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Wild Sage Discoveries

Starting the New Year

For over ten years on January 1st I have formed my personal intentions for the new year.  In keeping with this tradition this year one of my intentions is to post on my blog at least once a month. So here’s my January post just in time!

Living the single life

My life has changed a lot.  Now I am a “committee of one” – a role that I reluctantly have taken on.  It’s so much easier when there is someone present to be witness for each other and to share in decisions.   Ever since I read the book “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo, I’ve been making an effort to simplify my life.  Part of this is driven by the aging process – I am being forced to simplify in order to cope with changes in my physical strength, stamina, memory and ability to focus.  I’ve discovered there are real benefits to slowing down and enjoying the moment.  Having too many choices can be immobilizing.  I’m doing things that make me happy whenever possible.   Big projects cause me stress and anxiety.  I’m finding that accomplishing little projects bring me great pleasure.

I made the decision to refocus my art-making on drawing and sketching, casual watercolor and stitching.  All of these activities offer potential for creative expression but are portable and don’t take up a lot of space. I’m no longer submitting my work for juried shows or taking intensive art classes that go on for days.  I’m limiting my travel to short trips of 3 or 4 days mainly to visit my sister.  And I’ve discovered on-line classes that I can take at my own pace.

 

Self Care

This refocus has allowed me to be more involved with taking  care of myself through exercise and good health practices.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that even tho I live alone I enjoy putting time and effort into food preparation.  After Ed died, I expected that this would be a chore.  Instead it has become a creative adventure.  Recently I’ve started to ferment veggies to make my own probiotic foods. I’ve had fun developing original recipes that give me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.  I’ve started attending a regular Feldenkrais class that has helped my lower back become stronger.  I’m even getting a monthly facial- something I had never done before.  I’ve begun going to the movies by myself and enjoying it!!!  I plan to continue this blog but I expect to be writing more about my new life as an active and creative “crone”!!!  and sharing it with you.

An Encounter with the Flu

One of the big challenges this month was dealing with the flu. This was traumatic as I seldom get sick and Ed wasn’t here to take care of me!  For years I have gotten a flu shot and this year was no exception.  But the day after New Years I realized that I had the flu.  Granted it was a mild case but it kept me down for eleven days!  I discovered some interesting alternative treatments on-line that seemed to help moderate my symptoms.  I learned that oregano oil is both an antiviral and antibiotic!  Fortunately I had some on hand and so I put several drops on a spoonful of yogurtand gulped it down fast.   Ugh – tastes terrible but I did it for several days and feel that it knocked out that virus.   (Next time I’ll use oregano oil capsules.)

I developed an ugly chest cough which I treated with Ricola cough drops and Sambucus (elderberry syrup)  I drank camomile tea with ginger, honey, lemon and 3 fresh basil leaves.  Water was my best friend and my hydration goal was to drink a half cup every hour.  On the eleventh day I woke up without coughing so I pronounced myself cured and took a walk around the park to celebrate.  Just last week I read that golden kiwi fruit is being successfully used as a flu“treatment”.  There is documented evidence that if one eats three a day when they first have the flu symptoms the virus is killed within three days.

It’s too bad family doctors don’t offer these kinds of alternative treatments for colds and flu.  Of course I don’t know if my self-determined approach cured me,  but my on-line research alerted me to these alternatives, and I believe they prevented me from landing up in the hospital with pneumonia.  Three cheers for the internet.

On-line Classes

I’ve been taking a most enjoyable and interesting on-line class with Australian sketchbook artist, Liz Steele (www.sketchingnow.com).  Her training is as an architect, but her love of rendering has made her a highly regarded Urban Sketching Teacher.  She has developed unique and original approaches for sketchbooking.  I’m taking her newest class “Watercolor Sketching” and learning how to work fast and juicy!  I’ve had to “unlearn” some “bad” habits and I’m enjoying the results.  Here are two versions of an assignment she gave us – working juicy – one wet on wet and the other waiting for paint to dry before painting the adjacent areas. Each painting was done in about 5 minutes!   I’m only half-way through the class.  The first two weeks focused on painting skills and soon we will be adding drawing to the formula.

