Wild Sage Discoveries

Drawing Adventures

When it comes to drawing I usually use a sketchbook or a good piece of art paper. After I’ve finished the drawing I may add color or I may leave it alone. I’ve never given much thought to the particular surface that I draw on.

This past week at a two-day class titled “ Exploring the Surface: Mixed Media Drawing on Paper”, I tried a whole new approach! The instructor was Catherine Nash, well-known papermaker and encaustic artist who has a personal passion for drawing.

Our first day began with handling an assortment of papers and making marks on them with a variety of tools to see how each paper responded. We treated some surfaces with sizing, wax-based resists such as crayon and then applied colored washes to create interesting backgrounds and drawing surfaces. We purposefully flooded ink and watercolor on to some areas of asian and hand-made papers so that the color would bleed through to the other side. After they dried we turned them over and worked on the back of the page, using the pattern that had bled through as inspiration for the drawing.

On “Day Two” we used a many kinds of drawing materials: pens, stick dipped in ink, crayons, chalk, pastels, oil pastel, graphite sticks and assorted brands of colored pencils to draw on the surfaces we had created the day before.

Our focus was on experimentation and discovery and layering media to develop richness in our drawings. The surfaces we worked on ranged from “Yupo”, a plastic sheet watercolor artists are working with to soft print-making surfaces and papers made from cotton, kozo and abaca fibers.

Here are some quick photos of things I played with.
These ink drawings were done as tests to see how papers responded to sumi ink and Noodles drawing ink in fountain pens. I collaged them together with a glue stick and some stitches.8

This kozo paper with bark chips in it was further distressed with methyl cellulose painted on it in a few areas (hard to detect) and then watercolor pencil and light wash added in a few areas. Now it’s all ready for a drawing!
Yupo and watercolor and a few pen marks make for interesting effects. I think I need a whole class on working with Yupo and I seem to remember that someone at the Drawing Studio is teaching one this spring.
Walnut ink laid gently on to damp sized kozo created the perfect background for a quick sketch of a pistachio branch. I drew it on dried paper with a sick of charcoal and a gentle hand. Next I added the watercolor. After it had dried again, I rubbed off the charcoal and was left with this.5a

I drew this quickly with a graphite stick on paper that had been toned first with washes and then, when dried, rubbed with some soft pastel (yellow-orange).

Now, as you can probably guess, I’m having a lot of fun making a variety of backgrounds so that I’ll have some ready to draw on.

Welcome 2014

New beginnings.
Here I am several weeks into the new year. My “to do” list has had “Write and post on Wild Sage Art” on it for at least the past ten weeks but somehow I don’t get to it! Maybe this year I’ll do better, but maybe this is the “every-once-in-a-while” blog.

I love beginnings – the new year, summer, the school year, my birthday, the first day of every quarter, the equinox, the solstice, the start of something (project, diet, friendship, workshop). For me each one is cause for celebration for at least a day or two. And that has been true this January too – with an extra special bonus. I had been plagued by an h.pylori infection that was recently diagnosed. After treatment, I am feeling so much better – better than words can describe! I feel like I got my life back – another new beginning to celebrate.

Great workshop.
Last week I took my first workshop of the year – a 12 hour class (over three days) with the extraordinary book artist, Laura Wait. She taught us a dimensional structure she developed several years ago. It utilizes a very wide spine which can support a hanger so that the book can be displayed on the wall. Signatures are spaced widely across the spine and stitched on to the spine with a traditional long-stitch. The hanger (cord or wire) is inserted into the spine through two of the stitching holes.

We started out writing with sumi ink on large sheets of BFK. Our natural handwriting became the foundation for paper embellishment. We experimented with a wide variety of tools from pens, colored pencils and chopsticks to wooden shingles and were encouraged to explore mark-making with anything that could transfer ink or paint on to paper. Over the course of the first two sessions most of us managed to get three layers of ink and/or color on to our papers which resulted in rich tapestries for book pages.

