Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Rock Cairns

From Ye Journal of Mad Anne Bailey, Frontier Heroine:

A Letter!

"27 March 
Dearest Anne,

Whilst traveling in the far west I had the fortune to travel a pathway defined by rock cairns. These wonders of western travel are created by travelers stacking rocks one upon another. They are a symbol to guide those who would otherwise not know the way. 
Each magnificent rock cairn is devised by the strength and knowledge of many, the power of one, and a careful balance of similar but differing objects..."

More of Anne's Journal at the link above. I love this woman and admire the woman of her portrayal.

and I love these words:
By the strength and knowledge of many, the power of one, and a careful balance of similar but differing objects...
Isn't that how we cast!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

After we learn, what do we DO?

After the learning, the challenge is to use, incorporate, combine, make something new, at least make something out of your own hands and heart, something personal, perfectly suited to you and your needs, using your own powers of adding, subtracting and incorporating; in short: creating.
Not just making. 

The quote above is by from Woven Thoughts by a weaver called Sara Lamb. I sat down with my morning coffee to read the first blog in my feed today and really paid little attention to the header (sorry Sara, it was early). It struck me as I read how important these words are for our approach to daily spiritual practice and larger acts of witchcraft or power. Study does really not add things to our lives- just to our heads.  The challenge of combining what we now do with what we might do is what brings our acts into the realm of personal and "perfectly suited to our needs".
Hat4. Sara Lamb 

Also, the pictures were gorgeous!

I was surprised then near the end of her post to realize that this post is about the making of woven artworks, NOT acts of spiritual enrichment!

These thoughts on learning new things and always striving to understand them but incorporate experience, once, twice... over and over into your practice and make each act of creation your own; each act of trying again a celebration of the last act really moved me.

They have stayed with me all morning, so I am sharing them with you as a weaver of spirit as well as cloth.

Sara Lamb is the author of the book Woven Treasures: One-of-a-Kind Bags with Folk Weaving Techniques by Interweave Press, and a DVD called Spinning Silk, also by Interweave Press. Her work is beautiful and her words are very inspiring.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The historical record

Japanese shibori fabric.  Precise tied resist.

Recently, I had the chance to reply to a friend who thought that it was vain to label her beautiful woven work with her name. I couldn't disagree more!
Kuba cloth called Kasai velvet, literally woven
 CASH in Zaire.

I am very interested in the history of textiles in several parts in Asia, Africa, the northern Americas and of course I often study how Europe influenced all of these cultures and their textile practices.

As a hobbiest, I am what is properly called a "living historian" but more popularly: a colonial re-enactor. We strive to get things as close to correct for the period as possible so that merely by looking visitors to our encampments and demonstrations can learn.

As a living historian, I (and others in my club) try to spend short periods actually living under colonial conditions as closely as we can represent them for the public. I do time studies on spinning, linen processing and  weaving and try to extrapolate how valuable a piece of cloth was to a farm household... you get the idea.
Tape weaving with linen thread on a reproduction 18th Century tape loom.

I am delighted to hear that your Aunt labeled her weaving with her own name- and Aunt Marvel was certainly the right name for her!! I'm glad you are doing the same. Because so much of the work of women was not taxed or marked in account books, the value of their contributions to the economies of the past (and today) are lost (read the diary of Martha Ballard in A Midwife's Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich to get an idea of how important weaving was to a town's economy and how it was only peripherally recorded in the account books as raw materials ordered).

When you get your next set of labels made, may I suggest that you add your maiden name if Peterson is not it? Quilt makers have adopted this notion and it makes tracing an artist's contributions so much easier then we have two family names to search!

You are not vain, you are contributing to the historical record!!

D- Deer

Can you find two deer in this picture?
I see deer in my yard in the morning because I live in their bedroom.  The dogs look our the large glass doors in the back (through which these pictures were taken) and bark.  And bark and bark and bark.  Deer are smarter than dogs, they look up but soon go back to sleep or have a snack.

Left deer.
I love that they visit me and that they can sleep late because they can't be hunted here so near my house.

I have no objection to hunting though. I have some friends who are pagans AND hunters, and their approach to taking a deer is beautiful, sound and respectful.

Right deer. You can tell she is laughing at the dogs wigging out by my feet.
At least one of them makes offerings to Diana at his place of worship near a small spring. She is ever present with him as he hunts and his offerings of thanks to her this year were truly moving. My friend is a Longhunter, he hunts with a flintlock and so he has one shot and one charge of gunpowder to spend. His skill and patience have to do the rest. Longhunter feels that this deer gives up her life for the hunt to continue and to help keep the connection between the God and the Wood strong.  Some of his prize is returned to the ground before any is consumed.

