Thursday, May 25, 2017

"I Make Nice Things"

Corresponding with Cally propelled me to behave more weavery, (shouldn't it be weaverly?) not quite all the way to the loom bench, but: a) in reminding me of an idea I've really wanted to work on, with tied weave of some sort, and the idea came more developed than when I left it on the back burner; b) in making me realize I was actually sick of not weaving; and c) in making me work on the pop-up store some more. Even though just four days ago I wasn't feeling it, handling my stuff was nice. As well, I saw one of my wobbly-selvedge culprits; a pale green, (one I call "lime sherbet",) in spite of the label, may have been be thicker or fulled differently from other 2/26s, although this discovery is far from "solving" my technical problems.

But my cashmeres felt bloody marvelous.

I'm hoping to hold two Pop-Up sales, one after the other, the first being mostly mid-sized cashmeres and the second, a Big Old Chunky Wooly sale with lots of with-scale wool pieces. (Can you think of an adjective starting with C I can use for the cashmere sale? Capricious?)

I've been thinking of Pop-Up since I was in Japan in Feb last year. It's a lot of work, (oh, dear me!) but I enjoy the direct interaction with prospective customers. I can sure use some income, and let's face it, being remunerated is one way of validating one's work, and if your work represents your person, then your life, in these modern times.

Early April, Mrs Cady had a significant birthday at the end of their holiday. Dr Cady had hinted it would be fun if we could fly up to the North Island to celebrate. It was a lovely invite, but also expensive; Ben couldn't go but I dithered. I couldn't justify the cost, but I wanted to go because of an exhibition in Auckland, because I'd been so stuck in my making and cities do me good, and I wanted to take part in a significant birthday when normally the Cadys would be surrounded by their many friends and family. So I went. And had a great time.

(The exhibition itself was underwhelming. There were too many genitals and not enough nudes for my taste, if you get my meaning, but the exhibition had a socio-political angle and Thomas at Volume told me to rethink it in that context after I gave an unfavorable report. This exhibition was curated by a Kiwi working in Sydney, from memory, and tours Sydney and Auckland. I couldn't help thinking had the show been intended for larger cities, say, Tokyo, (because exhibitions from Europe usually travel to three large cities in Japan,) Tate might have loaned works with a bit more... spark. But as has become the pattern, I had a totally satisfying two days walking around large spaces amidst artworks, many from their permanent collection, and the birthday brunch was lovely.

Sometime in late-April/early-May, Mom said I should go visit her in the Northern fall rather than the usual February, because we can't go places in February. Trains have stooped somewhere every time I've been home last several Februaries, and I take it she wants to travel with me. I do love winter in Yokohama, but big exhibitions take place in spring and fall there, and goodness me, what do I find but van Gogh and Japan! (Incidentally, while I was focused reading about Vincent's relationship with Gauguin in the second half of last year, there was van Gogh and Gauguin at the same museum. Darn!)

I tried to suss out Ben's opinion on this new plan, and for the first time he expressed concerns with the expense. I never imagined there was anything we don't talk about whenever, and I thought he'd become such a home body he gave up travelling. Not so. It was the money, and my lack of income, (how embarrasing!), his dental work, our increasing medical bills, and rising cost of living.

Then someone reminded me of van Gogh and the Seasons, not in Japan but in Melbourne!

We haven't had a holiday together since 2003 in Scotland and Ireland. We have been to Japan several times together but they involved family illnesses/death so we only had a day here and there. We've been on one or two road trips in New Zealand but they were all connected to my attending workshops, so Ben was on his own during the day.

So we bit the bullet and decided to have a week in Melbourne.

Melbourne is one heck of an attractive city, beautiful, full of places of foody interest, with the CBD/downtown area relatively small and easy to get around either on foot or by public transport. I am drawing a list of art and craft supply shops; Ben, of coffee equipment shops, and both of us specialty bookshops. And our accommodation is near many theaters, I would so love to squeeze in a play. But our main goal is always walking around town, looking at architecture, stopping to refuel, and this trip, Ben will take pictures but I may try some drawing/sketching. And meet up with two sets of friends. Oh, we can't stop talking about Melbourne. And a proper holiday.

I would still like to go to Japan Oct/Nov if at all possible, but we'll play that by ear. There is also a good chance of a road trip down south in November. Ergo, the Pop-Up sales.

And here are some raw, (not in RAW format, but untreated,) pics from today. I'm so out of practice, I had to relearn a few things. Aside from the selvedge, though, I do make nice things, even if there is always room for improvement.
Nowhere in my house makes a good backdrop, but the entrance hallway gets good light in the late morning/early afternoon. I practiced using different white balance settings to capture the truest colors of the pieces. Except colors on the camera's LCD panel are quite different colors from those on the laptop, so... there we have it.
I have four red pieces, the hardest color to capture.
 After 2-ish/3-ish only harsh light comes in from the living room.
But I liked the dark/light photos today. I might experiment more of this style for detail/moody shots.
A self-portrait of my thumb.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Thinking and Stuff

I've been thinking a lot lately, at least I hope so; I hope I haven't been not thinking. My word-forgetting has gotten so bad I hesitate to go out and meet up with humans some days. I don't know if this correlates with not thinking, but that's something Ben's Dad hinted at when he started having memory problems. On the other hand, I've been providing some hilarity; a while back I couldn't remember the word, "marinade" so even though I knew it was the wrong word, I said, "kinda like 'mutilate'", and since then we've had a lot of nice mutilated meals.

It's marginally better when I type, especially because search is always there. (Well, when we have Internet connections, which has been super dodgy; a day with a dozen interruptions is now a splendidly productive one, but heck, it's not war or natural disaster.)