I especially appreciated the comfortable atmosphere that Laura created and would encourage you to take a class with her if you are so inclined. She will be teaching two classes at her Santa Fe studio and in San Diego and San Francisco this year. Check out her website for more details. She limits her teaching just a few weeks each year to make sure that she has plenty of studio time to do her own work.

Some of Laura’s favorites for making these painted books:
Paper that folds without cracking.
She likes BFK (heavy – 240 gm) for text pages because they have “bulk. She uses Velin Arches for covering book board and for pages.
Both papers fold without cracking and can handle water and layers of paint.

Watercolor and gouache for painting pages.
She appreciates the quality and extensive color choices of Daniel Smith watercolors. For gouache she often uses Winsor and Newton and Daler Rowney. Inks and liquid watercolor (Hydrus) are also fun to use for this project.

Watercolor pencils with creamy pigment.
When you spray drawn lines, they bleed in interesting ways and they are fun to use when writing on damp or wet paper. Derwent is one brand that is nice and soft.

Easy to handle cover boards.
We used 60 pt. archival case board which was a new product for me. It’s a fairly rigid board that is much denser than mat board. And it is easy to cut when compared to the Davey board most book artists rely on.

I worked on two books during the class and finished them up this past week. The first book, “Sanctuary”, was informed by writing about trees as I was working on large sheets of paper. I was thinking about how a tree can provide food and shelter for birds and other creatures. When it came time to choose a shape, the tallness of trees and the density of foliage where on my mind. After completing the structure I added the branch to the front cover and placed small copper clips to hold folios together – suggesting safe places found under the canopy and between the leaves.
The second book I’ve titled “Markings”. As I looked at the pages I had painted and began to assemble them into signatures, I was struck by the variety of marks and values I had created. Thus the title. When I went to size the book, I created pages that were two contrasting sizes and colors and widely spaced on the spine so there could be movement when the book was handled. This book also has a hanger on the back spine so it can (with a little help from museum wax) be displayed on the wall.

Proces at the Process Museum

Last week I had another delightful Tucson experience when I visited the Process Museum for the first time. What an incredible surprise it was. It is tucked away in a huge (77,000 square feet) warehouse on Kolb Road across the street from the I-10 entrance. It’s the passion and pride of John Wells, who was our guide through this amazing place.

John Wells appreciates and collects art. He also owns this huge property and has dedicated it to exhibiting and honoring creative process of artists. Many of the people who are represented in this showcase have a connection with Tucson.

The goal of the museum is to reveal the totality of the creative process. This means that visitors will see the work of the artist along with all the other kinds of “stuff” an artist has in the studio: furniture, storage lockers, sketch books, note books, reference books, art supplies, wood, canvas, plastic, paper metal, fiber, wire, and fabric waiting to be used. It also includes work in all stages of the creative process from initial conceptualization and layout to iterations of an idea in various stages of development. Walls and corridors are covered with art pieces. One sees an idea explored by the artist multiple times.
word mural
This museum is the repository of more art than I ever imagined I would or could see in a span of two hours. It is overwhelming and absolutely hypnotic in it’s power. As I walked through the space I was consumed by the enormity of the undertaking but also delighted by the opportunity to witness the work. Not just the good work that gets curated into shows but all the other work that gets produced along the way and then hidden in closets or painted over because for some reason the artist has decided it doesn’t work. Let’s face it, much of the work an artist makes is not for public consumption. Making the art is just part of the creative process.