I have found that I can be both proud and saddened when an animal gives its life for my use.

Here in PA, a lot of jobs depend on the hunting activities. Deer is good food and oh, a bunch of other things...  I'm not meaning to sell you on hunting- if it is not for you I respect your choice to steward the earth in a different way very much.

What I AM meaning to do is represent deer as a path to appreciating the natural world around us.

Deer represent so many good things- they are not my totem animal (so far...) but they are wonderful herbalists- said to lead Native Americans to healing plants and as we can see, they are creative and frugal and good at blending in when needed.  Deer are swift, fertile and live efficiently- all qualities I admire and don't mind being reminded of!  Spiritually, they are harmonious and balanced and interact well with others.  They represent the rut in the Midsummer fertility festivals- that is where we get the term Stag Party!  A deer-like man adorned with an antler crown and possessing some of these qualities would be a good choice to end your chase and mate with at Beltane!

I don't live in the middle of nowhere, my area is solid suburbs. These deer live in 20 foot wide by 600 foot long strips between backyards, occasional empty acres in our town and the wooded areas along the highway.  PEOPLE have crowded them until they have been squiched into that space.  A lot of them don't make it under these circumstances, but I am grateful for the ones who show up and share themselves with us.
I will need to fortify our garden beds around my circle garden with a fence if I want to grown anything other than herbs, because These Gals used my garden as a salad bar last summer.  They even ate the hot peppers!
Garden raiders or not, I look forward to them every morning.
Deer need salad too!
Zambonie (@Zambonieknows) the feathered white Dachshund  takes a break from barking at deer to
practice a  little sympathetic magic.  Her belief in this position is very strong.
  "I can roll up in a ball and the deer will come lay here with me. Please stop typing and take my picture."
Read about other notions and pagan practices that begin with the letter D at the Pagan Blog Project.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I need 100 compliments

Rant warning:  I'm pretty sure I'm all out of placid today.

I am lucky, and I know it. I have my sister, Glenda the Good Witch, to help me navigate the waters as we try to move my fairly sick Mom to a retirement place.  So many people have to deal with the adjustments, the packing , the cleaning and property sale issues along with the financial planning and forecasting issues.  I have only to do the logistics, Glenda will handle the money things.  I am lucky.

I am lucky.
 I am Lucky
  I am LUCKY.

I. don't. feel. lucky. I feel furious and want to spew my crabbiness all over my lovely blog friends.

I would try spewing on strangers, but it's hard to make them sit still for this sort of thing.

I'm crabby because I'm sad, it's hard to shepherd anyone through such a major transition and I know I'm not alone, but after one day of looking at places I think:

I am overwhelmed.  I am a bad daughter; This is not about me. I only have to drive and smile, I need to suck it up. My mom really should have planned or saved or something. Who the hell is going to pack this whole place?  I do not deserve to be snapped at just because she is Tired - Scared - needs a drink - not in charge - in denial.

Do I seem overwhelmed?  I meant to mention, O-Ver-Whelmed.  In case I forgot.

So... my story is nothing new. Complicated relationship with Mom who has always acted like drinking and pretending will make things turn out all right. Not a dime saved because she has been living beyond her means.  For twenty years.  I have tried to address this problem, also for twenty years, only to be shot down and called (mild) names by my sibling and mom who would like to pretend.

Meanwhile, I save like an ant. Plan for my future. Now I am going to go through the misery of finding a way to grow old without a plan or money -even though I am the ant- on behalf of Mom who would still like to look at 2 bedroom apartments with granite counter tops and options to add nursing assistance!  Much nicer than my vintage 1952 kitchen. Much.

Augh. There is not answer. I know that. Just feel my pain and pay me a compliment.  Bearded Bob has already started.  At 3pm today he texted me: "You are a good daughter".

Boy, I love that bearded guy.

The Ritual of My Morning Cup

I took my favorite coffee cup and made rings of black coffee.
I have a real eagerness to get to the coffee part of my morning.  I'll even get up early so that I have an extra half hour to sit and do nothing but cradle the cup in my hands and complete my morning coffee ritual.

I am not even so particular about having the perfect cup- but I AM particular about not cooking, talking or working on anything while I have my coffee.  

I like to go outside and sit. Just sit and look and listen to the birds.