I’ve also enrolled in two on-line photography classes, which focus on developing skills using iPhone apps and working with digital photos to create composite art.  There are so many interesting classes one can find on the internet.  I  never got involved until I took a class this past year on creating mandalas as a spiritual practice.

Happy Making Activities

Kale and Garlic Soup

2 slices bacon, chopped

6 cloves garlic sliced (or grated)

4 – 5 cups finely chopped kale – no thick stems

1 quart of chicken broth (I like Costco’s brand)

Place bacon in a 2-3 quart saucepan and render the fat over low heat.

Add the garlic and cook gently (don’t brown)

Pour in the broth and add the kale.

Bring to a boil and lower the heat to simmer.

Cook 30 minutes or until the kale is nice and soft.

Fresh Flowers

When Ed was alive he often brought home fresh flowers.  I miss his little gifts of love, so in his honor I almost always have fresh flowers or a blooming plant on the dining table.  This is the orchid I got to celebrate his 80th birthday.  Every time I pass by it or glance across the room, it brightens my spirit and makes me smile.

I share all this with you as an example of one way of creating a solitary life with a positive focus rather than being enveloped by grief and melancholy.  Our lives are impermanent  so the gift we have each day is to live as fully as possible.

To be continued next month…….

2017 – A Birthday to Remember

Another Year – Another Birthday Doll

For the past six years I have marked my birthday by creating a doll. This year was no different.  This time my doll was a co-creation because I used hands and legs that had been made years ago by a dear friend and fiber artist, Ardyce Stoops.  She died seven years ago and I was the beneficiary of some of her unfinished work.  I’m sure she is smiling at this particular result.

The Great Art Give-Away

This past Tuesday was special as I celebrated my 80th Birthday.  I decided to have a big party the day before marking the end of my 80th year.  It turned out to be one of the best days of my life.  Not wanting more “stuff” I decided to give away much of the art I’ve made since I retired 25 years ago. There were close to 200 pieces for guests to choose from – each person picked out two pieces.

Each person choose one finished piece (painting, collage, assemblage, or book) and one smaller piece (book samples, demo pieces, small hand-art pieces etc.)  I took photos of them with the art they had chosen and am planning to make a book of the photos so I’ll be able to enjoy and know where the work has “landed”!

It turned out to be a very special project because I got unexpected feedback from most of the new owners who sent me e-mails telling me what they had done with their gifts and how much they are enjoying have them in their home.

A Birthday Bonus

But there was another joyful bonus as well. When I sent out the invitation I suggested that people bring school supplies for a nearby elementary school that is populated with children from  families that have extremely limited financial resources.  Most of the teachers regularly have to buy pencils, crayons, notebooks etc with their own money.  My dear guests brought 19 bags of basic school supplies and contributed $123 to a discretionary fund I set up for the Principal!

When I delivered the “take” to the Principal this past Friday she was speechless and grateful beyond words.  She was totally surprised by the generosity of my friends.  And within the hour I received four e-mails from grateful teachers who had benefited from the bounty provided.

Maybe I’ve started a mini movement and that others will do the same!!!  Several friends have intimated that their next birthday may include some collective gifting and giving.

My sister, Barbara Wolff, traveled from her home in Santa Fe to help me with this special occasion.  Here we are with our “rosy glow” of an unforgettable celebration.

Another Birthday…Another Doll

Some of you know that for the past 5 years I’ve made a doll to celebrate my birthday.  With Ed missing, it was not a day I was looking forward to at all.  I scheduled it fully so there wasn’t a lot of time to be alone.  I spent the morning in a meeting and took a class in the afternoon and went out for dinner to co-celebrate birthdays with friends.  Came home exhausted and went directly to bed.