The museum is currently the home base for seven working artists. There were several on site during our visit. We wandered the corridors and peered into the rooms where pieces were in process, stored or displayed.
Work ranged from a room filled with 1080 4”x4” pieces done by Thomas Rossi to a show of “Collateral Surfaces” – the surfaces on which art is made (tabletops, drop cloths, palettes etc.) to a room filled with storage shelves crowded with the ceramic pieces of Michael Cajero. The work of the late Owen Williams, a favorite artist of mine, was hung in a room dedicated to him and furnished with tables, chairs and other items from his studio. Across the hall were shelves loaded with the tools he used to make his unique dimensional paintings.
owen williams
The last stop of our tour was a building completely devoted to the incredible wire and paper sculpture of Michael Cajero. Hundreds of dark pieces tastefully displayed with sensitivity against white walls with red floors and suitable lighting greeted the viewer. I can not tell you how moving it was to see this massive collection. Cajero’s work has energy and excitement. It is complex and yet it is basic. It compels you to look and evokes feeling within you. Wells has aptly labeled the little known or recognized Cajero as one of the most important artist of this century. And after seeing his amazing ceramics and sculptures, I definitely agree with him. Currently Cajero’s 2,500 drawings and paintings have yet to be displayed. It will surely be something to look forward to.
cajero coyote
I encourage you to visit this amazing art wonderland at 8000 North Kolb. It is a private collection open to the public by appointment only. You can contact John Wells through the Process Museum’s website or by phone at 520-404-0596.
You won’t be disappointed.
cajero coupe

Creativity and Futurism Right Here in Tucson

There are times when Tucson really surprises me. I had no idea of the unique ways creativity and innovation are being nurtured in this city. Recently I attended a very interesting program sponsored by CASA (Contemporary Artists of Southern Arizona). Tony Ford, a futurist with a passion for the arts and technology, gave us an exciting overview of the future from his perspective and the ways Tucsonians are embracing it.

It was both a “nudge” to take notice of how things are rapidly changing and an invitation to climb aboard. For instance he cited that there are currently about 5 billion cel phones in operation all over the world. One billion of these are smart phones BUT he points out that in five years there will be five billion smart phones in use. That means there will be five billion people around the world that can interact with each other; learn from each other, impact each other. This amazing pocket instrument gives us immediate access to the whole world whenever we want it and wherever we are! It unlimits our access to Planet Earth. This has amazing implications for all aspects of our life as we know it today.

It leads one to wonder about how quickly some of our most treasured institutions will be come antiquated! Take education. Will we continue to need brick and mortar buildings when we can take on-line classes offered by institutions all over the world? The smart phone is our ticket to unlimited self-directed education? To what extent will we need to books, cd’s and dvds when all we need to do is power up our phone.

Tony talked about other provocative trends. For instance he suggested that most people under the age of thirty have spent 10,000 hours playing video games. The way they applaud others is in “game” mode with “likes” and “accumulating points”. Look at Facebook, Twitter, etc. and you realize the future is now. We click to clap, and we abbreviate whenever possible. (LOL), and we do it instantly from wherever we happen to be. Are we loosing our ability to relate face to face!!

Tony pointed out that many young people can not find jobs using their skills and training. When they are not working minimum wage jobs they are using technology to explore and develop future opportunity and income generation.

I urge you to explore what Tony and his associates are up to. He is a principal in an on-line artisan marketplace – “Art Fire”. You’ll see it is a platform for personal selling and promotion.

Tony is also deeply involved in Maker House – a new collaborative artisan, maker, education, tech, and gathering space that recently opened in the Downtown Tucson Arts District Tech Corridor.
It is located at 283 North Stone. This area of our city is becoming a mecca for artists, scientists, innovators and creative thinkers to gather.

All sorts of things happen at Maker House. You might find yoga and martial arts classes in the 5,000 square foot courtyard, latte art and hand brewing coffee classes in a classroom sized coffee bar, classes and training in 3D printing* and design, and dance classes in the mural room. What’s so unique is the intersection of disciplines. For instance a recent class “Knit to Death” provided instruction in knitting, as well as using knitting needles for self defense.! A Saturday “think-tank” focused on how one might launch eggs! This is definitely a place to keep checking out as the possibilities for interesting things happening here is endless!!

