Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Spirit Books at the Arnold-Part 9

At one point last year I had used most of the gathered pieces of wood in the studio and was looking for some new material. I took a trip to the Yard Waste Facility in Newburyport (the tree dump to us) where I have an open invitation from Mike to poke around. Among other things, I found two pieces of intertwined vines and attached them to each other. Well, my husband did the attaching.

My first thought for the pattern on the pages was to echo the vines with stitching. I made a test page.
I decided against it partly because I felt it was too imitative of the pattern of the vines and partly because it didn't feel like it quite fit with the rest of the Spirit Books. The stitching was more like drawing with thread. The drawing aspect brought the book closer to the traditional books we are used to with drawings and words and some kind of a story. The Spirit Books are about books as contemplative objects, books taken out of time with nowhere to go but the present. As I prepared my June 2 talk at the Arnold, I found this quote from John Greenleaf Whittier. I think it explains what the patterns on the pages mean to me.
I find that if I am patient, things will resolve themselves. The idea of a grid with dots came the next day. I didn't want it too look too formal so I stitched French knots which are more irregular than beads. On each page, I replaced one knot with a bead.
The book is made with amate paper from Mexico for the cover and Resho paper from Bhutan for the pages. There are small differences on the pages. The lines of gold thread alternate between vertical and horizontal, the bead is in a different place on each page, and the two colors of thread vary in placement. Spirit Book #94: Timeless Union was given its name for the union of the intertwined vines and the circle as a symbol of timelessness.

The Spirit Books are on view at the Hunnewell Building Visitor Center at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University until July 22. Gallery hours are 10 AM-5 PM everyday but Wednesday.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Spirit Books at the Arnold-Part 8

 I made Spirit Book #13: Hope Offering in 1998 and it is still one of my, and my family's, favorites. It's one of the few I will not part with. The hawthorn twigs were sent to me from Oklahoma by artist Sunni Mercer who had taken Calligraphy 101 with me when she was studying at Rivier College (now University) in Nashua, NH. I tied them together with thread and placed horn beads and pods from the herb rue on some of the thorns.
Nestled inside is a book made from Lokta and amate paper with woven paper strip designs in the center with gold metallic thread and beads. The hawthorn is a symbol of hope. In Ireland and Wales, women hang bits of cloth on branches near sacred wells, a custom that was originally an offering to the goddess. The hawthorn cradle is embellished with beads and seed pods from rue which is the symbol of all good things at weddings in Lithuania. 

The Spirit Books are on view at the Hunnewell Building Visitor Center at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University until July 22. Gallery hours are 10 AM-5 PM everyday but Wednesday.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Open Garden June 12

Last year my daughter convinced me that I should volunteer my garden for the Newburyport Horticultural Society Members Garden Tour. Every year our June meeting is made up of visits to three members' gardens. She had been suggesting it for several years and I kept saying "Maybe someday. The garden isn't where I want it to be yet." She reminded me that the entire premise of my teaching was "Relax. Enjoy. It's all about the process. Don't worry about perfection. It's the spirit that counts." She didn't need to add that my attitude was contrary to those beliefs.

As I write this, I want so badly to offer qualifiers, to dampen your expectations and apologize for my effrontery in thinking that my garden is worthy of presentation for viewing. But instead I will share my favorite passage from Julia Child's book, My Life in France:

“We ate the lunch with painful politeness and avoided discussing its taste. I made sure not to apologize for it. This was a rule of mine.

I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one’s hostess starts in with self-deprecations such as, “Oh, I don’t know how to cook…” or “Poor little me…” or “This may taste awful…” it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admissions only draw attentions to one’s shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings), and make the other person think, ‘Yes, you’re right, this really is an awful meal!”

I am opening the garden up to visitors on Tuesday, June 12 from 1–4 PM. It's at 311 High Street in Newburyport. Feel free to stop by if you are in the area. I hope to share photos in another blog post.

If you are in the Newburyport area and interested in gardening, you might consider joining the Horticultural Society. It's name sounds rather formal but it is a friendly, down-to-earth group. Visit their website for information.

I'll be sharing little booklets with the chapter on perfection from my book, Art Lessons: Reflections From An Artist's Life, at the open garden. If you'd like to print and fold a copy of your own, download this pdf and follow the directions in this video. You'll want to have the writing on the outside when you make the first fold. You want the cover to be the page that says on perfection.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

The Spirit Books at the Arnold-Part 7

I bring bittersweet into the house every autumn. I like to gather it early in the season when it is easier to handle. Once the orange berries are visible, they are messier when handled. Oriental bittersweet is a very invasive plant (those lovely orange berries are choking the trees they climb on) so I always dispose of the berries in the trash at the end of the season.