I started the next day and decided to make a simple “stuffie” style doll with beaded embellishment.  As a “process” artist my projects evolve and I never know at the start what the finished result will be.  I selected percale for her form which I painted with diluted acrylics. While the fabric was drying I collected fabric scraps, bits of ribbon and beads.  These included batik quilting scraps, golden organza and scraps of a grid-like fabric, magenta ribbons (from my sister’s birthday gift packages) and gold, red, magenta and green beads.

I cut out four rectangular layers (3 percale and 1 thin white felt) for the dolls body.  After setting aside one layer for the back of the doll, I made a fabric sandwich (percale, white felt, percale) and basted the layers together.  Next I drew the doll shape on to the top layer which I then machine stitched in place.  My first embellishment was to tack the golden grid fabric on the body of the doll.  After fooling around with the golden organza I decided to use it for hair as I couldn’t find a good place for it on the doll’s body.  Next came beading, then the application of the leaf shapes on the bottom of the doll, more beads and finally a face which I painted on percale and then hand-stitched in place.

I didn’t have a clear vision for the hair, and I wanted to use the organza, so I started playing and voila!  I found I was accumulating strands of hair.  I knotted them and added beads and found I had created braid-like ropes!  When I pinned them into the top of the head they fell into a unique hairdo which seemed just right.

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I fashioned a hanger from some wire and sewed it on to the back reinforced with several layers of scrap percale.  I made a 1.5” slice vertically down the back for stuffing access.  Next I pinned the back on to the top layers and machine stitched the doll around the edges several times.  Using sharp scissors, I trimmed off the excess fabric leaving about 1/8” around the outside stitching.  On the back side I ran a thin bead of PVA over the stitching so it couldn’t unravel.  The final finish of the edges involved dipping my finger into diluted acrylic paint and rubbing the exposed raw edges.  I like the way that the green paint serves to further define the edge.

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I ended by tacking her hair in place on the body as it had a mind of it’s own, going in places I did not want it to land and covering  the slit on her back with a decorative patch.

Now, it’s time to dream up a new project. In the meantime, I trust you are happily involved with your own projects and it being October I’m guessing that your fall calendar is already filled to the brim.

A Personal Update

A few weeks ago you got a notification of a new feature on my website – Ed’s photos.  His most recent work has it’s very own column and I hope you will enjoy looking at his photos. I certainly do.  He has a unique view of the world that I find exciting and provocative.

In April Ed was taken by ambulance to the hospital and diagnosed with three clogged arteries and a poorly functioning aortic valve.  It seemed like the docs would be able to fix him up but additional tests uncovered more health issues which were weakening him.  Sadly, on May 16 he left our world for a new adventure – that next big trip we all will be taking at some time in the future.  I brought his photos to my website because there will be no more new ones from Ed and I wanted to make sure some of his photos would be available for you to enjoy.133-happy-ed

Needless to say, my life has changed big time!!!!!  I am very grateful for the multitude of friends who have circled my wagon and helped me through these early stages of grief.  Now that over four months have passed, I’m beginning to find my stride and starting to make art again.  This year’s birthday doll is almost finished and ready to be revealed.  Look for my next posting.

Now I’m focusing on getting to know myself in this new capacity.  I’ve spent over 41 years of my life in partnership with Ed and now life has become a single-handed sailing experience.  It’s quite different!!!  I’m staying put for this first year, looking at how I want to spend my life.  I’ve got to simplify things and a good place to start is to get rid of stuff that isn’t being used any more.  It seems overwhelming!!!!

Being more inclined to optimism rather than pessimism, I see my future filled with potential and new experiences while I still have health and a mind that works (sort of)!!!!!  I’m clear that creativity and discovery are important elements that contribute to my happiness so they are daily objectives.  And to maintain a broad perspective, I get out every day which helps me avoid getting caught up in sadness, self pity etc..