Then there is my worry that verbalizing, typing, and especially publishing on the internet, changes my thinking into different kinds of thoughts. Sure, vague thoughts sometimes transform into actionable bullet points, (ugh, management-speak,) but sometimes slight variations and nuances get lost. I can actually see, as I type, second-fiddle, third-, the whole orchestra fading away. I also some of the times I think I'm not I'm thinking, ideas are working out their own solutions, like elves planning a surprise party at night; I've learned to leave those guys along. I still worry when it feels like there's no thinking going on, due to my first ever encounter in my first ever philosophy class, (senior year, Washburn High School, the saintly Mr Ario,) having been with Descartes.

Some thoughts are returns/reincarnations/rehashing of old thoughts, many of which have been shared here before, and I don't feel compelled to repeat, even if I may be able to paraphrase them better. (Now, shouldn't that be "betterly"?) Some of these thought sound same-old even to me, and I also wonder if "recurring" issues/topics are all that paramount, or just a list of stuff I can't get over.

Which makes me routinely assess, should I keep blogging? It's not that blogging is a chore for me, I'm the only one I'm embarrassing, but with no new thoughts, no news, no new weaving, and blogging as a form of communication playing second- and third-fiddle to flashier, newer ways of internetting, is it still a viable method? Should I make Unravelling private and age gracefully? Why bother with the internet, why not a Word file? But here, the answer has invariably and inevitably been no. I don't associate with many folks in person; I've shed most social responsibilities so I can live in hiding, and occasionally I hear from you based on what I say here, so this is my umbilical cord to the world. Kinda sad, but this is how it turned out, for now.

I've thought to volunteer in town, something refugee-, art-, or third-word related, but every time I give it serious thought, I pull back, because I don't want to commit, don't think I can commit. There is the voices-in-my-head thing where I regurgitate conversations after mingling, but also niggling minor health problems, from which I'm taking a break. Fixing them, that is. I can't be bothered. (The right hip problem has become a left knee problem, still caused by the way I sit, and left shoulder problem has gotten worse, but I can't be bothered going back to acupuncture. Before extending my head meds prescription, Good Doc Karl wants me to get tested if I'm allergic to any of the new foods in our diet, but I can't be bothered, and it's a little expensive.) And then paranoia sets in; I'm convinced "they" know I won't do an adequate job, or they really don't like me, so here I sit.

In terms of eating, I know it's bad manners, but when Ben's not home I prefer to stand by the kitchen counter and eat, not sit properly, because then I don't have to sit and resit to make sure I'm doing it correctly.

Because we "quit" carbohydrate, (we cheat, but far less often than Doc Karl allows us,) I lost my hobby/pet sourdough, and now I'm into fermentation/pickling. For a few weeks I was cutting up something every single morning. But there are only two of us and we can eat only so much fermented veg, and while I got used to the warm, sweet aroma of fermentation in my fridge, some age more quickly than others and yesterday morning we woke up to quite an alarming smell, (picture a jar with a small black furry life form in it,) but I couldn't see it. So I cleaned the whole fridge, wiping every surface with vinegar, opening every single jar/bottle/container and sniffing them, and still no casualty. I replaced all three containers of baking soda, again, but this morning, there was a hint of the same critter. So I think the universe/fridge is telling me to make a far less at once. (If you want quicker fermentation of sauerkraut and the like: dilute a small amount of miso in the brine, or rub it in with the salt when mixing with the veg. Because miso has so much salt in it, I tend to make weaker brine to cover the veg, but I think this may be causing the white mold, and the regular 2-3% brine is better. I get a while film on the surface of the water often, which I skim every day, and can't tell if this is caused by miso; my fermentation knowledge is still in its infancy.)

I've been listening to a lot of podcasts/audiobooks while cutting veg and washing jars. And I do love auto/biographies and author interviews as they do make me reflect on my life. But are recurring thoughts/issues really paramount or even important, or am I just not able to get over them and move on?
Because of Cally's Feng Sui comment, (my description, not hers,) I went downstairs and wound a warp yesterday. Apparently after I made the warp, my super sharp scissors' got too near it and seven ends were severed at the same place, about the middle of an 8m warp; I put in temporary ties but that is going to cause me some headaches at the green end. Not sure on the threading yet.

The wild ride continues.

PS. There are a lot of people feeling, I hope low-level, anxiety and depression right now. Let's talk to other humans and get medical/financial/legal help, especially if we start to feel we are not our usual selves. With changing times, if the "help" is not adequate, let's look elsewhere, because "they" might be as confused; let's persist until we get what we need. Even if a whole lot of this is a big, f-ing, unnecessary bother if it weren't for the few who don't know how to publicly/civilly serve. Promise.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Segway

Something our mutual Letter Journal friend Fran did, paper weaving, got Tess and me thinking about... me talking about one of my favorite things, warped paper weaving, last night. That's weaving plain weave with paper strips, but not in regular, rectangular strip in my case, and how it's hard to maintain shapes-with-intentions, (either the shape/dimensions of the finished piece as a whole or some shape/outline I want to highlight,) in the finished piece. It's easier to show you rather than describe in words.
I drew/traced more or less the same heart on four sheets of extremely thin origami paper.
I cut two sheets in straight-edged strips from one edge to the other, one horizontally and one vertically, and wove them. With this example I laid out all the horizontal strips and inserted the vertical strips starting with the left edge. Afterwards, I tried to make the right and top edges as straight as  possible, and ran out of vertical strips to fit last vertical at the right end. The resultant whole is not the same square size/dimension as the original, and the heart outlines don't match; the more strips I weave, towards the right, the more wobbly the outline becomes.
Here I cut two sheets in curvy lines, some cuts not going all the way from across the paper. Again, horizontal strips were laid out and vertical inserted starting at the left end, and tried to make the top and left edges straight. With these wobbly weaves, I often concentrate on the outline/shapes, worrying less about the whole piece's shape. It's the same with the naked ladies, the sixth picture down, where I focused on a few points like elbows, knees, and tried to match them. I may have even trimmed the edges where particular strips were way out of line, as it were.

With thicker/harder paper, the wobbles get worse, as it gets harder to fit the strips closer when allowing for the thickness. Although the distortions are also intriguing, surprising and in cases quite pleasing.

