Friday, January 29, 2010

Life in a Southwestern Mountain Town #6

Wednesday night I went and heard Spike Lee at the local University. It snowed and rained all afternoon and I was weighing the possibility that it might be too dangerous to go out at night. The temperature hovered at around 36 degrees, so none of it stuck and the roads did not become icy. I figured the airport would be open if Mr. Lee were flying in that day.

My friend Lisa had organized the whole event, working on the invitation, contract negotiations, dates, details, etc. She works for an institute on campus whose mission is to educate about the holocaust and genocide, and to foster tolerance and moral courage. Every year, she brings someone in on Holocaust Remembrance Day. In the past, she has brought Paul Rasasabagina and Art Spiegelman . This year it was Spike Lee. He was supposed to be talking on the topic of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation caused to the people of New Orleans. He made a film about it.

He didn't talk about that at all. He didn't really have a prepared talk and I think more than a few people were annoyed by that. Instead, he seemed to be having a friendly, almost grandfatherly, talk about his life, about what mattered to him, and about what got him to where he is today. He talked about following your dreams and how things that might seem to be a roadblock can actually turn out to be the thing that sets you going in the right direction.

I actually, really enjoyed the whole thing. I was relieved and pleased that he had taken such a warm, open approach with the audience. I appreciated the non-linear, story-like approach that he used to get his points across. After all, he is an artist and a visual person. Maybe I liked it because my own style is to go about things circuitously, or maybe it is my Irish genes and heritage that like to see the weaving of a good tale. I generally enjoy it when the meaning of something is implied with examples and left somewhat to individual interpretation rather than a bullet point that is shoved in your face.

At the end, he took questions from the audience and was very patient with people and their inability to formulate a reasonable question. One woman seemed like she was expecting to engage in therapy with him in front of the entire auditorium. A young man started the inevitable political soap boxing tirade.

But the best one was a young freshman student who started by saying that before last week, he had never heard of Spike Lee! Everyone gasped and groaned. Even Spike Lee was taken aback. He said, "not even my TV commercials?" But the young man was calm and polite and he said that he had explored some of his movies to get ready for the talk and that he really liked it and had really enjoyed getting to see Mr. Lee. Spike said thanks, and I think it might have actually turned out to be a highlight for him. I imagine him thinking that it is a good thing to not always preach to the choir. By coming to a small town in Arizona, he might have been out of his element, but he opened the eyes of at least one young white boy and maybe helped us get one step closer to the "post-race" society that he said is at least a few generations off.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Textile Tuesdays : #15 - Textile Collage

On today's theme, I don't have much to say. I will just let you look at the pictures and enjoy.

A textile collage is the combination of several materials (including some textile) used to create a new, unique, work of art. It can be many fabrics layered together, or it can be fabric combined with paper, objects, photo-transfers, paint, or decorative stitching.

Collages are quite popular now and can be seen as wall art, parts of quilts, clothing, bags, even jewelry. The styles are as varied as the artists imagination, from Victorian to Industrial Modern.

I did a search on Etsy and found loads of collages - some I loved, some, not so much. I searched under the terms "textile collage", "fabric collage", and "fabric jewelry". For some reason, many of the ones I liked are from artists in England and Australia. I know that they have very active and creative Embroidery Guilds in both of those countries so maybe they have an older and richer tradition of fabric collage.

Anyway, here are the names of the ones whose photos I have chosen, they are in order from the bottom up. And I have to say that the adorable necklace from Vadjutka wins the prize for the smallest textile collage!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Moody Monday

Well, everyone was back at school and work today, and I was back at work, alone in my workroom. It was nice to have quiet, but I also kind of missed everyone. I don't know why but I am feeling nostalgic and missing my friends and family who are far away.

I got some photos of my brother and his wife and kids that live in Christchurch, NZ. and one of my oldest and best friends posted some photos from the 80's on facebook. I really felt the distance of time and place but I am also glad that we are the kind of people that stay close even though our lives are happening separately.

I called my friend and she was sad. She said I must be psychic since she needed to talk. She is just going through a rough patch right now. I was glad that I was there for her but I hung up feeling sad and worried. I started thinking again that all of our lives are stories even if we don't see the plot. Some are tragic, some are glamorous, all have their ups and downs.

