Sunday, November 28, 2010


I started writing a post earlier this week about an iPhone app I had an idea for, of course it was a complete joke and I couldn't finish the post. I ran out of wit. This happens. What I did get done this week was a draft of a short story I have been trying to write for about 13 years. I meant to attend a writing retreat this summer but circumstances were against me and it didn't happen. Thanksgiving rolled around and circumstances redeemed themselves and I was able to stay home alone for 2 luscious days and write. It was indeed something to be thankful for.

FYI the app idea had to do with tracking a woman's menstrual cycle and it seemed really funny at the time. I feel so sorry for men who are clueless in the face of ever changing hormonal sands but when it got right down to it I felt pretty clueless myself so I moved on. Lucky you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Crafty Update

With Christmas rapidly approaching I am channeling my inner Martha and I have resurrected an idea I had last year. I saw some tiny sweater ornaments in the Garnet Hill catalog and decided I would like to make some of my own. Of course it was too close to Christmas last year when I had this bright idea (this often happens, I get very inspired to make things when confronted with all the delicious holiday offerings and then I get overwhelmed and do none of it) and so the tiny sweater idea has been laying dormant in a zip-loc bag in my knitting basket. This weekend the idea miraculously popped into my head and I seized on it. With the weather now firmly in crap mode it's good for a semi-deranged person such as myself to have something crafty to keep my hands busy. I knitted one on Sunday while watching a Jennifer Lopez movie, it was strangely invigorating. My goal is to knit a couple of these per week until Christmas and give them as gifts. Who doesn't like a new hand-made ornament now and then? I will make some tiny hangers and letterpress a little hang tag for them with this years date. Stay tuned there are more on the way. By the way, my inner Martha drinks and swears, a lot, so don't worry that I've gone over to the white side and am over achieving in the area of the domestic arts (picture of a sink full of dishes, to follow).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Take away

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) Chat Saisissant un oiseau 1939

Picasso's ghost is in town in the form of 150 pieces of the artworks he kept for himself, now belonging to the Musée Picasso de Paris. I dragged the kid to Seattle to take in the spectacle at SAM and it was spectacular. I threatened Pearl ahead of time, there was to be no whining, no asking when we could we leave, it was a museum crawl pure and simple, slow and steady, savoring every inch. I think she genuinely enjoyed it, at least she enjoyed the audio device that came with our admission.

When I started working on the Artists Way it suggested I take these art dates. I didn't, time is tight and it's hard to commit myself to such a luxurious activity. Time spent wandering through art filled galleries without husband and child isn't entirely feasible. Add to that a recent bout of anxiety it's amazing I made it at all. Anxiety is my shoes, lined up in the hall begging me to step in and experience a little fear. Thanks to Mark who is good at shaking me out of myself I went and felt okay, better than okay, I felt good.

The show was great, extensive, well paced and fascinating. What I took away from it all was the incredible willingness Picasso had to experiment with different styles and mediums. For some reason I have had it in my head that an artist needs to attach herself to one style and do that alone ad infinitum. Picasso dabbled, he made broad strokes and small scratches, he worked in clay like it was ink on paper, he documented his life and the times he lived in. He made art about love and sex and war and rape and he didn't always finish things but he always kept moving. Making, making no hesitation, no apology, moving forward, always making and this is what has inspired me the most.

My own art making process is in it's infancy and if I am not careful it will stay there. It's so easy to become self conscious, and then nothing is made. I have learned with writing the more I do it the more things emerge and that feels worthwhile, visual art is the same and slowly I am beginning to make things and to learn that nothing is precious or sacred, there are no wrong answers. Moving forward is the goal, making and trying, remaking, moving, moving always forward. Stepping back and watching to see what comes out of me is exciting, as we can do now in retrospect looking at the body of Picasso's work. Eight decades of his process, success and failure aside, the existence of the work is proof of his singular visual voice and the humanity that exists in us all.

Let it out.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Learning to Read

Further dispatches from this slow life in the country finds my reading skills improving. As I am the proud mother of a middle school-er the topic of practice comes up often, the benefits of doing things that you naturally can do but can also do much better through practice are the topic of regular discussion, and so I have taken my own advice and am noticing certain improvements in my ability to take in and digest the written word. A friend, a writer, has been giving me books to read and I have been devouring them. I have read more this year than any other year of my entire life.

My house has always been filled with books. There are my books, the ones I have designed, and books about art and design. There are my mothers books; after she died we laid her books out on her living room floor and took turns picking the ones we each wanted. There are books on loan, (perpetual loan, as in they may never be returned to people I have now lost track of), there are books I have read and many more I have yet to read.

I just finished Lorrie Moore's book, "A Gate at the Stairs", and so not having a specific book to read I read the introduction and a few entries of Virgina Woolf's Diary, Volume 3, from my mother's collection. I observed that my mind wasn't wandering off, out of my control as it used to, slipping silently off the edge of the bed abandoning the warm covers, onto the floor, slithering into my boots being reminded of something not present in the text that my eyes were working hard to follow along with, my brain, now disengaged is onto something else, something outside, down the road and then its over, I have lost the thread and have to go back to the point where I got distracted.

I wake at 6am, 30 minutes before Pearl and manage to read in toto the introduction to the diary and absorb it, making real the life of a woman struggling to be an artist and wife. The next morning I find myself reading a type specimen pamphlet that was sent to my office from Emigre studios in California. It was a type sampler but what I hadn't realized was that it was about something, it contained actual content. Rudy VanderLans of Emigre had set out to photograph in wide format, 13 sites of the Mexican American War. He ended up designing these little typographic samplers telling the story in a style akin to early stock certificates or fruit crate labels. It was fascinating and I was transported to California circa 1840 without leaving my precious bed.

It used to take me forever to finish anything I was reading. I read slowly, I never gave it any priority. Reading was relegated to when I went to bed which is not the best time of day for me. I would read a paragraph or two and then fall asleep, it was hard to keep track of what was happening in the story, going at a snail's pace as I did. I stopped my morning writing practice a while back and began to take language in rather than spew it forth. I'll go back to writing at some point but for now I am enjoying the reading. I have come to appreciate what a practice reading is and how much better I am getting at it and how satisfied it makes me feel. I learned to read at the normal age and I read a fair amount during my youth but I went for years without reading very much. These days when I wake up before the alarm I don't feel the urge to rush out to the office to give priority to work instead I look forward to a little mind expansion before the busyness of the day takes over.
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