Friday, November 28, 2008

Holiday Shopping: Support Your Local Artist!

Winter, collage
Available on Etsy

Today is the day. The day of the year where retailers hope to go "into the black." I have a proposal for you, though: Rather than getting into your car, burning gas, and fighting crowds to buy some mass-produced item for the one you love, why not purchase a one-of-a-kind original (or limited edition) for that special person on your shopping list?

Do you have a friend/neighbor/family member who works as an artist or craftsperson? If yes, please give THEM the business! If you're starved for artist relationships, then check out; and you'll be surprised at the number and varitey of art & craft items available.

I belong to a group of online-selling artists--all women--and one of the ladies in our group, Sharon Shubert, has put together a gallery of works that are available for purchase through Etsy. To see what's available from the Worldwide Women Artists Online (WWAO) group, check out Sharon's "Christmas Shopping With WWAO" page, go to her website. The page is updated daily, so go back often and refresh the page!

Here Comes the Sun, Ceramic & Copper Wire
Available on Etsy

And don't forget to buy something for yourself! Happy Shopping!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Heartfelt Sympathies for Barack Obama

I just learned that Barack Obama's grandmother, 85-year old Madelyn Dunham, has passed away. My heart just breaks for him and his family.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Miss Gertrude Pumpernickel, The Mummy

This week's classes are the last before Halloween, and I want the kids to do a project that will combine fun with art history (of course, I ALWAYS think art history is fun!). I absolutely love the mummies from Faiyum. I'm also fascinated by grave goods that are found in archaeological digs throughout the world. The objects included with the deceased often tell a story.

This week, we're going to make mummies, and include grave goods with them. Actually, we'll cut the "goods" from magazines and paste them all over the mummy. I'll also encourage each student to create a story about the mummy they've created. Since I like to have a sample work for the kids to see, I'd like you to meet Miss Gertrude Pumpernickel.

The Mummy of Miss Gertrude Pumpernickel, front (above) and back (below).
Cardboard, tissue paper, magazine cut outs, newspaper, glue

This is the mummy of Miss Gertrude Pumpernickel. Among her grave goods, archaeologists found the following:

1. Her favorite chair, where she would spend hours and hours; either reading, or gazing out the window to check for changing weather patterns.

2. Her little dog, Fruit Loop; who was a constant and loyal companion.

3. Her favorite meal of all time: sushi. Especially the California and avocado rolls.

4. A cameo brooch; her most sentimental possession, which had been handed down through the generations. It originally belonged to her great-great-great-great Grandmother,
Beulah Pumpernickel.

5. Chocolate chip cookies, because she always felt that a meal wasn’t complete unless it was followed by dessert.

6. Her Mini Cooper, which she nicknamed “Zoom.” She had saved for years and years, and purchased it only a week (to the day!) before her sad and untimely death.

7. Her favorite boot. She only had one leg, but that didn’t slow her down. Every other Saturday night she went out “one stepping” with her friends. Actually, her friends only knew how to do the “two step,” but that’s beside the point.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ex Voto: Miss Frida

Two days a week, I teach art and culture to 1st through 6th graders. During this semester, we'll cover a total of four different cultures. The first one we learned about was Native Americans. Then we moved to Mexico. While studying our unit on Mexico, I told the kids about Ex Votos (thanks paintings), and about their significance in Mexican culture.

I've learned that the best way to get the kids started on a project is to do one myself. So, for our "Mexico project," I created this Ex Voto to share with the class.

Ex Voto: Miss Frida, Crayon and Sharpie Marker, 12" x 9"

The kids in my class come from a varitey of backgrounds (and religions), so I try to "neutralize" each project as much as possible. For my Ex Voto, I left out the requisite diety (or saint), and just expressed thanks for my adorable little sidekick, Miss Frida.

I had so much fun with this project, that I created a second one . . . which ISN'T pictured here, because it's a gift for my Mom, and I don't want her to see it before she's able to receive it via U.S. Mail. Perhaps I'll post it later, though . . .

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Glass Fusing 101

For the longest time I've wanted to learn glass fusing. Well, recently I had the opportunity to take a class, and it was so much fun. Following are a couple of pieces that I made, and I look forward to making more in the coming weeks and months.

Kandinsky, 2008. Fused glass, 4" x 4" x 3/8"

The first one, above, is called Kandinsky (for obvious reasons!). I love the combination of color and linear elements.

Sunny Day, below, just makes me smile every time I look at it. It reminds me of a bright, warm sunny day . . . the smell of freshly cut grass . . . flowers in bloom . . . and nature filling every inch of space around me.