It is hard when we are in the thick of it to see the bigger picture, but I think it helps. It helps to have some perspective and to know that all the bits together make up the richness of the story.

My sister Peggy got cancer and died young. We all thought this was wrong and went against nature, fate, all meaning, understanding, and life itself. I still think it was a tragedy and it was, at least in part, the result of human negligence. But now, when I think of her life in its entirety and of the legacy that continues in her spirit, I think that she has an amazing story. I will write it and post it nearer to her birthday in March.

I think about Proust all the time who supposedly drew huge amount of time out of seconds by focusing on details, by being in the moment, by not taking anything for granted. There is a great book called "How Proust Can Change Your Life". I highly recommend it!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Devastation and Stillness

We've been snowed in all week. Last Sunday was the last time, before today, that I went further than my driveway. We got about 5 feet of snow. The television channel has been out all week. Our computer cable went down for just one night - thank god! The mail didn't come for three days - gghrrrr! And our cat, who is an outdoor cat, has been refusing to go out at all, and she pooped on the kitchen floor, out of desperation no doubt!

All this is really nothing since we have been safe and warm inside with plenty of food and drink. Thank god the power never went out and the roof is holding up.

We have been getting our aerobic exercise by shoveling even though we had the bulk of it done by a charming young man who drove by with snowblowers and asked if we needed help. He was raising money for his band trip! We were so thrilled to have him and his friend do it because using the shovel was almost impossible since the berm was so high we couldn't move it by hand. He came by Thursday and Friday. Last year when David was at Princeton and we had heavy snow, it didn't occur to me to hire someone to help. Now I would totally do it. I like outdoors and exercise, but there is no reason to injure yourself.

Anyway, today we drove to a cafe for an early dinner and went grocery shopping. On the way we drove by the shopping center where we rent videos. I heard about it on the news but seeing it was shocking - The roof of the local used bookstore and the next door JoAnn Fabrics had completely collapsed!! Looking through the big glass front windows, all you could see was the top of the building inside and on the ground! These are two of my favorite stores here in Flagstaff. I don't really have favorite stores here. I don't shop that much. But I do buy fabric and sewing supplies and I do buy used books. I know the people that work at both of these places. I can't imagine the waste and the disappointment of these people.

There were other building that collapsed, like the local skating rink that is about 30 years old, and many had leaking roofs, but overall, it is small-scale destruction. I looked at those heaps of metal, wood, etc., and I wanted to cry. Then I though of Haiti, with a much huger loss and the addition of massive death toll, and I felt very small, and very shaken. The good news is that, like in Haiti, tough times bring out the best in people.

We had a sweet, pleasant week at home. We heard that the city and several businesses were doing what they could to help those who needed it. Everyone seems to set their trivial concerns aside until things go back to ease, mundane, and boredom.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Big Love

So, I went to Phoenix over the week-end. We went as a family just to get out of town since we didn't go anywhere over Christmas. We went to the art gallery and saw some great art and a fabulous Geoffrey Beene exhibit. We ate in some fun cafes and yes, we did a little shopping.

I wanted a navy and white striped shirt like a French fisherman's shirt. Mira suggested that we think of things we might need for our European trip this summer which I thought was great forethought on her part. I don't need much since I am wearing the same four skirts. I guess it will make for light packing. I did get a perfect black rain parka on sale. It will be great for travel and it is long with a cinched waist so it will look stylish in the city.

Lately, since my one Michelle skirt is too summery, I have been daydreaming about a red corduroy skirt that I saw when we were in Phoenix last time in October. I couldn't remember what store I had seen it at and I really didn't know exactly what it looked like because at the time, I turned my nose up at it and said "I don't need any clothes. I have my 4skirts already."
But I have been wanting a solid color to wear. I have been regretting not having a bright solid in my skirt lineup. I was wishing that I had bought it to just put away for next year. So when I found the fisherman shirt at H&M I thought a red skirt would be so perfect for the summer. Then I went to look for a size for my daughter in the clearance section and hanging there was one last red cord skirt! on clearance! what size? my size! It fit perfectly and I got it. I felt it was fate and I thought I would put it away for next year.