You can create wonderful movements/moods/intentions with the curvy lines. If shapes/outlines-with-intentions are key to your piece, using thinner paper and fewer, thicker strips work better, but for me, the whole movement is what makes these interesting. Some of the bottom pics from Clare Plug workshop illustrate this. 

It's another cold day here, and when/if the wind dies down, I expect some garden time coming. It looks pretty good already, but first, Ben has a cheesecake cooling in the kitchen. Good day!

PS. Fran has a fantastic, collaborative "pamphlet" project. Per contributor the workload is light, and I hope I get my act together so I can post about it in case some of you can take part.

Faces and More Warps

Sisyphus' Gardening Season started two weekends ago, although I haven't been back outside. It's cold and crisp unbelievably early this year and I am loving it.
A month ago, I made three tiny warps, probably 7 inches wide at 16EPI, though I might go 18EPI. Nothing to write home about, but cheerful colors meant for four shafts. I've been tempted to put one on the loom, even though I have no idea what sort of threading or overall look, but every time I go downstairs I remember the humiliation of that cashmere warp, and I stop. I've got to get over this, so I might try a very different look, whatever that may be.

At one point in April I remembered the free postcard thingie was due at the end of the month and I had to get my act together.
Typical of me, I had to make things harder the second time around and a little less fun; this lot took longer and I'm not as satisfied with the results. Harder how? Whenever I saw a face, I added more "wash" to make it "layered", even to obscure the faces. I also continued to experiment with yellows and yellow-greens, turning everybody looking sickly. Then, the paint I used this time, a Japanese student watercolor, was less transparent/translucent and behaved more like gouache, and I couldn't get a handle on it. Lastly, the postcards are different; these were smoother and less like the typical watercolor paper; at first I thought I'd have to collage, but the packaging said they are suitable for watercolor or ink. Again, the experience was so different from the previous lot, and I never got used to this pack. Half a dozen were so not working, I ran the cards under the tap! You may be able to spot a few better-blended, physically flat cards. At any rate, they were posted with a day left; some unfortunate souls are receiving more than they asked for.
These two are staying with me because I haven't figured out how to resolve them.

I painted my usual back-and-forth arc on the left card, then mono-printed, (I don't think it's a real verb, but you know, I placed a fresh card top of the wet card to let it pick up some paint,) a mirror image to the right. Then shuffled them back into the deck and applied washes, as well as picked up paint from several other cards. On the left card, I can't get over where the green paint showed up; nose, top lip and chin, although the eyes and forehead are a bit tricky. The right is a little harder to see, but there is the chin, and if you look at it too long, a profile of 45 pops up grumpy and defiant!

After these were done, I've sporadically kept working on Letter Journals, both in groups and one-on-ones with Tess, who continues to challenge me in a very good way.

I'm happy I'm completely over coveting mixed media products, but find LJs challenging at times as I try new techniques, look for fresh ideas, and try to improve my drawing skills. I must have enjoyed the postcards, too, because I bought some A5 size watercolor paper and painted backgrounds on some, then washed all of them. This must horrify those of you who know how to size paper properly, but my intention is to learn how 200 and 300gms paper react and absorb water. The plan is, because I couldn't find a suitable watercolor paper sketchbook in Auckland, I'm going to draw/paint/collage a whole bunch of faces, I think, on these and take it to the copy center and have them spiral-bound with covers. This is a long-term project, although it may morph into something else. I have been keeping up a-face-everyday project, too. Amazingly.

I've been hoping to get back to weaving and have liked a few more art/weaving pages and joined a few more weaving groups on Facebook, but even when I see nice things my heart doesn't sing/dance/tingle any more. (I sure study the selvedge, though.) It may be a good time to focus on techniques or learn new structures or dyeing, and maybe the tingle will come back. But, gosh, darn it, I thought weaving was my vocation; who would have thought one wonky warp would so quickly and completely wipe out the excitement. On the other hand, my rather clinical/detached is nothing news so maybe I just need to get back on the loom bench, yes?

And Donna, I haven't died under a pile of rubble in an earthquake just yet. I haven't been able to stay with one thought long enough to finish a post. :-D

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Postcards with Faces

About 10 days ago I went to Auckland, among other things to see a much-reviewed art exhibition. More on this later. I've been thinking a lot, soliciting friends' opinion/critiques, (OR venting/ranting/looking for agreement/endorsement?) but doing a few other things, too. I've been trying to untangle the threads so they can turn into readable blog posts, and categorize/compartmentalize to suit my tree-rather-than-the-forest thinking. So, please bear in mind the next few posts are interdependent, less lineal/chronological than usual?? Put another way, if I had the patience and skill to post a mind-map with interactive links, (I'm not even sure about these vocabulary,) I would. 

So first: postcards with faces. During the month of April, a local office supply store is paying postage for postcards to anywhere in the world. Their main goal is to encourage kids to write/draw by hand. The deal sounded too good so I checked with staff, and they confirmed any postcard to anywhere in the world by anyone of any age was allowed, as long as they were dropped into the red box in one of their stores during April.

That night I spread the good news on FB, and a few frieneds wanted mine. (Including my next door neighbor D whose wife B is a real professional artist; they're reappear later in the post.) Armed with their addresses, plus a few more of unsoliciting friends and family, I packed a few purchased cards and a pack of blanks and flew to Auckland, where I intended to forced myself off news. I started working soon after arrival, moving furniture and spreading supplies but facing Al Jazeera and staying updated on 45 and Syria; at least that was one day Koreas/Japan/China was off his mind. 
I started applying somewhere between three to five layers of watercolor wash on each postcard, focusing on the colors and their interactions, but also not looking at the intended recipient. The egg shapes, (and various curvy lines/shapes,) are what my hands draw naturally, and become faces easily; in some instances where I could not see a person, I forced egg shapes over the background; in others the unintended shapes looked like bodies, but where I could not draw the outlines well enough to show the human shapes I saw, (or so I thought,) more wash went on. I think in this last respect I'm all too pedantic and applies also to when I'm drawing outlines in pen; I don't need to draw the outlines exactly on the boarder of the shapes/colors, but must leave room for the recipients.

