October 11, 2018

Soul Salve

"It is a gross misunderstanding to imagine warfare as endemic to the human condition."
- Marija Gimbutas, from the preface to The Civilization of the Goddess: The World of Old Europe*
Reading those words Tuesday, as well as the entirely of Preface: What Is Civilization? by anthropologist and archeologist Marija Gimbutas, was a much needed breath of fresh air. A deep, cleansing, releasing breath. 

Examining "the way of life, religion, and social structures of the peoples who inhabited Europe from the 7th to the 3rd millennia B.C." Gimbutas asserts:
Widespread fighting and fortification building have indeed been the way of life for most of our direct ancestors from the Bronze Age up until now. However, this was not the case in the Paleolithic and Neolithic. There are no depictions of arms (weapons used against other humans) in Paleolithic cave paintings, nor are there remains of weapons used by man against man during the Neolithic of Old Europe. From some hundred and fifty paintings that survived at Çatal Hüyük, there is not one depicting a scene of conflict or fighting, or of war or torture.
No warfare, no conflict. Village sites chosen for "convenient setting, good water and soil, and availability of animal pastures," rather than defensible or inaccessible positions. Further, no images "have been found of a Father God throughout the prehistoric record." 
The religion of the Goddess reflected a matristic, matrilineal, and endogamic social order for most of early human history. This was not necessarily "matriarchy," which wrongly implies "rule" by women as a mirror image of androcracy. A matrifocal tradition continued throughout the early agricultural societies of Europe, Anatolia, and the Near East, as well as Minoan Crete. The emphasis in these cultures was on technologies that nourished people's lives, in contrast to the androcratic focus on domination.
Set aside any judgements about Gimbutas's research, and just imagine that for a moment. Culture focused on nourishing the lives of all its citizens rather than a society of division, stratification, hierarchy, and domination. This. This concept/struggle/desire, in a freakin' nutshell, has been the driving force of my art practice for nearly 30 years (which is as long as I have had an art practice).  

I could say, Marija Gimbutas, where have you been all of my life?!?! But, actually, I remember having one of her books on goddesses in my collection during my first year of art school. I had several books on the Goddess and goddesses. I no longer have any of them on my shelves. I can't remember passing them along, nor why I had them to begin with. Did I purchase them? Were they gifts? I can't recall ever poring over them. I'm sure I didn't turn to them for inspiration (as I am wont to do now). What seems likely to me, not that it matters or is of interest to anyone other than me, is that I bought those goddess books for the sole purpose of finding the meaning of Sheela-na-Gig. (I've mentioned this before, under the MUSIC heading in this post). Once sussed, I never really gave the books another glance.

Full circle, eh?

*All quotes in this post are from:
Gimbutas, Marija. The Civilization of the Goddess: The World of Old Europe. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.

August 28, 2018

Distracted Deliberateness

I have not abandoned this space, dear readers. What began as silence due to distraction - complete inability to focus on anything from reading a single book to studio work to cooking meals to you name it - changed with reading these words:
". . . the more he talked about the book he wasn't writing, the harder it became to actually write."
- from Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Avoiding this space due to distraction became deliberate silence. Rather than talking here about the ideas I have for work - work that I haven't begun - I am choosing to not talk. And rather than talking about it, I have been able to begin. Which I find fascinating. Perhaps more musings on that in the future, but, for now, the silence shall continue. Deliberately.

July 26, 2018

Anger as Fuel for Creativity

I am angry, people. Raging angry. These days, it seems to me that anger gets a bad rap. The bad rap is attached to the (mistaken) interpretation of anger as a violent action or as justification for destruction. Anger is an emotion, plain and simple. It is not action. It is not impetus. It is a feeling.

But far too often, and too often whipped up by sensationalist media stories, anger is equated with hatred, bigotry, close-minded judgement, and any number of destructive beliefs and/or behaviors that are employed as crutches to supposedly justify and explain rude, disrespectful, threatening, and/or violent actions. I do not subscribe to this understanding of anger. Rather, as poet David Whyte describes in Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, anger is:
the deepest form of compassion, for another, for the world, for the self, for a life, for a family and for all our ideals, all vulnerable and all, possibly about to be hurt. Stripped of physical imprisonment and violent reaction, anger is the purest form of care, the internal living flame of anger always illuminates what we belong to, what we wish to protect and what we are willing to hazard ourselves for.
My internal living flame of anger was stoked mightily by my recent reading of Judy Chicago's Through the Flower: My Struggle as a Woman Artist. First published in 1975, I expected the material to be dated.  I was unpleasantly surprised by how relevant the book remains. The institutionalized chauvinism, sexism, and phallocentricity that Chicago describes so thoroughly infuriated me, I had trouble sleeping for weeks. I seethed anger. My anger roiled into resentment.

When I took a step back and was able to identify the resentment, I realized it was clouding my anger. My resentment was pure negativity. It served no useful purpose. In fact, it blocked the channels, established long ago in my studio practice, that funnel my anger into creative work. With effort, I consciously and purposefully released my resentment.