I am a huge fan of the show Big Love. I love the drama but mostly the clever way that the writers make the issues, problems, lessons, and dreams of these social outcasts the same as those of just about anyone. It is a show about outsiders, about being true to your beliefs, about admitting faults and flaws, about ego, ambition, prejudice, relationships, family, and love.

I don't condone polygamy and I think there are many holes and pitfalls in the Mormon religion. But, I have to say, on an ideal level, there are some good things about their beliefs. In some ways, it is not that unlike the ideas of the hippies in the communes of the '60s. Yes, in some ways it is quite different. Anyway, I like the idea of a love that is so big that it grows with more people instead of diminishing. It is like the Buddhist quote about a candle whose flame is not diminished no matter how many other candles it lights.

In my own humorous and trivial way, I have given my skirts identities and developed a relationship with them. So, when I was puzzling over whether or not to wear this red skirt, I thought of the plot line in Big Love when Bill and his wives are trying to decide if they should take on a new wife. It is a conflict of values, morals, integrity and logistics. But it is also exciting, tender, and sincere.

I want to stick to my 4skirt plan. I don't want to quit. But I also see that I need some new blood in the mix. Does adding a new skirt mean that the whole thing is a failure? Is it better to quit out of a rigid sense of rules? No. I decided that I am adding a fifth wife - I mean skirt. I will make good use of it. I will be able to give a rest to all of the other ones. I will have an improved outlook on life because of the red energy of the skirt. I may even retire one of the other ones.

When I set out to do this experiment, I didn't know what would happen. When the year is over, I will look back and assess the ups and downs, the successes and failures, the lessons and the triviality. One thing I know is that you can't know everything and sometimes you have to go with your heart.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Textile Tuesdays : #14 Zippers

Something we take for granted when we get dressed, crawl into a tent, or sew things like bags - closing two pieces of fabric together for modesty or security - is the amazing zipper! This little device that we are lucky to have is the result of several weak attempts over almost 80 years. The first version was patented by the same man who invented the sewing machine! However, zippers were not used in clothing until around 1930 - not very long ago. Here is a link to the whole story.

Nowadays, zippers come in various colors, materials, sizes and functions. You can get nylon, plastic, brass, or other metal. They can be invisible, separating, or fixed ended. I recently saw the cutest zipper ever from Japan (of course) and I can't wait to get some and use them in my bags. They have lacy scalloped edges so you sew them on top instead of under the seam.

This exposed zipper style seems to be a growing trend. Along with unfinished hems and edges, it is a style that makes it easy on the sewer. Everything from evening gowns to blue jeans can sport a big brass zip.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Sometimes I think I do my best thinking in the shower. Too bad I can't have my computer in there with me. I love taking a hot shower in the winter, and a cool one in the summer. I am always conscious of the luxuries in my life when I am in that soothing, refreshing bubble. When we lived in London, I swore I would never take water pressure for granted again. I thought I had nothing to write about but then I thought of a few things in the shower:

... Today is a holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. With everything going on in the world, the time between his struggles and now seems to have shrunken. There is so much social, political, economic and environmental uncertainty right now. It is a time of despair for some people and also, a time of great hope and determination.

I have the people of Haiti foremost in my mind. It makes me want to go there and do what I can whether it is digging people out or helping with the bureaucracy. The scale of the tragedy is so large that I have a hard time grasping it. On some level, like Carl Jung wrote, I think we feel these human events inside a part of our brain that is ancient.

I am reading Four Spirits, by Sena Jetter Naslund for my book group. It seems a fitting thing to read on this day. It is disturbing to read about the brutality and the racist attitudes of the police and of some of the whites in that time and place. I have never been to Alabama, but I can only hope that there has been real progress and healing towards higher consciousness and humanity.