The second part of the background was adding the allover dashes with a brown pencil and a wash of coffee 
all over everywhere but the coffee circles.  Next came the pink paint and a sketch of the coffee cup.  This is not my actual cup, which is a huge deep mug. 
And why not pink steam?

I'm not a big fan of symmetry, but I like balance.
Opposite the cup: Pink framed spoon.
(yellow bleed through from another page will be dealt with!)

I might light a candle or some incense if I can't get outside.  Sometimes there is a little dog who needs to sit and meditate with me.  

The key thing during coffee time is not to plan for the day. No mental packing of paperwork, review of lesson plans or figuring out what to put in the crock pot.

I joke about sitting without a thought in my head sometimes, but it actually takes quite a lot of discipline to just sit in one place for half and hour and be in the moment.  

Meditation is not hard to learn, but frequent practice is the key to getting the most from it.

This journal entry was a part of the Pagan Art Journal Project about using mundane activity as ritual.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What makes a good Spiritual Teacher?

This week's prompt for the Pagan Art Journal Project is about good qualities in a spiritual teacher.

This one really made me think- I had formal religious training as a child but also knew a mountain woman who taught me all kinds of plant and spirit lore as well as a good deal of Greek mythology in little plays and skits she would write for the local kids to put on at the library in the summer.

I sought self-guided religious exploration in my twenties and then did some formal study to learn about pre-christian texts and about Jewish religious ritual. I have long studied goddess centered icons, worship and themes to guide my artistic creations.  I've also made art based on some pretty complex natural mathematical constructs. The longer I sought, the farther back in history I seemed to study.

The more independent my orthodoxy, the more I felt able to connect with the divine. I was free to try a new practice, adopt or invent a ritual. Knowing all of the academic information is certainly valuable to me but I have discovered that it takes plain old DOING to experience a heightened connection with the power of nature.  Once I felt that in a ritual way I began working on feeling that connection (raising the power, if you will) with fewer and fewer trappings of ritual.

The best spiritual teachers I have had are the ones who followed up with me yet offered a relationship driven by my curiosity and not by a set curriculum.  The worst teachers for me have been those who, because of their own style or the size of the group they needed to teach, followed a plan of a parcel of information out for us to absorb at a time with little chance for feedback and no opportunity for practical experience.

A perfect example of a wonderful teacher is a thunderstorm, If I can go outside and feel the wild and free energy sweeping in, swirling around and climaxing- then nature is teaching me. Getting feedback from me and letting me take in only as much as I can handle each time.

I read well researched and historic  texts and modern criticisms of them, still, I like to do and touch when it comes to spiritual learning. I know I get more out of the experiences because of the study on paper than I have done; the two go hand in hand.
I used a cardboard roll to stamp gesso shapes all over, brushed 3 colors of acrylic over the dry gesso and rubbed some off immediately.  Then I sanded the gesso to expose the white textured shapes and added the lettering.

Friday, February 15, 2013

D- Divine using Amulets of the Goddess

On the whole, I don't think I want to know the future.  I want to arrive at the future with my illusions that I have many paths open to me at all times intact.
My very used, painted, stained and annotated amulets.
Today's draw. 
My very favorite way to divine my path, short or long term, is using my altered Amulets of the Goddess.  I keep them in a plain white drawstring pouch and spent lots of afternoons over a few years staining, coloring on, painting and distressing the resin tiles.  Eventually I wrote some notes about their historic and folkloric significance on the back along with their magical meanings.  They are heavy for their size and a draw of only three gives me plenty to think about.  I draw and spread them in the same way as I learned to use Tarot.
The notes on the back of each of today's tiles.

These little tiles of resin were sold in a pack as an
oracular device. One third are Goddess images.

The thing for which I find divination tools so handy is the alert they offer to possibility.  Just as I feel my dreams call to my attention the things I need to work out or work on, I feel that my interpretation of divination prompts reveals to me what I need to bring to the front and think about.

In other words, what I divine is already what is within me, I just need some guidance to point me in the right direction.

That doesn't mean I can't be surprised! Some-times I'm surprised or quite mystified by what I draw or read as divination.

One third are animal images.
The book has very good information
about the historic and folkloric meanings of each image.

There are times when I just store the info, or note it in my BOS, for later digestion.

The thing is, I can't remember a time when I found a divination to be utterly useless forever.  I find when I look back on ones I jotted down in mystery that even they applied to my experience after time passed.

I had a wonderful time revisiting these tiles over many years and adding more and more to them as I learned more and the images became more meaningful to me.

By the time I had colored and applied a paste wax coating to all of them, I knew the notes on the back pretty well.