My most important current goal is to continue to be of “service” to others and finding ways to achieve this objective is an on-going challenge.  I see this blog as one of my “service” activities – a way of sharing my ideas, discoveries, actions and accomplishments with you.  I hope you find reading it worthwhile.

love, maybelle

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A Return to Watercolor

A Return to Watercolor

When my sister, Barbara Wolff, retired a few years ago, she decided that one of the things she wanted to do was to develop her drawing and painting skills. She had been journaling for many years and had incorporated informal doodles, sketches and cartoons on her pages but they were almost always an adjunct to her writing and not at all what she considered to be artful.

I always thought her journals were quite amazing. Then she announced that she was taking a drawing class at the local community college. That class marked the beginning of a whole transformation of her art and has brought her great joy.IMG_1483

As part of her adventure she has become very involved in the urban sketching movement in Santa Fe and goes sketching multiple times each week. Her work is stunning! Every time I visit her I am motivated to start drawing and painting again, but for some reason the blank page intimidates me and I become immobilized.IMG_1490

When Jane LaFazio announced a six-week on-line class titled “Watercolor Sketchbook – Designs From Life” I decided that I should take it and see if I could move past my drawing and painting block. It’s been years since I’ve spent any quality time with my pen and my paint box and I must admit that the first assignment intimidated me big time.Roots

Now, after re-friending my tools and getting past that initial fear of failure and completing the first few assignments, I’m enjoying it once again.

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I doubt that I’ll ever devote the time to sketching that my sister does, but I am beginning to enjoy again the experience of sitting with my sketchbook and my watercolors and becoming totally involved in the experience of being present and seeing this beautiful world we live in.

Feathers In My Pocket…a unique piece of “hand art”!

 

Preface:

So what is “hand art”?  When I was trying to categorize this piece, I came up with the term because it is something you must hold and explore with your hands. Some people might call it an “artist’s book” but it really is different from a book in that it is a collection of small objects.  

I also consider my artists books to be hand art as are other small works that can be picked up and fondled such as fetishes, small dolls, all forms of cards, little quilts, and even jewelry.  I’m drawn to making these small pieces partly because I like working small and partly because I don’t have a lot of storage space for large sculpture and paintings.

I like pockets a lot.  They hold the necessities of life such as a tissues, shopping lists, found treasure such as a feathers, heart shaped stones, bits of rusted metal, and coins. In fact, when I shop for clothing I avoid buying pants and jackets that have no pockets. I especially like to create pockets out of fabric and paper and put surprises in them.

I often find myself picking up stray feathers when I take a walk.  Over the years I’ve accumulated many black, grey and white feathers that have survived living in my pockets. So, one day several years ago when I was looking at my feather collection, it occurred to me that it would be fun to make an art piece using feathers and pockets.  I started a project box for this idea and have been adding ideas, feathers and other related materials ever since.  I dedicated my September art retreat to working with the feathers and pockets.

I decided that since most of my found feathers were black, grey and white, I should create the pockets using papers of similar colors.  I started with Sumi ink and Velin Arches, my all-time favorite paper, and made marks that reminded me of feathers.  These papers became the raw material for the pockets.  For contrast I added black art papers and built a series of seven pockets in assorted sizes.  I made bird silhouette stencils  to embellish the covers.

Recently I have been using stitching in my projects.  So I turned to my sewing machine as the main tool for creating pockets.  Somehow glue just didn’t seem to be the proper medium for pocket construction.

I was particularly challenged when it came to inserting the feathers in the pockets.  I discovered that they were easily damaged and needed protection so they could be handled. This resulted in the development of yet more pockets to protect and preserve each feather inside its pocket.3feather

4featherOnce the pockets were finished and the feathers carefully placed inside I was faced with the challenge of how to make the group of pockets a cohesive art piece.  I placed them in a bird shaped basket I had found at a thrift store.  It didn’t quite work.  So my solution was yet one more pocket made from the sumi paper. I created a large pocket to contain the feathered pockets.  When you look inside, you are treated to the surprise – many little pockets to open and explore.
feather env.A final note:

I have many more feathers in my “project box” just waiting for pockets.  Time for another look at how they can be transformed into more hand art!!!!

