Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Winter Reading—Margaret Murie

Margaret Murie was one of the suggestions of authors for my Rainbow of Hands Library Book. Carolyn Pardini wrote me about her and her husband: "Adventurers, authors, scientists, naturalists, founders of the Wilderness Society, Margret was born in 1901, the same year as my grandmother, the first woman to graduate from U of Alaska, Fairbanks and the author of my favorite book, Two in the Far North."

I started with Arctic Dance: The Mardy Murie Story by Charles Craighead and Bonnie Kreps which was adapted from their film by the same name. It traces her life story and is illustrated with wonderful photographs. Her life was long, 1902-2003, and fruitful. In addition to living a bold life of adventure, she was a major figure in wilderness preservation and the environmental movement and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton.

I've now moved onto her book Two In The Far North. At the moment she is a nine-year-old in Fairbanks, Alaska. Her description of weeks of minus 50 degree weather makes me feel like a wimp. I look forward to more humbling and vicarious thrills as her northern adventures, including a 550-mile dogsled honeymoon in the arctic, continue.

Arctic Dance Book

Arctic Dance DVD

Two in the Far North

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Robert Burn's Day

January 25 is the birthday of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. To celebrate the day, I wrote out one of his poems. Although I now do most of my writing on the computer, it is still satisfying to put pen (or marker) to paper.

When I did calligraphy, making leaf borders was something I enjoyed. I first learned how in Writing & Illuminating & Writing by Edward Johnston. Here are some modified directions:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Trees of My City by Roberto Mighty

Yesterday I went with friends Meghan and Trudy to see Trees of My City, a film and exhibit by Roberto Mighty. Here's how he describes his project:

Trees of My City is an original multimedia installation about the beauty and science of dormant, dead and decaying trees in one American city over one calendar year...and how we can expand our ideas about the cycle of life by contemplating how nature deals with death.

In the film we join him in his travels around Newton, MA looking at dying and decaying trees. He is a friendly and enthusiastic guide. I loved the way he interwove personal reflections and interviews with scientists including an ornithologist, a plant physiologist, an ecologist, and an architect. It is a reminder that there is poetry and art in learning and wonder in the world around us. He hopes that this is the beginning of a great adventure where he can give others a forum to tell their tree stories. I wish him the best.

Visit Roberto Mighty's blog for more information about Trees in the City.

Friday, January 21, 2011

An Illuminated Cat for a Full Moon

What a perfect surprise to find this card from Mo Orkiszewski from Australia in my post office box on the full moon! And on the inside—an emu feather! The way we can connect across the globe these days is always amazing to me. And to have made a connection first online and then to send real things in the mail, even better. Here's the ink hanging I sent to her in her studio.

Mo's card is the letter "U" from An Illuminated Book of Cats by Rod Morgan, Mo Orkisewski, and Ariel P. Cat. You can see more of Mo's work at Blue Cat Heaven.

Spirit Books at Wisdom House

September 18, 2010-January 8, 2011

With the Spirit Books back home in the studio, it's a time to reflect on their exhibition at the Marie Louise Trichet Gallery at Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT from the installation on a warm September day to taking them home in between winter snowstorms. There was something about the intimacy of the gallery, and perhaps the spirit of the place itself, that made an energy from the books almost palpable in the room.

The exhibition opened with a gallery talk on September 18 and what will probably be the last hands-on viewing of the Spirit Books. Although I love to let people have the experience of turning the pages, I think the books are just too delicate to withstand much more. I am planning on coming up with a way to show the pages on a screen in the future.

With a heartfelt thank you to Sister Jo-Ann Ianotti, Art and Spirituality Coordinator, and Sister Rosemarie Greco, Administrator, for the warm welcome and the wonderful environment for contemplation and creativity they make available to so many.