When another sees them though, the notes come in quite handy as they allow the seeker to bring his own interpretation to the draw without my voice involved.

I guess I should say that although I have done divination for others, I think it is for them to interpret how the reading applies to, leads or warns them.  I don't do it often either.  I just think I have other strengths to offer.

Thanks to Nanlt at Flickr for the photos of the plain tiles and the book cover.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Art & Love part 2

Watercolor study of reds.  I wrote "I love you" all around in the shape of a heart.

When last you saw the parts for the woven valentine I made this year there were cut strips of papers I have inked and painted, a love letter, some "I love you" messages and a big pastel heart.

The background is mainly light and the foreground mainly dark.  
The heart of "I love you" on the dark red paper overlaps with the red pastel heart on the long background strips, but after weaving a few inches I can see that it doesn't read as a heart.  The contrast of the light and dark highlights the weaving but the heart is too delicate.  It needs repetition, something to show the eye where to look for the angles of the heart design.

There are plenty of touches of orange in the paper, so I chose to paste a yellow watercolor heart cut from my paper stash onto the background.  I then repeated the pastel drawing of a heart on that.  That should do it.

The weaving pattern is called a 2/2 twill.
Strip by strip I cut and then wove my messages and images and colors together.  

I like the way the yellow heart is not traditional, but makes the whole thing bright and cheery.  Like a little sun.

I considered writing on the heart too, but I decided against it because this is busy enough.  

There has to be a few places where your eye can rest, not just work, work, work to read and understand.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Not just to my loves but to my readers and Valentine's Blog Party friends too!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Letter for a year from now

I wrote myself a letter as a part of the 52 Weeks of Pagan Art Journaling project.  My letter is meant to be both the first page and the last page I read when I pick up my journal in the future.  It's more about the value of working on a sustained creative project that about the exploration of my spiritual path.  I've spent lots of time thinking and writing about spirituality not as much thinking about and appreciating my creative experiences.

I often stop at the end of a wonderful creation and sort of nod, "Hmm, that came out well" and then immediately think "what has gone undone while I was creating and enjoying myself?"

I look on my creativity as a habit that causes me to loose track of things and screw up.  That hardly ever actually happens anymore.

Even the parents who nurtured this "don't go nuts, talent isn't accomplishment" attitude now make more of what I create than I do.

In doing this, I am robbing myself of satisfaction and of ownership of some pretty powerful skills.

I have 52 weeks to practice embracing my creativity and seeing it through other people's eyes might be a big part of that.

If I really listen to the comments of the people who see my work, I might begin to tune into the "be proud of yourself for creative things too" channel.   That would be terrific for me.

Butter Girl gives Thanks

Over at Modern Alternative Mama I read this post about Prayers for Praising not Pleas.  I spend a lot of time thanking the Goddess for what I have and what I have been through, both good and bad.

I don't like the pressure on either of us to give a fancy "just right" valentine so each year I try to make one.
This is a ransom note I made for Bearded Bob a few years ago from a wood cutout, magazine cutouts
 and a beautiful folded paper lobster. It is hard to read, but it is signed: Butter Girl.
I managed to stumble my way onto the idea that focusing on the HAVE and not the NEED TO HAVE would make me happier (with the help of a wonderful spouse, marriage therapy and some really bad examples of marriages around me).  Then, it was just a matter of spending most of 20 years figuring out how to make my head stop collecting mistakes and start collecting triumph.

Oh how I wish I had seen that post about list making when I was a newlywed!   It is the formula for a really sincere Valentine, so I have shared it over at The Valentine's Blog Party.

Yarny love

I keep going to look at the beautiful three dimensional crochet Valentine here at Cornflower Blue.  Rachel does amazing things with yarn, every one of her ideas inspires me to use materials I have seen in new ways.

The beautiful heart looks like it is made of sea urchins or barnacles or some other amazing sea life to me.  It has been chosen to be on the cover of the Valentine special edition of a Madison Wisconsin newspaper.  Do go visit Rachel and see more of what she can do!

This post has been linked to the Valentine's Blog Party 2013.  Go see what else is heart shaped and hot for February!

Monday, February 11, 2013

New Pagan Art Journal

I am so delighted to participate in the 52 Weeks of Pagan Art Journaling Project that I decided I didn't want to just start cramming my entries into my regular daily journal.  So, in typical overachiever style I made a journal just for the project.
I cut 15 pages to size for the outside of each signature so the spine would be uniform looking.  I pressed each fold crisp with the bone folder visible on the top of the stack.  The distracting pile of sketchpads was there to supply paper and later to provide pressing weight on top of the bull dog clips. 
I stitched signatures made of all different kinds of paper together, just to begin with some variety already built in to my new journal.  I've been kicking this idea around for a while but I admit I usually make books in a big hurry for a gift or specific need.  For this book I had time to go slowly and play with papers, and I did.