Sunny Day, 2008. Fused glass, 6 1/4" x 6 1/4" x 1/4"

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Revisiting the Rag Rug

I love rag rugs. They remind me of being in 1st grade, when we were each instructed to bring one in for "nap time." The only thing is, if any of us actually fell asleep, we were sent to the nurse's office, and then promptly sent home. I guess they figured that 1st graders are only truly "healthy" when they're awake and being boisterous.

Honestly, the rag rug didn't offer enough cushion for me to get that comfortable, so sleep was always out of the question. However, we were required to be quiet during this time, so I would keep my mind occupied by studying the rug's pattern, counting the number of rows, and memorizing the order that the colors were laid down. Every time I see a rag rug now, I think of 1st grade.

Rag Rug Basket, Rags and Cane

I have a rag rug. Actually, I have two. One of them is brand new (only about $2.50 at Target!). The other is at least 20 years old, and has been washed so many times that it won't lay flat any more, and some of the "rows" were beginning to migrate out and away from the others. Clearly, it is due for retirement, so I gave the straying rows a gentle tug, and they easily slipped out. Then I followed suit with the rest, and continued until I had a pile of "rags." They're so pretty, and I'm way to sentimental to just toss them. So, I turned them into a basket. In fact, I probably have enough left over to make a second basket. And now, I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for old rag rugs. Perhaps a trip to the second hand store is in order!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Chaotic Lives of Bramble Pickers

Employment (and unemployment) is a subject that's often discussed here at home. We also talk about the pros and cons of various types of jobs, the best places to work, and reasonable vs. unreasonable commute times and distances.

Recently, while re-watching one of my favorite Britcoms, we all got a hearty laugh about a skit that takes place in an employment office. The "job seekers" had just learned that, of all the jobs that existed in that area, they were only qualified to be either babysitters or bramble pickers. Imagine that.

The Chaotic Lives of Bramble Pickers, Cut Twigs and Yarn

Well, as someone who teaches 1st through 6th graders two days a week, I often feel like a babysitter. So, in my search for a second part-time job, I need to consider other options. Which got me to thinking: what do you suppose goes on in the lives of bramble pickers? What is a typical day like? I'm guessing it's rather chaotic. Kind of like this woven sculpture.

The Chaotic Lives of Bramble Pickers, Cut Twigs and Yarn (detail)

While working on this piece, I thought about chaos and job seekers, and about the hardships of certain jobs (like being a bramble picker--whatever that might entail!).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Miss Frida, The Portrait (Part II)

After posting the first image of Frida's portrait, I attached the (somewhat flimsy) page to a heavier paper, in order to give the entire thing more strength. Then, I applied oil pastels to the work, to define the color better (make it look more like her). Afterward, I used turpentine to blend the colors.

The result makes me smile :)

Miss Frida, The Portrait

For the past couple of weeks I've been working on a mosaic of Miss Frida. It started with a photo of her, enlarged to letter size, and printed out in grayscale. Then, I went through a stack of magazines, searching for the right colors. Once I found them, I cut the preferred colors into tiny squares. With my big pile of colored mosaic squares, I was able to finally begin work on Frida's mosaic portrait.

For reference, I printed out a second photo (same size) to use while working on the mosaic. This was necessary because, once the mosaic squares begin to cover the page, I needed a photo to refer to--to see where shadows fell, the pattern of her spots, etc.

The result was this very "rough" portrait of Frida. Now that I have this much done, I'll apply some oil pastels to soften the image a bit. It'll be interesting to see what she looks like when I'm finally done!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cradles of Hope: Motherland

The Cradle Project book is available online. Many of the photos inside (including the following one) were taken by Addison Doty of Santa Fe, NM.

During the past year, something monumental and wonderful happened. Artists from around the world donated cradles for The Cradle Project; an event that raised money for orphans in Africa--children whose lives have been devastated by AIDS. More than 500 artists participated, and I'm honored to have been one of them.

My cradle, Motherland, is pictured above. I wanted to use local materials, but also wanted to capture the essence of Africa. To that end, I used cholla cactus skeletons, gathered from our land in northern New Mexico (local materials). Attached to the cholla skeletons is a "found" (recycled from the roadside) basket. And finally, the elements were pulled together with whisper grass; evocative of the materials used for costumes in the masquerade ceremonies that are so common in Sub-Saharan Africa. The dynamic arrangement of the cactus skeletons, dressed up with the whisper grass, gives a sense of movement--perhaps dance. And yet, the multiple wrapping and coiling of grasses at the top, along with the securely attached basket in the middle, implies strength and safety.

