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Friday, January 30, 2015

New Spirit Book's Cradle

Here's the cradle for the new Spirit Book. I found it last spring while walking at Maudslay State Park. When I saw it on the ground, it was turned over.

I tend to like cradles that give places for books to nestle in and assumed I would use it as I found it. It just didn't seem to work. The problem was not so much with the shape and sizeof the book but finding the right color of paper to work with. There is a lot of gray in the wood but the grays were either too blue or too green and all the various shades of brown and tan had too much yellow. On a whim, I turned it over, placed an already made book on top as a test, and immediately knew I had found my solution. I think the sense that the book will rise from the cradle is appropriate for the St. Brigid's crosses and their suggestion of the coming of spring.

I look forward to showing you the completed book on Sunday.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

New Spirit Book Pages

Here's a two-page spread of the new Spirit Book. The St. Brigid's cross is made from Yucatan paper (natural patched) from Hiromi Paper. It is mounted on Lokta paper from Nepal from Paper Connection International. The pages are made from Tasho Natural paper from Bhutan from New York Central.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Make a Paper St. Brigid's Cross

This is a very simplified version of St. Brigid's (or St. Bridget's) cross. The traditional one is made of rushes and has many more layers. This is just the first round but it contains the core of the pattern.

I used four strips of bagasse paper from India. They have deckled and uneven edges as they are the edges I trimmed off before cutting the paper for shipping The Spirit Books book.



Fold each strip of paper in half.


Hold the first strip vertically with the fold on the top.


Hold the second strip horizontally with the fold on the left.

Open it and and enclose the first strip by placing one layer on either side.


Hold the third strip vertically with the fold on the bottom.

Open it and and enclose the second strip by placing one layer on either side.


Hold the fourth strip horizontally with the fold on the right.

Open it and enclose the third strip.

Bring the layers together and thread them inside the layers of the first strip.


Gently tighten the weave and make the cross.

Somehow the cross just asked for some lettering. I turned the cross over to the side where the paper strips were more even and wrote with a Akashiya Corporation Thin Line marker from Jet Pens.

In the center: spring and imbolc.

On the sides going clockwise:

Let us nurture the spirit of renewal and embrace the light of the coming days. (from last year's first day of Celtic spring message)
Let us hold the fire of St. Brigid in our hearts and be warmed by its flames.

Here's a link to video for making a traditional St. Brigid's cross.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book Arts Tuesday-Starting a New Spirit Book

I've started a new Spirit Book. The design of the pages is inspired by the approaching season in the Celtic calendar—spring—and the custom of making and hanging a St. Bridget's cross on the door for twelve month's luck. I've always been interested in folk customs, particularly those that connect with the season and form a bridge between the outside world and the one within our homes. I think there is a link between that interest and the Spirit Books.

Here are some of the miniature St. Bridget's crosses I've made for the pages of the book. It's a simplified version made with paper. Traditional ones are made from rushes. I think I have mentioned how faulty my math can be. I am planning for 6 sections in the book with 8 pages in each. My first round of math led me to say that I needed to make 48 crosses. For some strange reason, I decided that was wrong and redid the math to come up with the number 256 (24 x 8) for who knows what reason. Thankfully I realized my original calculation was correct before I continued on past 48.

Upcoming posts this week will feature progress on the book and directions for how to make your own simplified St. Bridget's cross out of paper.

Monday, January 26, 2015

St. Bridget's Cross

Next Sunday, February first, is the first day of Celtic spring and is celebrated with a St. Bridget's cross made of rushes. I'll be celebrating the week with St. Bridget and her goddess counterpart Brigid with a series of posts this week. I'm using miniature St. Bridget's crosses in the Spirit Book I'm working on now. I'll show glimpses of the work in progress through the week and if all goes well, the completed book for Studio Sunday.

Here's the text from the above print that I created in 1988 which is considered a "vintage handmade item" on etsy.

It is the first of February, the first day of old spring. It is still cold, but the light is changing. For twelvemonth's good luck, I hang St. Bridget's cross on my door. There are connections between St. Bridget, the sun, and its earthly counterpart fire. St. Bridget’s cross is sunlike with its woven center and extending rays. She was born at sunrise. When she took the veil, a pillar of fire rose from her head. A sacred flame burned continuously at her altar. St Bridget owed much to her forerunner, the Celtic goddess Brigid. She is the one who fascinates me. Brigid lived long as a goddess and is sometimes referred to as a trinity of sisters. She was in her earliest form a fertility goddess, then a fire goddess and as such associated with hearth and home. She was also the Celtic version of Athena, goddess of wisdom and learning, poetry, craftsmanship, and healing. In this time of the growing sun, as the longer days renew my energy, I look to Brigid as an example and inspiration, who merged hearth and home with poetry and learning. I ask Brigid to bring me luck.

The 8.5" x 11" offset print is available at my etsy shop.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What It Means To Be an Artist

This is my As I See It column in today's Newburyport Daily News:

It’s small—a framed print just over five by seven inches. There’s a sticker on the back: “GREEN BRIDGE (Built 1902) between Newburyport and Salisbury, Mass. from original watercolor by MILDRED G. HARTSON. It’s signed with the artist’s signature on the mat and on the back. I recently purchased it at Flukes and Finds. I had to buy it, not for the image but for its creator. In a roundabout way, I had unfinished business with Millie Hartson. If the name sounds familiar, it is because the upstairs gallery at the Newburyport Art Association bears her name.

When I moved to Newburyport in 1985, I was a new mother in my early thirties. As an artist, my work was primarily calligraphy but I was in a time of creative transition. One of the first things I did after my arrival was to join the Newburyport Art Association. As I had prior experience with a non-profit art group in Lowell, I was quickly recruited to serve on the board. The NAA was also in a time of transition. Its current building had been purchased in 1969 and the needs of the building were a strain on the organization. Drawing visitors beyond the immediate downtown was more difficult in the days before the Tannery. There was a recognition that changes needed to be made. However, any suggestion at a board meeting would always be followed by “What will Millie say?”

I never had much personal contact with Millie, but I had opinions about her. Millie was old (in her early 80s at the time) and traditional (paintings of local scenes). I think because my own work was in flux, I was hard on everyone, looking at their work with the same critical eye I was casting on my own. I didn’t know where I was going but I wanted it to be someplace new. I was looking for what I considered to be an expression of the deepest part of me and I couldn’t understand how a painting of a bridge could ever fulfill that role.

I began to get an inkling that I was wrong when I was a peripheral participant in a conversation at the art association. Millie was saying that she was destroying the original plates that were used to print her cards. She had stopped painting and wanted to maintain the value of her work. She wanted to honor those who had supported her by purchasing even an inexpensive card. I was taken aback by her words then and they have lingered in my mind for almost 30 years. She spoke with such conviction and clarity. There was no doubt that her work was in fact coming from the deepest part of her being.

Over the years I have been continually redefining what it means to be an artist. For me now there is only one word that that distinguishes someone who is an artist from someone who is not. The word is commitment and the commitment is to the work itself. Whether our work is traditional or avant-garde, painting or photography, sculpture or installation, we are all on a personal journey which requires belief, strength, and fortitude. I now see Millie Hartson as a kindred spirit and am honored to have this symbol of our shared passion.

Here is link to the column online:

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