I used a few watercolor monochrome pages I painted and stored to use when I needed some texture and color but not a specific picture.  Last year I bought a book of card stock with general monochrome print backgrounds from a bin of discount scrapbook paper and have hardly found a use for it so that got cut up too.  Along with ivory colored sketch paper, these made the bulk of the 10" x 14" sheets which folded to 10" x 7" pages.  After that, I added some envelopes, partial sheets of plain watercolor paper and a few pages of odd sized brown craft papers.  There are 15 signatures of 3 pages each, one or two have 4 pages.  That should be plenty for 52 entries even with a few duds I cut out and remake!
I folded the signatures together and added a smaller page or envelope to most of them.

After folding the signatures and adding the odd sized pages I pressed them well again with a bone folder.  Then I taped the three linen tapes for the spine to my work surface and stacked them in the order I wanted them to appear in the book.

I made a card with marks where the holes should go near the ends and beside the tapes.

You can see the card with the hole markings here, and the punched holes beside it.
I added arrows to make the marks more visible for the picture.

Then I took each signature off the pile and punched holes in the fold through all the page layers.  I used a magazine opened to the middle to make a place to lay the fold and punch into it.
Row of holes ready to stitch and linen tapes attached to
 the surface below the work.  Beeswax and linen thread on top ready to go.

 I stacked them back up in order and then moved the whole pile to the side.

My assistant was no help whatsoever.
 As soon as she realized that my awl had an antler handle
she forgot all about hole punching until she was caught.

After all of the holes are punched and you have the pages in the order you like them you stitch along the length of each signature and tie it to the one below.

As you stitch around the cloth tape at the spine you form a flexible back edge that will open well for writing or drawing.

Leaving the tail on the outside you bring the needle through the first hole to the inside, then in and out along the row of holes.

Tie the starting tail to the thread as it exits the hole on that end the next row.  After that, loop a stitch around the row below on the outside each time you reach the end of a row.  The pictures below show the linked end stitches one above the other.

Sew the waxed thread through the pre-punched holes in each fold.  

Pull the thread to the outside and be sure to go around the outside of each tape.  Keep everything nice and snug.

In, out around each tape. 

 It takes time to keep layering and sewing the folded signatures on one at a time, but it makes for such a neat stack.

I used tapes on the spine instead of a heavy doubled thread because I want to leave the spine exposed as a pretty design element of the journal.
Here you can see the stitches going around the tape for each new folded signature added.  You can also see the stack of linked stitches on the end holes. Each end hole stitch is attached by looping it through the stitch below it. 
I used bulldog clips to further press the whole stack
 for a few hours and tugged the tape snug .  
To hold the tapes down on the outsides of the text block I have just made, I used PVA glue to add a piece of thin linen fabric to each side.  This is actually a folded strip of handkerchief linen, because I want a neater folded edge to show near the exposed spine.
 The spine with the glued linen strips was shielded with parchment paper to keep it from sticking to everything and pressed between the boards with the bulldog clips again.

Here is the whole stitched book.  You can see how many of the pages are full size but there are heavy watercolor paper strips and all kinds of other things in there.  I hope that running into the different papers is a good challenge to inspire me to try different techniques and approaches all year.

Sometimes staring at another blank page just sends me into a creative straight-jacket!

This looks pretty inspiring to me now.
The spine is really flexible and pretty.  You can see the tapes glued down under the strips of fabric front and back.

Covers are glued to folded endpapers inside the front and back page.
The covers I have were reclaimed from another journal with really cheap, absorbent and yucky recycled paper.  Everything I did on that paper just smeared and wrinkled and made me feel helpless.  I was so glad when I realized the problem was mostly the pulpy paper!!

These covers are 10"x 7" with holes from a spiral binding.  I haven't decided yet what to do about the holes.  They could have beads stitched into them or ribbons laced through them, but that will make it hard to shelve this journal later.  I don't have to decide about the cover today.  Eventually it will be covered with a brown striped silk book cover paper I have.

You can find great instructions step by step for making bound and stitched books at T. J. Bookarts.

If you are doing the 52 Weeks of Pagan Art Journaling this year, please leave your link for me to go see it!