And then, the a-ha! moment. Resentment banished, yet still angry, I read a short piece in Womankind magazine that focused my anger and provided a new avenue for creative work - ecofeminism. As described by Antonia Case in "Ecofeminism" (Womankind #16, pp 20-21):
French writer Françoise d'Eaubonne coined a term in the 1970s called ecofeminism, which examines the relationship between the exploitation of nature and the position of women in society, believing that there is a link that warrants further examination. D'Eaubonne argued that the ecological disaster we face is a result of a patriarchal system that treats nature as a resource to be used and exploited - dominated and controlled - rather than a precious reserve to be given the space and means to flourish.
I'm hooked. My anger has a focus, and a potential outlet in new work. While I plan to continue to make yoni pieces and work that celebrates, venerates, the feminine, I can't deny the part of me that gets fired up and energized by anger. Anger, for me, is a creative tool. Anger is inspiration. Anger is fodder for art. As David Whyte puts it, my anger truly does illuminate what I belong to, what I wish to protect, and what I am willing to hazard myself for. The form of expression I use for it is my art work, anger as creation rather than destruction.

July 12, 2018

Powerful, Poderosa

You've probably had enough of me banging on about how much I love O-Wool, everything from the yarns, the humane and ecological sourcing practices, the ecological dyeing practices to the low-impact packaging and reusable, recyclable shipping materials. And I may have mentioned just once or twice that O-Wool is located practically in my back yard. Well. I had such a treat today. Jocelyn, the woman that is everything O-Wool, graciously allowed me to come to her office/warehouse to pick out yarn in person.
Photo credit: © Jen Lucas
Image source: https://o-wool.com/collections/patterns-cowls-scarves-shawls/products/poderosa
It all started with the monthly O-Wool email in my inbox, headed by the gorgeous shawl Poderosa designed by Jen Lucas. My thinking runaway brain went something like this:
Oh wow! That's beautiful.
Oooh. Look at all those beautiful suggested colorways of O-Wash fingering.
What's it called? Ponderosa? No. It's Poderosa. What's poderosa?
is a Spanish feminine adjective meaning POWERFUL.
Really!?!?!?! I HAVE to make this. NOW. Have to.
It's light and airy lace. Surely that wouldn't be too hot to knit in the heat of summer.
Oh man, what colors do I want to use?
I wonder if O-Wool offers local pick-up to save on packaging and transportation?

So I asked. Not only did Jocelyn readily agree, she suggested I pick out my colors in person. It was great to meet her and ask how she got into the business and get a behind-the-scenes tour of O-Wool, a place that before now only existed for me in cyberspace. Thank you, Jocelyn!

P.S. The colors I chose are pictured at the top. Two skeins of Green Ash for the main color, and one skein each of Feldspar and Hemlock for the accent stripes.

June 14, 2018


Spinning, spinning, spinning. Spinning my wheels without traction. Unlike spinning car tires in snow or mud, I don't feel like I'm uselessly digging myself in deeper, making a rut into which the wheels will be hopelessly stuck. Rather, it's akin to spinning on oil. Ceaseless spinning, no purchase, no hook. That's the obstacle to my art making of late. But, much like turning in circles, the view keeps repeating. The repeating ideas, the ones I keep circling back to, just might provide a little sand under the slick tires. Perhaps just enough to gain traction, traction that will build into momentum, momentum that will blossom into movement. 
In the meantime, I did buckle down and begin a muslin of Shirt No. 1. I'm very proud of my bias binding. It doesn't make for a dynamic photo, but it makes me feel good to look at it. I've never made nor sewn with bias binding before now. Every set of instructions I've read over the years about how to make it left me flummoxed. The words just didn't add up to pictures of it in my head. Same this time round, but I leapt in anyway, hopeful that the actual physicality of following the directions would pan out. So far, so good. I have yet to sew my binding to the neckline of the shirt - those instructions make even less sense in my head than making the binding itself - but once it cools down enough that I can handle the fabric without sweating all over it, I'm ready to try.
Not intentional, but now that I noticed I have to mention this. Spinning my wheels as a metaphor for my inability to settle down and focus on making new art? Couldn't be more appropriate. I rode the train into Center City last week for the first time in ages. Gave myself the day off to wander, follow my curiosities as they arose. Regardless, on the 20 minute train ride - literally moving along on spinning wheels - I worked through some of those ideas I keep circling back to. I couldn't move my hand over the sketchbook pages fast enough to keep up with my brain.

With one fully-developed idea in place, but uncertain how to execute it, I headed to my creative reuse center (Resource Exchange) to hunt for a specific, discontinued yarn that I'd like to continue to use. (My dwindling stockpile dates to the early 90's. Anyone have a source for natural/unbleached 100% crochet cotton, size 10, that is NOT mercerized? The only stuff I can find has that mercerized sheen. I'm looking for something without sheen, thin and strong enough to use as embroidery floss.) I didn't find what I went in search of, but I did snap up 3 yards of surplus fabric that very well could be just the thing I need to execute one of the train riding brainwaves, spinning wheels and all. 