Above, on the first morning, I looked at the cards individually and enhanced/dull the effects of the previous layers of wash. Among the hardest was not washing the brushes in my coffee. 
Third night, I applied water-soluble varnish from the art supply shop 5 min walk from my accom; my cheap/hard brush, with which I love to dry brush, took off/moved watercolor pigments, but after I got the dilution of the varnish right-ish, it not only worked well, but dried rather quickly. As you can see in the bottom left PC, ignoring the shapes/colors works fine, but I want to continue the line/shape/color juxtaposition awhile.
Some days "work" started before 5AM in my room, I was so keen! Outlining faces took place mostly in the Auckland Art Gallery activities room on Day 3, in between hiding everything whenever staff/visitors walk in, trying to ignore the world and enjoy mine. 
Because of the egg shapes, and because I saw more covered women in Auckland, I drew a few with headscarves: top left woman with the... what did I say... the illusive ultimate scarf?... went to a weaver; top center went to a Chinese Muslim friend in Malaysia. In top right, I said something smarty pants like, "sometimes in museums and galleries, my head becomes transparent," because part of the wash looked like a landscape, and because it was a lovely sentiment during the few days I "lived" in that gallery. Bottom left, I love it when I don't repeat what I did earlier, like another scarved woman, but a somewhat "Cubic" face/s pop up instead; bottom right is the slightly more representational face I had in mind at the start of the project, but by the time I got to her it was a real surprise. Bottom center, to D; a eye through a hole in a fence in the top half, a Rolling Stones-like tongue in the bottom. I  held on to this because it was too weird/rude and not to my but in the end I wrote something like, "I covet your executive veg," and sent it. Oh, goodness the text could be misinterpreted, too, I just now realized. I can only hope D and B think it's a big funny because they have lived in the art world directly/vicariously. Yikes. (They live uphill from us and get way more sun, so their produce are no comparison to ours, even in years I do a bit more outside in summer.) I repeat, I didn't check the recipients until I finished the visuals and moved on to the text!   
I got so much satisfaction out of the postcards I started another lot last night but had already forgotten my lesson as a pedant and superimposed egg-shapes on all of them, though I remembered the color interactions. Some will get a few more layers of wash, though leaving them in shallow try of liquid is another option. 
I've kept up with the faces-kind-of-every-day project; I don't draw every day, but try to keep up with the numbers, i.e. it's OK to draw seven on the weekend, and this is really working. Yesterday was Day 105 and I have 171 faces so far. I've had a long Modigliani phase but have gone back to Matisse; these two chaps drew/painted amazing neck/shoulder angles far more expressive than just the constituents of a face. Detecting same-y-ness in my drawings and mindset, and bearing in mind the aforementioned desire for looseness, I've done some blind contours which have yielded such joyful discombobulation which reflect what I think I pick up from Matisse's portraits and my attitude towards this project, and life. I must blind contours with my left hand tonight.

Colors in the wash overlap because 1) I'm still experimenting with mixing yellow greens, ochres and now watery purples with everything, and 2) I wash, then "monoprint" onto other paper including the postcards, or the other way around. I need to learn when to quit so they don't all turn the same light brown!

If you'd like a(nother) postcard, please let me know. They will be posted sometime before the end of the month. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

D-365

As of today I have 365 days, actually 364, until I hit 60. 60th is called "Kanreki (還暦)" or circling the calendar, in Japan, because the 12 animals and the ten elements (?????) of the Chinese astrology, (adopted and adapted by a bunch of countries in Asia,) return to where they were when one was born. Except I think Chinese astrology reboots on Chinese New Year's Day.

And then, I wrote once before that in the old days the age of a Japanese person started at 1 when they are/were born and the country aged by a year on January 1 in unison; oldies used to ask us kids how old we were "counting" in the 1960's and 70's, while when asked by strangers and/or on official forms we had to specify how many years we've "fulfilled", which is what you probably think of as "age" in many places. "J'ai 60 ans," starts to feel more familiar, n'est-ce pas? Except, if you think about it, this doesn't make sense, either, and the real Kanreki should be on the Chinese New Year's Day of the year you "count" 61, no? Well at least it used to be January 1 or thereabouts on the year you "count" 61, Internet says.

Chinese New Year is still printed on store-bought calendars and fancy executive diaries and if you import Japanese, (and probably many other Asian,) calendars on Microsoft Outlook into your own, it'll be there. In New Zealand they started to pop up because especially in the larger cities, Chinese folks put up a fun display of how they celebrate, fireworks, food, lion dance and all.

Anyway, even though meanings and calculations got messed up/lost over the centuries, in Japan, 60th is a big deal, and perhaps until the 1970's or so it meant one started the last stages of life, being surrounded by grandkids and retiring into a quiet life. But nowadays of course 60 is like the old 30/40/50 depending on how fit one is in body and mind. In my case, most probably older rather than younger but I'll let you know next year.
I was naughtily and blissfully unaware when my parents turned 60, (we always had wee family celebrations for everybody but I, the eldest, had no idea about the traditions surrounding the occasion, working at IBM for upwards of 65 hours a week in a new IT job,) but for Dad his alum got together and dressed him in a red vest and a cap. Red, according to the Internet, is the talisman/good luck color used for the new born and putting a red vest signifies rebirth. Strangely, the talisman red, an intense cinnabar red, was used for the same reason for women's undermost garment, shaped like a straight wrap skirt under the kimono, which was, according to Wiki, worn until the mid 1950's before being gradually replaced by "drawers" first, shaped and fit like boxers, then to undies/panties/knickers as we know them, to coincide with the spread of Western style clothes. To this day, the word "drawers" point to the older style and I remember my paternal grandmother preferring them to undies/panties/knickers. Further, Wiki says some women still prefer them so a small number are still being produced today! Well, wasn't that informative? (No, we're not bothering with the men's, but even there the talisman red comes up!) The internet also tells me of course the big celebration was for menfolk only in the old days, and save for some regions, nowadays women celebrate, too, or not, depending on her wishes.