To see more cradles, and to purchase a copy of the books (for a mere $25!), please visit:

Monday, August 18, 2008

Finger Labyrinths, Part Three

All three of the following finger labyrinths were made from red clay, and glazed in colbalt blue. On some of the raised edges, a hint of red clay comes though--an effect that I particularly like.

The first one was beaded with a combination of blue and white plastic beads, and a porcelain Chinese blue & white bead depicting a bird.

Just below, the labyrinth is finished with turquoise seed beads, pieces of turquoise, and a single wooden square, colbalt blue bead; picking up on the color of the glaze, and the shape of the turquoise.

Finally, this last labyrinth has a blue & white porcelain Chinese bird bead, a single blue wooden bead, and a small loop of blue and white seed beads, with a tiny touch of red (for activation).

This gorgeous color of blue represents water which, in turn, represents prosperity. While creating these, I imagined prosperity for anyone who used them.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Finger Labyrinths, Part Two

This color of green is one of my absolute favorites. It reminds me of a granny smith apple, or the new growth on a plant. It's so fresh looking. It's bright and energetic, and yet calming at the very same time. The perfect balance of yin and yang.

These three finger labyrinths all represent those qualities . . . freshness, bright, calming, growth, sustenance, balance, and energy. The middle labyrinth is finished with seed beads and a circle of jade, which is considered very lucky.

The first and third labyrinths are both finished with a combination of elements: gaspeite, mother of pearl, and small wooden beads.

Green is the combination of yellow and blue. Yellow represents communication and expressiveness--a very happy color. Blue stands for intelligence and responsibility. This resulting color is very loving and humanistic.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Finger Labyrinths, Part One

I started making "finger labyrinths" a few years ago. I call them finger labyrinths because they fit in the palm of the hand, and the grooves are just the perfect size for the tip of one's finger. The idea behind these was that they would serve a person who was away from home, and wanted or needed to step outside their mind for a little while. Perhaps they were stuck in traffic, and feeling a little hot under the collar. Or maybe they were at work, and feeling too "blah" to do anything productive.

This first labyrinth will cure the blahs! Red is the color for energy, and both black and white are "activation" colors--they activate the red and make it more powerful. As I was creating this particular labyrinth, I concentrated on energy and strength; imbuing it with power.

This second labyrinth represents the other side of the spectrum. This is for someone who is feeling anxious or agitated--someone who needs to calm down. What could be more calming than the color of the sea or sky? And, to keep things grounded, I added an Earth element--turquoise.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Olympics' Inspiration

If you caught the opening ceremony of the Olympics, you've undoubtedly seen (and fell in love with!) the Birds Nest Stadium. What an incredible work of art! I admire the way it resembles the random-weave Asian baskets.

Well, it took nearly an entire day, but I finally figured out, or rather remembered, how to create the hexagonal design that serves as a base for the random weave baskets, then continued with my weaver to create this Bird's Nest inspired snake basket.

Mud Puppy

Mud Puppy refers not to the salamander-type water creatures, but rather to my own love of playing in the dirt. Whether it's digging in the garden, making adobe bricks, or squishing my hands into a deliciously cool blob of clay, I consider myself a mud puppy.

While this mask is finished in acrylics and wood beads, it reflects the colors of my favorite clays. The clay body underneath the paint is actually white, which I would usually cover with glaze. But for this particular work, it begged to look like the clays that inspired its creation.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Walking the Labyrinth

Those of you who know me well know that I've been a bit obsessed with labyrinths for a number of years. Back when we lived in New Mexico, my dream was to build a huge labyrinth that I could use for walking meditation. It was also going to be a place where friends and family could escape to . . .

. . . And it was going to look like this, but on a mammoth scale. Well, I never quite got around to making it, though I did make quite a few smaller labyrinths while living there. These, for instance. The three photos that you see here are all table-top sized labyrinths. They started with a single one, which I took many weeks making. Once I finished it, and fired it, I made a mould from it, which I use to press clay into.

Now, it might seem like I've got a mass-production thing going on here, but let me assure you that that's not the case. Even though I'm able to use my mould to create more, each one requires a great deal of time to make--cleaning them up, burnishing the surface, etc. Sometimes I think it might be quicker to start each one from scratch, but then I went to all the trouble to make a mould, so I intend to use it! Besides, it's not about how quickly I can accomplish a thing. It's about the process. And I enjoy taking the time with each one.

While I realize that the objective of this blog is to post NEW works, these kind of feel like "new" to me, because they've been packed away for so long. I'll list these on my Etsy shop, just as soon as I get around to opening it!

Tomorrow I'll post photos of even smaller labyrinths. Be sure to come back! :)

Friday, August 8, 2008


Meditation is a mask made from low-fire earthenware, and finished with acrylic and beads.