We are so lucky and I am grateful for the comforts, conveniences, safety, friendship, love and nurturing that are in my life.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Twisted Path

I made muffins the other day. I used to make them all the time and I was quite good at it. I would make various flavors and put in only a little sugar and lots of extras to make them healthy snacks. I've even thought off and on over the years of opening a bakery or selling them wholesale. I never really seriously expected to though; partly because I couldn't bear the idea of getting up a 3 a.m. to have fresh things ready in the morning. Also, I never really had the right connections. My younger sister has a commercial kitchen in her house and supplies desserts for her friend's business. Her house smells so good when those thousands of brownies are baking. (she jogs and is very fit, never eating her wares).

I had a friend here who once asked me if I wanted to go into a pie-making business. I make very good pies and so does she. The idea was to make them with organic and locally grown ingredients, and supply them to a restaurant that specialized in that kind of food. It never happened but I suppose it still could. There was a place in Santa Cruz, when I lived there. They served hippie style Mexican food and had the best peach pie with a whole wheat crust! I would model my pies off of that - if I ever did it.

The point is, even though I have always had the creative, scheming, organizing, inspired kind of mind, I don't have the nerve or the business aptitude to play it out. I don't even have the nerve to seek out someone with business skills to help me. I don't know if it is because of my personality (I tend to be quiet and slow going), or if it because of my upbringing. Maybe I was taught to stick with a tried and true course of career action. Maybe I picked up my parents' tendency to worry and doubt. Either way, I don't have the confidence or the drive to plow ahead through things.

I have come to terms with the kind of person I am though. When I look back at my life so far, I have to admit that I have accomplished a lot. I probably did most of it in a circuitous, inefficient way, but who is to say what is really best. Luckily, today, we have a much more open cultural understanding of personality and learning styles. The basic paradigm is still very rational and conformist, but there is an openness to diversity and flexibility.

One of my New Year's resolutions is to try to work on my personal growth. I hate the idea of stopping half way through life and just stewing in one's past until the inevitable death and decay. I think it is only logical to expect to keep growing and transforming . I want to keep my physical body strong (that is actually the easiest part). I want to develop better self-understanding through working on improving my moods, relationships and routines. I want to get rid of some old reactionary feelings, hangups, and behaviors.

Why should we have to be slaves to negative and ineffective thought processes? Just like in addiction treatment, awareness is the first step towards change. I am hoping that if I work on myself, I will grow and get stronger and be open to new challenges, adventures and accomplishments. I still have a list of ideas. Maybe one of them will turn into a big success, or maybe there is something out in the universe that I have no idea about yet but that is waiting for me...

The photos are all from our family trips to England, Princeton, and Marquette, Michigan. Obviously, I like the theme of paths and passageways.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Textile Tuesdays : #13 Pantone Color Chart

One of the things about fashion that I actually like, is the shifts in color trends. A person can look at a particular color fabric and guess what decade it came from. Yes, there are patterns and styles that give you clues, but sometimes it is specifically a color.

The most famous of these are based on dyes that were widely used, or just discovered. Indigo is quite old, "turkey" red, that was made from Madder root is associated with the Civil War era. Avocado and orange make us think of the '70s, and magenta and fluorescents mean '80s.
It is true that there are many subtle variations and things come back around and around. But the shifts give us a sense of time and hopefully a feeling of newness and change.

Pantone is a company that makes color swatches for designers of all kinds. I found this website with their color trend predictions for Spring 2010. It is based on their research of a cross-section of designers and what is most commonly popping up.

I happen to love this palette! The colors are natural but bright and there is a different take on typical hues. For example, the red is more of a tomato, the turquoise is moving towards a calmer teal. I also like the idea of mixing a bright color with a neutral that is not just black, brown, white, or grey. In fact, it seems that black and white are missing... interesting. Can you give up your black? or your whites?

The shirt is by Isla New York, the chairs are by Fabulous Pieces, and the blanket is by Turtle Murtle. They are all sellers on ETSY. The runway model is from Carolina Herrera.

Monday, January 11, 2010

4 SKIRTS: Update

Well, it is January and I am still wearing my 4 skirts! I still have days where I want to chuck the whole project or some days where I think I will just cheat a little or adjust the rules a little. But, so far, I have stuck to it! It has been hard since I am really wearing just 3 now. I put away my white sear sucker skirt because it was too white and thin. The cold weather makes it hard to feel like I am being practical except when I am wearing Penny - my wool skirt.