Funny thing, though, is I remember n9th birthdays more vividly than n0th, probably because I get myself into a not-so meaningful but a weird, purely numerical countdown mode. Then again as regards 60, I've been counting down for a few years since my fav cousin's husband, (himself one year senior,) started "threatening" said cousin and me a while ago. Men!!

Anyway, what I wanted to say was, I'm am not even going to try to use up all my yarns, except the cashmeres and skinny cottons, in the next 364 days. No way can I do it, and unlike early last year I don't even want to rush and make things that don't appeal to me. So there you have it.

I'm off to the library, picking up (figuratively) where I left off the monster Alan Pearson book, then I'm having coffee with Esther. Ciao!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Trying to... What??

Take care of residual issues.

One biggie is the health non-issues. Our diet continues; our weight stopped decreasing after having lost 9/5kgs respectively, and neither of us are exercising much so this is predictable in my case but Ben's blood sugar level is slightly higher, though still within normal range. Not bad but we could do oh, so much better.

Speaking of normal-in-quotations, I finished seven-and-a-half months of head meds and till can't tell if my head is back in shape. As I keep saying, this has been the mildest episode, but if what I have is still a head problem, it's now gone on nearly a year. And some days I'm so tired I can't even finish washing dishes but have to lie down on the floor and sleep for half an hour. Or more. Mid-March I had two consecutive weeks where many days I could stay upright only seven to eight hours within a 24-hour period. Crazy, eh. So Doc Karl ordered me fasting blood tests to eliminate biological problems; also because this diet, which didn't feel so, could still have been a shock to my system.

We also discussed my news addiction, where news move from bad to unimaginable in a tweet, and the fate of my country of origin is in the hands of two loony kids in grownup jobs and grown up guns, Kim and 45. Abe hanging his tongue out and following 45 doesn't help. When the immigration issue first came out in the US, I considered the possibility we, too, might have to sell up and move back with short notices. There is no immediate danger, but anti-immigrant and especially anti-Asian sentiments which is never far from the surface is coming to the fore again as we prepare for a September election, and I learned in 2000 that though we may laugh at what's happening in the US, the same "fashion" arrives Downunder breathtakingly quickly; now even more so. My mindset has changed, though, and my focus now is more on cleaning up the house and getting rid of clutter in case family members need to evacuate their/our further-nuked country. Overreaction, perhaps, but I'd rather we all be prepared, because I've become so bad at quick action.

My hip problem almost went away and hurt only when I sat incorrectly for any length, and I knew when I was sitting incorrectly. Then I developed an awkward not-quite-pain on the back of my other leg after I've walked a lot, so now I have to review my insole situations. I have high arches and my heels get tired after walking a lot so I have a collection of yummy gel insoles. Maybe back to Tetsu the Japanese acupuncture magician down the road.

Anyway, too much head activity, not enough body activity. To offset this, I've been trying to go into town a little more but not waste $. After a fasting blood test, having had taken seven, seven, vials, for which I thought I should charge Doc Karl and funky Phlebotomist Jude said she could make black pudding with that much, I couldn't even walk to the cafe I intended to go for the first time but crossed the street and had breakfast at an old trusty place. I was feeling so faint usually I have just the eggs, but I had to have an almond croissant as well and it was excruciatingly delicious. (Prego, Nelson.)
Then there is the money worries. I filed my last ever tax return because it costs a lot to file, and even with my huge deficits and returns, both Ben and I come out at a big loss. Besides, I'm so near 60 I thought I could retire from the business part of weaving as long as it's legal. And it is; I'm not stopping weaving, (well, permanently,) nor selling, but I'd have to sell five to seven times as many to to have to file returns. There are a few things happening: nephew spending a year in Canada, cousin who lived next door is going to be a grandma, and mom wants me to visit this year, not next Feb; without a cogent plan, I've resumed collecting a few books again; I'd like to continue art therapy if poss; I want to travel at least around NZ some, or Australia, (bang for buck, Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane worth more for art;) and 60 makes me worry about our retirement more immediately. I feel an online sale coming up after Easter. Although I've been thinking of another since the end of the last one.

Goodness me, this was the preamble. Now we're getting to the guts of the matter.

There is what I label "weaving", which encompasses everything I do/think/research/study which I hope will help me weave more interesting, worthwhile pieces and/or to enjoy the process. Others may call this life. As I said I have been trying to go into town a bit more often, and sometimes I draw, while sitting on benches, cafes, libraries; I don't want people to look at my work, but I'm fine with strangers knowing I'm drawing. Sometimes I just walk around, sometimes I browse through shops, but thankfully I have enough stuff at home I don't cover art supplies and yarns/fabrics/buttons I see.

I miss Andrea at the Suter so very much, and she's got a busier job now so I can't bother her at her workplace, but I have new peeps to pester and ponder about "making" occasionally; Esther and Julie at the Suter, and Stella and Thomas at Volume, and Jean (ex-weaver, ex-tertiary visual art department staff,) and Jay (ex-Red Gallery) when our timing work out, in aromatic environments. And of course Pat when I can catch her. I probably need less human interaction than, say, Mom, but nevertheless time spend with these folks are precious and appreciated.

I feel uncharacteristically unexcited about photography, but get more pleasure out of the slower drawing and collage work. I'm surprised how much I enjoy making tiny simple dolls. I've had my needlepoint out again, and it's April and daylight savings ended today so theoretically it's going to be cooler and not as bright outside from now on. I haven't stopped making, (e.g. Letter Journals and other mixed media,) but I haven't woven since September 29, and though I want to get back to weaving, I don't want the delicate commission baby blankets to be the reentry pieces. So I've been thinking of putting a warp on the Klick or the Rigid Heddle, but haven't so far.