The Spirit Books at Wisdom House on flickr

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bookmark Book

I was looking for a bookmark for a book I was reading and decided that I would make one and then use it to keep a record of the books I read. It's easy. All you need is paper (each sheet gives you 4 bookmarks and used paper with writing on one side is fine), a hole punch, and some twist ties. I write the title and author on the front of the book before I start reading the book. After I'm finished, I write about the book on the back: sometimes a summary, whether I liked the book or not, what I liked best, why I chose to read the book, etc. I haven't done a very good job of it but I'd recommend also writing the date. If you keep doing it, it will be fun to look back and see when you read the book.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Rainbow of Hands Library Book

When I enter a library, I see a rainbow of hands reaching across time and space to offer me knowledge, wisdom, and inspiration.

I am working on a handmade book that will be displayed at and used as the introductory image to a talk I am giving at the South Carolina School Library Association Conference in March. On the panels of the accordion I will be writing the names of authors through time and around the world.

There is room for 288 names. I welcome your suggestions, from you as individuals or from your class. I am looking for both children's and adult authors. I'd love suggestions of authors from other countries as my experience is primarily with English and American authors.

In addition to the image being used in the talk, it will also be posted on my blog. There will be an accompanying pdf with the names of all the authors.

To participate:
please comment to this post with your recommendation of author(s) and a sentence or two describing why you think (s)he should be included and your name so credit can be given.

Thank you in advance.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New England Winter

New England winter—the old and the new
The ancient tradition of the holly—
Life and cheer in cold midwinter—with
The imported warmth of a tomato from Texas

Monday, January 10, 2011

Revels Twelfth Night Celebration

I was so pleased to take part in the Revels Twelfth Night Celebration at St. John's Church in Watertown, MA on Sunday. In addition to singing, dancing, a mummers play, and Morris Dancing, and a visit from Father Christmas, there was a craft activity on stage. This year it was making a wish book for the new year. I was so pleased when the Revels accepted my offer to lead the session as I have been a long-time attendee and have always wished there were some way to be involved. My singing voice, or lack thereof, makes trying out for the chorus not a possibility.

We made a simple hot dog booklet out of recycled paper with writing on one side only and added a yarn and bead loop and tie so that it could be hung. Then the real fun began as the children used markers and papers from the collage box to decorate their books. There were some amazingly intent workers. Some spent about an hour at the table.

I loved the creative hum of the children with songs and music in the background. And then to see their lively creations! A wonderful way to close the Christmas season and welcome in the new year.

Now Christmas is past,
Twelfth Night is the last
To the Old Year adieu,
Great joy to the new.

Revels Twelfth Night Celebration bookmaking photos on flickr.

Here's directions to make a booklet of your own.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A Tuneful Take on Illuminated Manuscripts

There are a few inaccuracies (no gold or silver was used in the Book of Kells for example) in this adaptation of The Beatles' Nowhere Man but it's a fun introduction to illuminated manuscripts.

He's a real special monk...
Without him antiquity
Would be lost, no history,
Heritage preserved in leather bindings...

From The Book Arts List, my favorite source for book related information, this post came from Jim Reed.

Hats are Sky Pieces

Today is Carl Sandburg's birthday. To celebrate, I am sharing a book I made years ago with photos of my young son illustrating the wonderful closing lines of Sky Pieces.

The book Sky Pieces on flickr.

The complete poem by Carl Sandburg:
Proudly the fedoras march on the heads of the some-
what careless men.
Proudly the slouches march on the heads of the still
more careless men.
Proudly the panamas perch on the noggins of dapper
debonair men.
Comically somber the derbies gloom on the earnest solemn noodles.
And the sombrero, most proud, most careless, most dapper and debonair of all, somberly the sombrero marches on the heads of important men who know
what they want.
Hats are sky-pieces; hats have a destiny; wish your hat
slowly; your hat is you.