A Special Kind of Art Retreat

This week Ed (my husband) and I are having an “art retreat week”. Since we have decided not to travel any more, we have been looking for some way of breaking our daily routines.  Both of us enjoy creative activities but we never have time for extended in-depth exploration.  Our busy schedules seem to interfere.

We came up with this idea last month as a way of traveling without having to leave Tucson!  Here’s how it works.  After breakfast we unplug the phone until after dinner, turn off the TV (I like noise in the background all the time) and limit our time on the computer to art-related searches and activities.

And every night for the entire week we go out for dinner!  We’ve discovered a lot of smaller family run restaurants with home-cooked foods that make us feel like we are in another country.  For example, last night we went to a sweet little Vietnamese place where the Pho is amazing. The night before Chicken Sharma and Lamb Kitta graced our plates. And this being Tucson, there are many small wonderful Mexican cantina type places.  So I guess you could say that we are eating our way around the world.

We start our retreat each morning at 8:15 a.m. with yoga stretches and a walk. Then we head off to our individual studios to focus on our projects. He’s very involved with photography, and this month I’m all over the place finishing up projects started months ago, taking an on-line class and catching up with my blogging.

For our September retreat I focused on a project called “Feathers in My Pocket”.  It’s an idea I’ve been waiting to develop for several years.  I’ll be posting more about it later this week. I find myself working on a wide spectrum of projects from artists’ books to painting to stitching and more.  Today my focus is taking photos and writing so this blog can be posted and shared with you.

Some of my current work "in process"

Some of my current work “in process”

This summer we both took a class at Santa Fe Workshops with Karen Divine, (www.karendivinephotography.com) an extraordinary artist who works with her iPhone photographs to develop unique composited work – all done on the iPhone desktop!  Ever since returning home Ed has been exploring the concepts he learned with her and is now working on a series using material he has shot in museums.  You’ll be able to see some of it at (www.zenfolio.com/eddddean) I don’t know just when they will be posted, but he promises it will be “soon’!!!

Ed in his "studio".

Ed in his “studio”.

Our “art retreat” idea has worked so well for both of us that we have decided to set aside the last week of each month for this type of “at-home” creative traveling.  We’ve discovered that it is a wonderful way to break our daily patterns, explore our creative thoughts and “travel” without having to go through the hassles of airport security or full days of stressful driving.

2015 Birthday Doll

For the past five years I have celebrated my birthday by making a doll.  My goal is to make the doll on the big day, but life seems to get in my way, so this year I decided to make it sometime during my birthday week.

This year my friend, Alix, came over the day before my birthday so we could work on dolls together. She had started one in a class years ago but never finished it and I had not yet started mine.  Because I am a process artist I usually work without any idea of what the finished product will be.  I let the project unfold from step to step.

I started by looking though my Pinterest art doll folder to fill my mind with a multitude of ideas.  When I started looking through fabrics I had thought I might draw a face on some unbleached muslin, but I found that I was drawn to several bright and shiny fabrics that did not lend themselves to drawing.  So I cut out two colorful circles, stitched them together. The head was born.  Next I stuffed them lightly and sewed on a bead face.

The rest of my process involved developing this sweet creature.  I created a long pyramid for her body, expecting that the wide part of the pyramid would become the shoulders of the doll.  I stitched and stuffed it and set it aside while I played with some yarns Alix shared from her stash.  Once the  dolls’s head was adorned with yarns and tied into pigtails I had a good sense of how I might finish her up by adding beads, arms and a sash.  When I put her together I inverted the pyramid so that the wide part became the base.