I try to read/gaze at book on paper, but when at home, even tough I can slip into another world immediately, the laptop/Wifi/telly are never far away and before I know it I'm chasing news again. So last week, I went to a library! And it was so quiet, I was immediately in that art-thinking place. It was invigorating and frustrating at once, as I discovered a new-to-me painter, Alan Pearson, whose big exhibition in Wellington just closed, grrrrr..... Expressionist portraits, exactly the genre I'm interested in now. English/Kiwi/Aussie. Although I foolishly chose the biggest of three books to begin with, with tiny gray, not black, text on shiny white paper, (he designed it, the current Mrs wrote it,) and I kept searching for the sweet spot on my multifocals, shifting my posture/position and that of the book, brick, tome, I lasted 55 pages of the almost 400, taking breaks, propping the book on a higher shelf, walking away to see if I can spot the first Mrs who is said to be in the couple's joint abstract portrait, etc. At the same time I kept coming up with themes/questions to consider and flipped my notebook to fresh pages to try and catch them all. Good times.

Looking at the notebook, I thought about three biggish themes: 1) New Zealand/New Zealander-ness of art/colors/makers, individual and collective; 2) living with/without one's internal critic; and 3) the long-standing one, how to make "pictures" within the grid without going into tapestry or jacquard, where is my sweet spot in this; and a few other brief musings. 1) has a long way to go before I can even tell you my interim thought, and 3) I don't know what to do at the moment, but I have a thread on 2), one I touched on yesterday: my inner critic, that pesky, horrible, bossy loud cat.

* Am I able to, if I so choose, completely lock it out of the house? (MEOW!!!)
* Without it, I can concentrate on my making, my taste, rather than what sells or what the gallery wants or what I think I should make.
* Does it makes my motivations/intentions purer. (But does this necessarily make a better "product", meow.) Will purer concentration/pleasure/satisfaction produce good pieces beyond the quality of my experience? (Cottage "industry"/work vs art therapy style; where is the sweet spot?)
* Without the critic, will my process be longer? More concentrated? More meaningful? For each project? And how does it correlated/reflect to my longevity as a weaver and the end product?
* I need peace and quiet to think more than ever as I get older and have less energy. Along with the critic, I've been shedding ambition/competitiveness as well which should leave just me.
* This should allow some time to consider techniques, (MEOW,) training, knowledge, all things classic/proper which self-taught makers lack. Which makes them/me a fraud.
* Are there ways to reconcile, (though not hide,) lack of technical prowess with unrealized vision?
* Won't I need objectivity to assess my creative/aesthetic ambition/gumption and the end product? (Scratch, scratch.) Without a critic, where will I end up? Or am I old enough to know and not need a critic? (Screech, crash, bang!!) Or do I no longer care? (Silence!) And can I live that way happily? (Meow.)

Eventually I reach the technique conundrum, (although not as much as before, because I don't have the energy to fight with myself, and with the last cashmere, I did reach the fish-or-cut-bait stage and took a break, but would like to keep fishing.) Is it because I'm Japanese; did 10 years in a convent school; just like tidiness? Or because it's an easy element to spot/criticize?

I spoke with Stella, to ask about a book recommendation for a stuck maker, and she said one of the things she does is to revisit her "workbooks". And goodness, I used to keep one of those, albeit an excel file of all things; but not for ages, except for special projects; backs of envelopes have sufficed. And I know that it's the technical disappointment, in weaving, drawing and making a beautiful "artist's sketchbook" that stopped me. So there seems to be a few areas in which I need to get over myself and decide what to do with the cat to continue as a happy weaver.

Meow.  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

My Divided Self

So far, I summarized my Round I experience with Art Therapy, and the first two sessions of Round II. We finished Round II on Wednesday so here is the theme set by Jade, and the rest of what I did:

Week 1: Our relationship with creativity and developing a visual language. We drew scribbles with our eyes closed and found shapes and patterns.

Week 2: Journey and heroes journey - we thought about stages of our journey and our challenges and allies.

Week 3: Myself as a tree - we used painting and explored our roots, leaves, growth and surroundings as a Tree; A1, (actually two A2 taped together,) acrylic paint.
Week 4: Connection with nature - our mandalas helped us appreciate beauty in ordinary objects, ephemeral art. (My first ephemeral anything, and the pebbles were collected by my Philosophy Professor and the Fab Mrs; they decided they couldn't carry them all so these were what didn't make the cut.)

Week 5: Fairy tales and story - we looked at the format of typical fairy tales, using metaphors to tell stories, and used writing and the accordion book to help explore a part of our story. A5, collage.

First we had a short meditation; then, "finish this sentence" exercise, and lastly we made a wee book. The starts of the sentences are in italics. Some members drew, some wrote texts but I did something news to me; I collaged texts, and then added images. So some pertinent words are no longer visible. The book is an accordion, so my life is told continuously, and every single piece symbolizes something. (Since the original text was a quick, stream-of-consciousness writing, I edited in a few places to make it make sense.)

Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to be great, to be the best at everything in the world. In this far off land she asked her Dad how she could become the best and they drew up a plan. She lived in a... humble house, but she had everything she needed, so it didn't feel humble. She was known across the land for being a smart ass? a slow child? a fat child? an obnoxious child? (I had a problem with this one.) She went on a journey to find... wisdom, a way to become the best, and the man who would rescue her, and help her become the best. Along the way she met a lot of truly wise people, and this taught her she wasn't wise at all, but she didn't know how to be wiser. She also met the man. She was surprised to find how much more enjoyable life was when she wasn't trying to be the best. And the man liked her any way. She found she could live happily without striving to be the best. The thing she was no longer scared of was being ordinary, not being wise, or wise enough. She returned with her pockets full of small wisdom, pretty things she made on the way, and the man who rescued her.


























Session 6: Bonus session; Dottie Doll, because Jade loves them, but also to celebrate the company of the last few weeks. We're swapping them in the group so my Winged, Tailed One is going to Australia.
A smiley, guardian angel??
But it can't be that straight-forward; she has a tail, too!