My leggings, knee socks and leg warmers are a constant under layer and I haven't shaved my legs in about 3 months! I still have plenty of shirts sweaters and scarves to mix around with the skirts. I go back and forth with being really dull in my color choices or being outrageous.

It still doesn't seem to matter. No one says anything. I guess one effect is that I get less compliments on my attire. My daughters are really the only ones commenting. They are pretty supportive and will give me a nod of approval when I come up with a cute new look with the same old items.

Otherwise, the main effect is that I have a lot less laundry. I spend less time getting dressed. I have bought almost no new clothes. And I am working on the issue of sticking with something I started. That is probably the hardest part and it is yet to be seen if I will succeed. I think it would be easier if I thought someone cared one way or the other.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Work and Play

Saturday, I cleaned the house yesterday so today we just had to sleep late, shower, and get on with the day.

One daughter off to her cooking club. One getting ready for a dance. Driving here and there.

I did the grocery shopping, finished my bag, photographed it and posted it. I love the way it turned out and I feel motivated to keep making more and getting them listed.

We got a late Christmas card in the mail from our friends in Australia. Their children are 20 and 16 years old. She said that it "seems impossible that they are exploring life with increasing independence!" I thought it was so well put and I can relate to that feeling of confusion over the reality that is right in front of our faces.

Dances, movies, shopping, cooking, art, relationships, friends, success, failure, closeness, distance, etc. ... it is all just life!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Quiet Work

The first week back at a working routine is almost over. It has gone smoothly and I am thankful that I get to sleep in till around eight. I hear everyone get up at 6:30 and am so happy at the luxury of snoozing and dreaming away one more hour.
Everyone seems to know what they have to do and none of us has so much right now that we get cranky or overwhelmed. There is still some bickering from time to time but I think we all want to preserve the peace as much as possible.
I got up, had my toast and tea in front of the computer, did my new dance workout video, finished my bag that I was working on and took a shower. David was working at home in the morning but left for a meeting.
When I was alone, I listened to a story on the BBC7 about a girl in Belfast who went missing. It was told from the sister's point of view. It was so sad that I almost shut it off. The fact that the reader had an accent very like my friend's in Belfast, made it even harder to listen to. But it was sweet and had a good message. How do we know when things will change? How can we know how much the people around us effect us? How do we deal with losses - big and small? It was called "The Girl from Mars".
I finished my bag. I did the carpool and saw my friend who chatted with me while we waited. I made dinner and took my oldest daughter to her fencing class. Everything is quiet except for the cat mewing. A solid, ordinary, good day.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Textile Tuesdays : #12 New Year

I don't have much to say because most of my creative energy has been going into sewing. I guess that is a good thing! I do feel bad about not being consistent on my blog. My DVE has turned into more of a Weekly Verbal Exercise.
I am still trying to get a good "voice" in this writing. I want it to be genuine and meaningful, but I don't want it to be embarrassingly personal. I am potentially writing to the "public" but really, I am probably just writing to a void plus a few people that I lure in. It is hard to just be me without being too incoherent - without leaving big holes or going into too much detail.
Also, I could write about my family for about 10 days, then move on to some sociological rant for a while, then get into art for a month, then talk about travel and my dreams - this is the way my mind works, but I am trying to be more organized, be - better. But it is hard, and it might be strangling me. Isn't organizing for editors?

Anyway, Textile Tuesday for today is going to be simply, my latest creations that I put up for Valentine's day.

I have been thinking a lot about certain designs, certain decorative techniques and certain "looks" that I wanted to achieve. So, now it is a new year, and my shop is pretty much wiped out from Christmas (yay!), I am going to make manifest some of these ideas. I decided to play around with something small and I think they turned out pretty well.
I actually feel inspired by the fun process and want to do more and more. I wrote really effusive copy on my listings of these hearts and I really meant what I said. I am not usually much of a heart shaped person, but there is something that I love (pardon the pun) about these. They are made out of a hemp/organic cotton blend that has a look and feel of linen. I love how they show off the natural fibers and texture. And, I don't see why they should be relegated to Valentine's day. After all, we want and need love all the time don't we?