I finished the doll by adding a small drawstring bag.  All of my dolls except for the first one have bags or purses  in which I leave a note of some kind.  While I did not finish on my birthday, I did make it in about 8 hours, over a period of 5 days.  Now she hangs in my studio next to her four sisters.  Every time I look at her I smile.  I think she is telling me that my 79th year is going to be a lot of fun and filled with playful opportunities.

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Memory Houses from Recycled Wood and Ephemera

Memory HouseRecently I spent a delightful Saturday with my friend Rose Andreacola and several of her “artsy” friends.  She showed us a basic technique for creating simple house sculptures using primed scrap lumber, acrylic paints, stencils, stamps, photo copies, ephemera, and aluminum duct tape (from Home Depot and Lowes) used for making vent seams tight.

Her techniques for embossing with the metal tape are terrific.  She’s been using this in her art for well over ten years. She used mat board, cord/ric-rack, a tracing wheel,  a bone folder and a ball point pen to create the textures.  For the roof she runs the metal through a crimping tool.  From time to time she gives a wonderful class in how to do this.

It was lots of fun and Rose had several embellishment tricks for finishing including using a black wax marking pencil to accentuate edges, applying do-dads with Weldbond glue (very strong) and using various acrylic mediums for collage and varnishing.  If this is something you might be interested in doing, you might want to contact her at roseandreacola@gmail.com

I decided that my houses would focus on “memory” and dedicated #26 to my maternal grandparents.  “26” represents the street number of their home and the colors and embellishments have special associations with them.  My second house with the number “6675” is a celebration of our 40th anniversary which occurred earlier this summer.  It’s decor is infused  with memories of our life together.

Every time I glance at them a happy memory comes to mind.

“Spirit of the Desert” – an Encaustic Assemblage

In my studio I have a number of unfinished projects just waiting for the day they get moved to the top of my “to do” list.  I begin every summer with the intention of finishing all of them, but that hasn’t happened yet!  This summer “ Spirit of the Desert” made it to the top of my list and I am happy to say it is done!.

I started it over five years ago.  I had built a polymer clay head and finished it with acrylic paint, pearl powders and amber shellac.  I then torched it to bubble and move the shellac which resulted in very interesting the final surface.  But the project came to a halting stop when it came to deciding just how I was going to use it.  The head needed some kind of a base or body.  I knew I wanted it to sit among dessert detritus but none of  the cholla stems, wooden sticks, or unique rocks I had gathered suited the mood I was trying to create so I set everything aside for another year.  Every summer I would revisit the box containing the components and I’d start pondering the problem again all over again with little success.

Then last year I came up with the idea of creating my own base.  I used a can filled with gravel and covered it with “desert-like” texture.  At last I was moving forward!  I realized that the fragile plant materials that I wanted to use needed some form of treatment to preserve them.   I determined that encaustic made from amber beeswax and damar varnish would be an excellent solution, so I treated my collection of pods and leaves with the encaustic and set them aside.  Once again I was in a holding pattern waiting for my muse to divulge the next step.

My vision was to create a soulful image that conveyed the joy and wonder I feel here in the Sonoran desert.  When we first moved here from a lush northern California environment, I felt I was in strange terrain – dry, hot, prickly and mostly devoid of life.  Was I ever wrong!  I came to enjoy this desert that specializes in survivorship!  It’s hard to live here with so little water and so much heat, but desert creatures have accommodated with thick skins, hard covered seeds, shallow roots and special leaf structures to soak up the moisture when it’s available.  It’s a tribute to the adaptability of life on our planet!

This summer I discovered the project box in the back of my art closet and decided this was the year to get it finished!   It lived on my art table for several weeks while I arranged and re-arranged and adjusted the materials until finally, I was ready to commit to the final assembly.  With a little cheering from some of my art friends I present to you the finished “Spirit of the Desert”.

Naature boy