So what did I learn in two rounds?

1) Making things in art therapy is done in a totally different mindset from my normal kind of making; it is the process that is important, and the resultant "thing" has more meaning to me, be they wonky, incomplete/unfinished, or bad/ugly. The process was more spontaneous, though not always/completely. Being foretold of topics, e.g. the tree, felt a little strange as we weren't told much in Round I, but the tree came out looking more "finished" than others. (I didn't plan out the tree painting, but I considered all the elements that had to go in ahead of time.) I hesitate making things I hope to sell in this way, but the energy/surprise in the process vs. remain the safe inveterate planner vs. the responsibility of making things to sell interest me. There has to be a workable though nonrigid balance.

2) I learned to almost completely ignore my creativity/critic, but still loved to hear others' comments. With weaving I have a hard time with comments, especially when complimentary, because I want to know why they think it's nice/pretty/good. In art therapy, we heard the same short "lecture" before making, so the shared background helped in commenting/receiving comments.

About my creativity. You know how much I like cats? (I don't.) My creativity is like a cat; it ignores me completely for long stretches, won't even come home, and when least convenient, it reappears and won't stop rubbing against my leg, begs for food, or sit on whatever I'm working on; I often feel I'm better off without it. It's the first time I was able to conceptualize/verbalize it and our tenuous relationship.

3) In every "self portrait", I saw dualities; I've always struggled with these inconsistencies in my character, but as I age, I've started to be able to see both sides of the argument, become able to change if I'm shown to be in the wrong, or resigned to lacking the energy/gumption to do as I thought best, so managed as best I could.

And though this is not new, it's grown stronger; when I first learned to weave, restrictions grid posed were also the reliable known, the box within which I felt comfortable. Now that I do things with paper, albeit forever naively/outsider-y, the restrictions began to feel indeed restrictive. Which makes me feel unbelievably unfaithful, almost a heretic, and yet it's still cloth weaving, not tapestry, I'm interested in. It's tantamount to telling Ben to change after 27 years because I've changed!! So how do I reconcile the technical challenges and the emotional turmoil? (The weaving, Ben, not you!)

I've been keen to return to weaving for a while but felt I have a few unresolved issues, and they're all related, so this thinking thread will continue.

By the way, not art therapy, but have a look at Tess's somewhat-similar workshop experience here.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

New Experience with Art Therapy

Today's lesson: it's nice to be (60 years-396 days) old and still have new experiences. When I got up this morning, my first thought was, "I've got to clean out the lint trap in the washing machine," (a first! and I did, but never mind,) and my second thought was, "I need to make a self-portrait!" Ha!

I was going to post about the second round of Jade's Women's Creative Wellbeing Workshops after all five sessions finished but I can't wait.

Saturday, I was tired. Sunday I felt better and did a bit of housework. I missed the first session of this round traipsing around Abel Tasman, so Jade gave me a make-up session on Monday, but I was tired of being tired, again, and disgruntled because after loosing some weight, I thought I was supposed to be energized, more consistent, not this off/on thing. and productive. But I was ready and keen for the session.

The theme was "Our relationship with creativity and developing a visual language"; I have a tenuous relationship with my creativity and was astounded to hear myself likened it to a cat! As you know, to say I don't like cats is to put it mildly; it's a snobbish, unrequited love, always on her terms; I know she's been around when I see the food disappear or evidence left in the litter box. Or it comes home whenever she likes to brush against my leg and meow annoyingly. So unlike a dog's happy, straight-forward love. Slightly disturbed but unphased, I did a blind drawing, not looking even when changing colors, "feeling the motions, textures, (and something else,)" and not drawing with intent.
A2 with water-soluble crayons. I like the movement of my arms when I draw curves and circles, it feels natural; but because I'd been thinking about weaving since Saturday, I intentionally added a plain weave look, (actually basket weave, but it's A2 and I wanted it visible.) Ooops. Afterwards I was to look for, (and my memory gets vague,) shapes, symbols, or anything that mean something to me, and I found none. But I felt rattled; it's too frantic, and somehow that threatened my equilibrium, as if I would loose my hard-earned calm over one drawing after all these years. After the session I was agitated and did some backgrounds in my sketchbook which turned out alarmingly vivid.
This is the self-portrait I did today. A2, water-soluble crayons, acrylic paint, gesso, gloss varnish and medium that gives body to the paint. This is me this week, feeling a bit bipolar with a small b. Yellow green appears to be my happy color these days; the hair contains gesso so the color and texture are flat. The darkest blue contains gloss varnish so one eye looks wet, and the right half of the lip contains the medium so the red paint is thick. I can't remember if I used brushes, but I used fingers, palms, wet paper towels and plastic spoons to manipulate the crayon and spread the paint.

My notes say: "Art Therapy was supposed to calm me, wasn't it? This is the opposite. I'm surprised with what came out of me; have I been suppressing all this, what? At least I'm doing something; better than just feeling exhausted."

The two parts are not totally separate, so I have a bit of chaos in the calm half, and vice versa. But I managed to include some calm in the chaotic half on the edges, because at least I know when I feel frantic.

After our second group session today, I asked Jade what to make of all "this"; I told her I didn't know what I wanted to ask/know, or how I wanted her to help me. She said, (if memory serves, and I paraphrase,) in art therapy, we look for meanings/symbols, in shapes, colors, our behavior/reaction (?), which matter to the maker. We also talked about planning and intention in art vs. this almost self-generating art, especially in comparison to weaving. And that I can still stun myself. Although I would still like the chill/calm as my default mood, you know.
Today's theme was "Honoring Our Journey - Heroe's/Heroine's Journey" and we painted however we saw our journey/s.  A2, acrylic paint, gesso, gloss varnish and body-giving medium.