She's not meditating about anything in particular--just trying to get back into touch with her true self. She represents the last of the masks, at least for now.

Tomorrow I'll post photos of some labyrinths that I recently finished.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Anxious About Open Water

Have you ever taken a trip to the ocean; dreamed of getting back in touch with your soul through the pull of the waves, smell of salty air, and the call of seagulls overhead? You arrived, shook open your over-sized towel, let it fall flat to the sand, then perched your umbrella nearby for shade. Kicking off your sandals, you let your toes sink into the warm sand while closing your eyes and taking a deep breath of fresh ocean air. All your senses converge. Life is good.

Then you take a stroll to the water's edge, enjoy the contrast of warm sand and cool water. Little sea critters squirrel down into the sand almost before you can catch a glimpse of them. Life surrounds you. It stretches out in front of you, deep within the ocean's depths. You feel energized. You wade out into the water; the weight of it slows your progress, while beckoning you forward. The water is cold--an instant cure for the heat of the Sun. Just a little further, and you'll be immersed in its perfection, wrapped up in it's cool comfort.

Anxious About Open Water
Acrylic over earthenware, mixed beads

Finally, there you are. Surrounded by liquid nature. Every pore of your skin feels its wetness, its coolness. But then your skin feels something else. What was that? It just brushed by you for an instant, but it was definitely something.

Suddenly, you're feeling Anxious About Open Water.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Medicine Woman

The following mask, Medicine Woman, was finished with hemp and jute, and a small assortment of beads. The face is made from low-fire earthenware, and burnished. There is no glaze applied--just the natural color of the clay.

Originally, she was going to be called something else entirely (having to do with dreams). But, once I applied her hair and beads, she reminded me of the shamans and healers from sub-Saharan Africa, and those of Native America. So now she's a Medicine Woman. I toyed with the idea of calling her Sleeping Shaman, but upon closer inspection I realized that she's not sleeping at all. She's actually meditating, or in deep thought--perhaps about a cure of some kind.

I just started a book by Lori Arviso Alvord, M.D. It's called The Scapel and the Silver Bear: The First Navajo Woman Surgeon Combines Western Medicine and Traditional Healing. It'll be interesting to see how, and if, the book inspires any new art.

I'm also in the process of putting together lesson plans for the classes that start in a couple of weeks. The first unit of "Cultures of the World" will focus on Native American art and life. This book should give me an additional resource to draw from. Alvord writes about the role of song in healing. They're called "chantways" among the Dine (Navajo). How wonderful. Music certainly always makes me feel better!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Here Comes the Sun

I absolutely love the show, CBS Sunday Morning. It's one of the few TV programs that I've consistently watched during my lifetime. Another is Jeopardy. Other than those two faves (and BBC World News, because it's nice to hear an objective accounting of what's going on around us!), I don't really watch much television. It's just too boring for me to devote precious time to; I'd rather be making art!

So, that said, it's not often that I'm inspired by anything I see on TV. However, I always look forward to the "Sun" artwork that's featured at the end of the Sunday Morning show. I often feel inspired to create art after seeing the weekly "solar addition" to the CBS gallery. Over the course of my lifetime, I've probably sketched 100 or more Suns. Only recently have I made 3-D Suns, both from clay. Above is a large version of Here Comes the Sun. Below is a small one.

The larger one is made from low-fire earthenware, glazed, and finished with jute. The smaller one--from the same clay--is painted with acrylics, and finished with copper wire and small wooden beads. That inspirational 1960s song, Here Comes the Sun, kept playing in my mind while working on these. Hence, the title of the works.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bird Spirit

This mask was inspired by feathers--the spotted ones hanging on either side. It's also, to a lesser degree, inspired by Native American art--art that portrays the natural world.

To that end, I've titled this mask Bird Spirit. One might find it interesting that the eyes are decidedly front and center--indicating a "predator," rather than "prey" type of bird. That's the human connection at work, since we humans see forward . . . as do other predators. Even so, this mask is not predatory in nature, but encompasses other qualities of the bird spirit; curiosity, freedom-loving, and perseverance. For anyone who has dreams of flying, or a general love of birds, Bird Spirit becomes a kindred soul.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Bad Hair Day

That funny looking face up at the top is called Bad Hair Day, and is one of the latest masks I've completed. Made of low-fire clay, fired and glazed, and finished with seed beads and sequins, it's almost a self-portrait of me, first thing in the morning.

The past few days, I've had some "down time." Soon I'll be busy teaching, but for now I'm going to focus on my art. Specifically, I'm going to focus on completing some masks that I started a while back. Stay tuned for more!