As I was gathering the vines for the mantle and mirror and dining room wreath, I took some especially interwined vines for a Spirit Book. I originally made the cradle with just vines but later attached them to a piece of weathered wood with the same rust colored tones.
I wanted to echo the vine with spirals. At the center of the spirals are beads and flattened circles of wire inspired by a jewelry class with Lisa Scala at Scala Art Center in Georgetown. While I haven't made much jewelry, I have incorporated a few wire details into the Spirit Books. The edges of the pages also have beads and wire rings. The paper is Lokta paper from Nepal from Paper Connection International.

I named it Spirit Book #57: Twined Salutation. Twined for the bittersweet vines and salutation for the way the book opens itself in greeting.

The Spirit Books are on view at the Hunnewell Building Visitor Center at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University until July 22. Gallery hours are 10 AM-5 PM everyday but Wednesday.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

The Spirit Books at the Arnold-Part 6

When I went to the Brush Art Gallery and Studios in Lowell last spring to set up a mini exhibit of the Spirit Books, Gay Tracy, one of the studio artists at the time, took me into her studio and offered me a pile of twisted branches from Harry Lauder's Walking Stick. They were grayed and lichened and beautiful. Of course I said yes. I've always been fascinated by the plant, Corylus avellana 'Contorta', also known as corkscrew hazel or contorted filbert but never found a place for one in the garden.

I arranged some of the branches to make a cradle and my husband attached them together with carefully hidden screws. I chose two of my favorite gray papers made by Paszkowski Paper in Ukraine for the book. Spirals are my favorite pattern to stitch and they seemed especially appropriate here. Each stitch is done with two strands of gray embroidery floss and a single strand of gold metallic thread. There are small silver seed beads stitched on the pages as well.
This is Spirit Book #93: Winding Sanctuary.

The Spirit Books are on view at the Hunnewell Building Visitor Center at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University until July 22. Gallery hours are 10 AM-5 PM everyday but Wednesday.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Spirit Books at the Arnold-Part 5

In the last post I mentioned that the cradle was originally used in Spirit Book #79. It was replaced by this one that was a gift from artist Merike Van Zanten from her lakeside home and studio in Maine. It was one of a few armfuls of pieces that she delivered to my door last year.
The acorns were gathered in Stoneham, MA by Thomas Lane and his mother Christina. I trimmed the edges to make flattish buttons which were sewn to the pages with gold metallic thread. The spirals are stitched with thread and copper beads are sewn on the edges of the pages.

The paper is amate paper from Mexico. It is one of my favorites. I love its color, texture, and history. It was the paper made by the Mayans and Aztecs from the inner bark of the fig tree and is made by hand the same way today. You can view a video of the papermaking process filmed in San Pablito by Eliza Holliday here. The darker paper is Shawa paper from Bhutan.

The book is named Enduring Benevolence because both the cradle and the acorns on the pages were gifts. Enduring comes from the acorns. Oaks are symbols of longevity and endurance.

The Spirit Books are on view at the Hunnewell Building Visitor Center at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University until July 22. Gallery hours are 10 AM-5 PM everyday but Wednesday.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Spirit Books at the Arnold-Part 4


Spirit Book #98: Lunar Meditation is a previously used cradle (for Spirit Book #79 which now has a new cradle) and a new book. The wood was saved for me by Mike at the Yard Waste Facility after my husband spoke to him and showed him a copy of my Spirit Books catalog.
The book is made from hu'un paper from Mexico. The circles are two layers of stitching with copper metallic thread. They are surrounded by small stitches and tiny glass seed beads. The idea for the empty circle seemed to just arrive but I know it was inspired by a series of posts by Mo Crow (Mo Orkiszewski) from Australia.

Mo and I have a long distance friendship that represents the good side of the internet. We probably wouldn't have had this rich interchange of art and inspiration without it. In 2013 she made a Spirit Book of the Spirit Books which used images and texts of mine along with her work in an exquisite, organic, earthy binding.
It was her last summer's series of posts, Once in a Blue Moon, that planted the circle in my head. I recommend checking out Mo's blog, It's Crow Time for some inspiration of your own from down under.
The Spirit Books are on view at the Hunnewell Building Visitor Center at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University until July 22. Gallery hours are 10 AM-5 PM everyday but Wednesday.
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