With that perspective, perhaps spinning my wheels isn't so bad. Perhaps spinning my wheels is where I need to be right now. And perhaps the way to get traction isn't to beat myself up for spinning, but to spin faster and take lots of notes. (And then, of course, JUST GET STARTED, my perpetual sticking point.)

May 31, 2018

Stacking and Unstacking

I'm a stacker. Give me a surface, I create a stack. Fabric, bills, papers to be filed, books to read, you name it. I do not particularly like this habit of mine. I'd prefer that I file the papers instead of merely stacking them. I guess for me stacking is the first step in the process. It requires sorting like with like, making each group into it's own like minded stack. The issue for me is then the stacks sit, neglected. Sometimes they continue to grow, or, more often, I forget what the unifying theme of the stack was at the time I created it. So I unstack it, resort it into new stacks. Sometimes this sort and stack activity gives me illusion of accomplishment. Most times I see through it as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. And yet, I still do it.

With the completion of Year of Yoni, this is where I find myself. Without the structure, the expectation, the commitment to produce one piece a week, I am spinning my wheels. Creating stacks of potential projects to "get to at some point," rather than actually working on a project. Sure, I've been using the sewing machine now that it is accessible, but I'm not making art. And while it is satisfying to whip up a pillow cover for the couch or curtains for the kitchen, it's not the same gratification, engagement, challenge, problem solving, experimentation, self expression, curiosity and energy boost that I experience when making art.
I am truly puzzled at this resistance in myself to begin new work. Am I avoiding it for a particular reason? Does the reason even matter? Why not just P-U-S-H and get started? I don't know. Art's not happening, but movement is inching along with the house. This movement could be due to art avoidance, but I'll take it. Movement is good. And how fun is this? The fabric on the pillow cover pictured above is called "Laurie's Leaf." I've had this upholstery scrap for at least 8 years and never once noticed the name. 
After writing recently about choosing a soft color for the now super brightly lit studio, I reconsidered my dark and dramatic color choices for the living room. While I love the dark aqua blue and believe the room would look fantastic painted that color, it's not a room I want to live in. It's a room I would admire in an architectural magazine, much like I love the minimal, crisp and clean atmosphere of Scandinavian rooms in all white and blond wood. I love that look, but it's not something I want to live with. Regardless, the color choice for the living room is now the soft green pictured in the center above. Behr color lemon mint.
And speaking of green, I decided to salvage the chalky, too yellowy, somewhat fluorescent green I ill-advisedly purchased for the kitchen. I mixed in much of the two dark aqua samples from the living room. I like the result. It may just get used in the kitchen after all. The yellowy green on the left is the original paint color, the cactus painted over it is the new mix.
And while I continue to change my mind about paint, I have settled on one thing. Shirt No. 1 by Sonya Philip of 100 Acts of Sewing is the first garment I am going to attempt to make for myself from scratch. The pattern arrived in the mail just now. (Hah! I thought I would turn off the computer, pull out some muslin, iron, and get started on the shirt, but then I linked to Sonya Philip's website and looked what I found there: the felt cervix project! Perhaps with this inspiration art will happen today in Laurie Land after all.)

May 24, 2018


Collar frayed to the point to disintegration, armpit holes you could drive a truck through, even the patched bleach-spot holes have holes. But I love this shirt. I don't know why, but I find the dinosaur chasing the fleeing vegetables stupidly hilarious. So, we have project #1 to get reacquainted with the ol' sewing machine.
First, I turned the kelly green dino shirt inside-out, taped it to a sunny window, and traced around the image with a chalk pencil (you can just make out the yellow chalk lines in the pic above). Then I cut out the front of the kelly green shirt, including the arm seams and collar. After ironing and turning the dark green shirt inside-out, I sprayed the front with washable adhesive. Then, carefully, I matched the kelly green shirt's collar and arm seams with the dark green shirt's and smoothed it onto the tacky adhesive.
Using a ballpoint needle and wide zigzag stitch, I ever-so-slowly stitched around the chalk line.
Then turned everything right-side-out and, breath held, snipped into the dark green shirt and peeled it away from the adhesive. I trimmed as close to the stitch line as I comfortably could, and then made a second pass with the zigzag stitch, all the way around the cut edge, this time from the front. Oh, yeah, I also trimmed the kelly green shirt to within about a half-inch of the stitches.
Ta-dah! New shirt that can comfortably be worn in public. In polite company, even. 
One last move. Instead of my usual jotting down of stitch length and gauge and whatever else I think might be helpful on whatever tiny scrap of paper or envelope or bill that might be handy (which history proves will disappear as soon as I go looking for it), I actually wrote down what I did in a notebook. Imagine. Having all my sewing notes and ideas for improvement in one place. Something that can be located and referred to later. Crazy, I know. With 3 more t-shirt revivals on deck, these notes will be useful. I mean, I am pretty good at this point in my life at reinventing the wheel every. single. time. I make something. But I'm thinking that maybe, just maybe, there might be a more efficient and less maddening way to proceed. The jury is out.