  • My happy colors are yellow-green with gesso; the paint is flat because when I'm happiest, most content, I feel calm and sometimes don't even talk. All my efforts are to get me to this Shangri-La. It has some bright yellow highlights, depicting heightened-happy. I'm not sure what the darker green means but I was aware there are subdued or even hard-won-happys. 
  • Red is the more passionate path to happy and it's glossy. 
  • The dark colors coming up from the bottom are hardships, but because my hardships are not really "real" hardships by any measure, it's not black but Payne's Gray. Bottom right corner is pretty solid, but the paint is thinner; some other parts are more built up but there are plenty of white gaps because I recognize the lightness (?) of my hardships. 
  • The patchy, built-up sandy parts are me working towards calmness. The same color, but flat, containing gesso, at top left is the calm I've learned/earned in the past 15 years. 
  • White is the calm I hope I've always had. It's mixed with navy blue below, which is my regular effort; not too hard, not too easy. White and navy overlap and are mixed in places because there has always been an optimistic me who believed things will turn out right in the end. There is a small area of Payne's Gray next to the navy blue, but a little bit of "hardship" doesn't stop me. 
I see my destination addiction in this. I'm always going forward, seldom looking back, so "now" is in front of the picture, where I am, and Shangri-La is where I want to reach/arrive. No matter where I am in life, this seems to be my constant view of life. Just like the top piece from nine years ago!  

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hanging with Mrs & Dr Cady

So they finally came; their trip has been in the making since 2007 (?), but like many of us, they spent a decade caring for parents but finally my Philosophy Professor from college and the fab Mrs visited Nelson this week. I thought I last saw him in late '81 but he reminded me I visited him in '85 when I was last in Minnesota; I met the fab Mrs only once in Sept/Oct '77 at their house with a bunch of other Intro to Phil kids, but the fabulousness of the Mrs was, instantly we felt we knew her at least as well as the Professor. We had dinner on Monday in Mapua; a wee tour of town on Tuesday; much walking on Abel Tasman in the scorching sun and searing heat on Wednesday, (yes, it was outdoors;) and another tour of the region culminating in a wee picnic, us eating while standing in the cool wind, on Rabbit Island on Friday. Not many students have a chance to give a fraction of the gift back to their teachers, and we enjoyed their company way more, but here we are.
Abel Tasman National Park; I had a hard time keeping up with their pace.
A named beach on the walking track, (don't remember which,) sitting on a driftwood, having a snack. Oh, dear, where is the evidence of my recent weight loss? "The road IS long... With many a winding turn..."
I wore clothes, under the blue shirt, which my niece, then six, told me I shouldn't be caught dead seen in public, so I'm hiding. But of course Ben caught me; it was too hot to wear anything else. Yikes. Don't tell Mom I posted this.
We call this my hobo/basement weaver look.
On Friday I was mindful of the incident of the bad T-shirt so I wore a respectable Japanese one, but it being on the short side I couldn't raise my hands. Which I sometimes forgot. But they were taken by the loveliness of Rabbit Island so I'm going to go with, "They didn't notice." The fab Mrs asked if I were still trying to impress the Professor, and though that wasn't the case, I felt strangely stunted, immature, and as clueless and intellectually inadequate to handle growing up as when I was not quite 24. And as always.
I must get some pics with Ben in them off of their camera.

I don't know what I expected; I wanted them to have a lovely time, (there's in the country for a wee while,) and I wanted to be a good host. I'm so used to Japanese visitors who like complete itinerary setup and be accompanied everywhere and I still haven't learned when/how to pull back.

We had a few slaps on our faces as to how little we know Nelson now; after living here a decade and the petrol prices shot up in '06 I became reluctant to have the ritual weekend drive so we discontinued inspecting the region. Not only are there new roads or/or new names, new tourist attractions, (many being multiples of the same kind,) but also the old familiars have changed ownership, and sadly a few disappeared or changed the nature of their operation. The saddest is when they grow to big and loose the small town touches. We took more than a few detours wasting precious fossil fuel, but it's also rekindled our interest and Ben's set on reinvestigating Nelson and maybe reinvigorating Nelson Daily Photo. At least we can tell you about a few eateries we "discovered", including where you can get cherry- or kiwi-flavored ice cream/frozen yogurt; usually they only have various berries and bananas. That we know of.

I didn't speculate on how my relationship with the Professor might change; will we be nostalgic about my student days; would I reboot my life from the time I was not quite 24; or will we just carry on? We had communicated often enough after I graduated I knew a little about their kids, the all-important grandkids and the cabin. We may have learned more about them, their private lives, (how well do we know our professors' lives outside classroom unless you knew them beforehand or hung around afterwards, right?) but also in a strange way, even though we spoke little about my weaving, (the fab Mrs and I flew from one subject to another to another too quickly to stay on one,) I had a kind of a reboot and now I very eager to get back to weaving, and continue, (and of course improve) my mixed media. The Professor has this radiant smile that makes anyone think they can try again, harder and better.

I'm still struggling with how much to stay informed vs weaning myself off of politics, (we have a general election in late September, too,) and I talked about it a lot. Politics make me pessimistic and negative. I was also made keenly aware, again, of how small my life has become, how hard I've worked to make it so to concentrate on my making, but annoyingly self-absorbed I am! I don't apologize for living deep inside my head; it also helps to keep quiet the voices, but at the same time I wonder if I should aim for a different balance about now, so I can be a happier 60-year-old in 401 days. Seeing/talking to/mingling with Ruby&Ken, Lloyd, Stella&Thomas, Jay, Andrea, Pat, Esther&Jake, JB&Ali and their friends, and D&B in 44 short days make me wonder.

Ben's smaller body coped well; in five days he had three slices of pizza, some bread and a cookie once, beer and crackers twice, and ice cream three times, but his numbers stayed steady and weight the same! The blood sugar started a gradual incline only this weekend, because he hasn't been on his machine much since the start of his cold the week before. No we know his body can handle a bit of carbo as long as we control the intake and he continues the same exercise regime.

Life is good. There is a chance we'll reconnect with the Professor and the fab Mrs once more before they sail back to the North Island; Ben asked yesterday when he should plan to take another day off work. :-D