A more recent adaptation made for my friend Trudy who makes hats:

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Twelfth Day of Christmas: Anthem

When I sat down at my desk this morning, I noticed that my beautiful graphite object was not as perfect as it was yesterday. Mysteriously, the point of the leaf had broken off. After a moment of sadness, I remembered the Leonard Cohen song, Anthem. The Twelve Days of Christmas close with this message of hope and understanding.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Eleventh Day of Christmas: Gifts

I am reflecting on the gifts of the season: the sharing of the time with friends and family, the gifts I was given including the above Graphite Object by Mario Batle which my son got for me at the Museum of Art and Design in New York, and the gift I gave myself— a week of calm and methodical cleaning and sorting in the studio. Giving myself physical space for new activity opens up inner space for new ideas and creative flow. I think of the line from the medieval mystic Meister Eckhart that Lewis Hyde quotes in The Gift: "Let us borrow empty vessels." Now the task for the new year is to keep these open surfaces as an invitation to action.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Tenth Day of Christmas: Mumming

This piece, combining lettering and imagery created on the photocopier with rugosa rose flowers and leaves, was published in The Artful Letter: The Calligrapher's Engagement Calendar for 1991. The quote is from All Silver and No Brass: An Irish Christmas Mumming by Henry Glassie. Mr. Glassie is a folklorist who spent time in Ballymenone in Northern Ireland researching the tradition and practice of the mummer's play at Christmas. Here's how he introduces it in the preface:

Winter nights in Ireland are black and long. A sharp wet wind often rises through them. Midwinter is a time to sit by the fire, safe in the family's circle, waiting for the days to lengthen and warm. It is no time for venturing out into the cold darkness. The ground is hard, the winds bitter. But for two and a half centuries, and possibly for many years beyond them, young men braved the chilly lanes, rambling as mummers from house to house, brightening the country kitchens at Christmas with a comical drama. Their play, compact, poetical, and musical, introduced an antic crew and carried one character through death and resurrection.

When I received notice that my piece would be included in the calendar, I was very pleased, but if my work had been accepted at an earlier time, I would have been beside myself with joy. By 1991 calligraphy was a lesser part of my creative life. I was spending much more time making books, and the books I was making had become wordless and meditative.

I find that that's often the way things go. When an honor or an acceptance would have been just about the greatest thing that ever happened to me, it didn't come. When it was no longer as important to me, it would happen. It makes me think of the words from Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Shunryu Suzuki about encouragement.

Of course some encouragement is necessary, but that encouragement is just encouragement. It is not the true purpose of practice. It is just medicine. When we become discouraged we want some medicine. When we are in good spirits we do not need any medicine. You should not mistake medicine for food. Sometimes medicine is necessary, but it should not become our food.

I have learned to live, not necessarily without any encouragement, but without the level of encouragement that I would have preferred. My motivation for making has always been, and had to be, to a certain degree from within. As the years have passed, I have come to appreciate the importance of that inner drive in my growth as an artist.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Ninth Day of Christmas

After a quiet after-Christmas week, we're back to celebration. Our annual Twelfth Night Party with Mummer's play is this afternoon. This year's tree is huge. We purchased it from the Elks who sell trees for charity. When we arrived on the Saturday before Christmas, there were only two trees left and one of them was this beauty.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us.
They are green when summer days are bright;
They are green when winter snow is white.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
You give us so much pleasure!
How oft at Christmas tide the sight,
O green fir tree, gives us delight!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
You give us so much pleasure!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
Forever true your color.
Your boughs so green in summertime
Stay bravely green in wintertime.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
Forever true your color.

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
You fill my heart with music.
Reminding me on Christmas Day
To think of you and then be gay.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
You fill my heart with music.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Eighth Day of Christmas: Welcome 2011

Wishing you all of the above in 2011.

The image was built in Photoshop from a photograph and hand-lettering. When I work in Photoshop (self-taught and I learn as I go—no extra information please), I have a hard time being orderly. I sometimes, okay often, don't save steps I should and find myself having to redo entire images instead of being able to go back into my work and make changes. So a lesson for the new year, be more careful. Work more slowly. Think before I click.

My workshops are all about tapping into one's creativity in a free and open way and I often say, "It doesn't matter" when asked if it's okay of something is crooked or some such question. After my experience with doing and then redoing this image, I will now say, "It matters only if it matters to you. It is completely your choice. And whatever you decide is valid and right." In this case, I couldn't start the year with an image that bothered me. So my choice was to take the time and make the changes.
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