiding places!  There are way too many of those in my life/house.  I have three tall IKEA bookcases and I am determined to fit everything I need in them.  If it doesn't fit, out it goes.  I need to be ruthless.

On Monday, I started a new online class called "Mastering the Layers," all about gel plate printing.  It was a great impetus to make the new studio a place I could work and learn .  Check out the link to see all about the class and a fun video with the teacher Carolyn Dube.

This is just the paper I used to clean off my brayer.  I love the colors and imagine with what I learn in class I will be able to turn it into something special.