* If you don’t know about 3 D printing do a search for it today. You will be astounded. It make make factories obsolete. You won’t have to go to the store to buy something. You’ll just create it at home with your 3-d printer.
Wikipedia has an interesting article that gives a good overview of what this new technology is all about.

exotic flower

Bento-style Meals

My husband and I have traveled twice to Kyoto and both times mealtime provided us with some of the most enjoyable memories of our journeys there. I especially liked the pace of dining in Kyoto coupled with the delightful parade of tasty morsels that were brought to the table.

Recently we were talking about food and I recalled how much I enjoyed eating that way. When we got back to Tucson we never got into Japanese cuisine. That was partly because the only Japanese food available here is found in sushi restaurants. My husband is a recovering Catholic who is not a lover of fish and that’s the first thing he thinks of when he sees a sushi sign. So I’ve never seriously tried my hand at preparing Japanese food.

But, last week, it occurred to me that maybe I could modify the Japanese style of presenting food and apply it to the foods we eat at home. I went to Cost Plus and purchased a variety of small plates and bowls to use in presenting bento-like meals. After surfing the interenet for information on Japanese cuisine, and ordering several books from Amazon, I was armed with a basic understanding so I could play more extensively with this approach to our meals.

My first adventure was an experiment in serving sandwiches. Instead of assembling and presenting a freshly made sandwich on a plate, I arranged small plates of sandwich ingredients on trays and we each assembled our own sandwiches as part of the mealtime experience. The plates were very appealing, and we both enjoyed building our sandwiches and savoring the experience.

I must say it has been great fun. And consuming the food – even more fun! Here are some of my first kaiseki-Tucson-style meals.

My first attempt included steamed sausage, caponata, miso soup, cauliflower with a vinaigrette drizzle and tomato with ranch dressing, rice.

The next tray consisted of fried rice, soy dipping sauce, grilled portobello mushroom, butternut squash seasoned with spicy salt, steamed sausage and onion pancakes.
Onion Cake Bento

A sandwich meal included sliced tomato, pickles, mayonaise, tuna salad, cold curried soup, whole wheat bread and apple wedges.
Sandwich Bento

I don’t expect to prepare this type of dinner every night of the week. But I do hope to serve bento-style meals at least two or three nights each time it’s my turn to cook.

Note: In 1993 when we began retirement, we also began a take-turn cooking arrangement. It goes like this; you are on your own for breakfast and lunch meals. Dinner is provided by the “cook for the week” who also shops and cleans up. So, for the week you don’t cook, you are a guest in your own home!

This has worked well for us, tho I must admit that my husband would respond to you with a slightly different point of view!!!!

Birthday Doll – 2013

For the past three years I’ve made an “art” doll on my birthday. I got the idea from an article in “Art Doll Quarterly” which featured the work of fiber artist Karen Page who has, for many years, been making dolls to celebrate her birthdays.

This year I decided to make some hand-quilted fabric to use as the doll’s body. I quilted the fabric on a recent trip Ed and I too . We traveled to New York to visit Ground Zero and to Washington D.C. to spend some time with his daughter and her family. Ed returned to Tucson and I stayed on an extra four days to spend time with my Tri Delta sorority sisters at the Sanctuary Retreat Center in Bellsville, Maryland.

I had been collecting doll ideas on Pinterest in recent months but I didn’t have a specific concept for the doll other than to use the quilted fabric. On the morning of my birthday I open gifts from my sister, Barbara. She had used some delightful threads and yarns to tie the packages and I immediately realized they would become the doll’s hair.

After breakfast I sat with the yarns and fabric and consulted my “scrap” box. I pulled out the fabric bits that might fit as I built the doll. From that point on, she took shape quickly as I discovered a crazy quilt scrap to use for her boots and heart and a lovely golden toned gridded silk that became her arms and hands. Assembling her took more time than expected and I didn’t finish her until this morning. Doll2013

While every birthday is special this one took an extra celebratory note as I brought my husband home after spending the night in the hospital. He had just completed a very successful surgery on his left carotid artery. This was his second carotid surgery, the other having taken place last spring. This aging process is certainly challenging but now we can rest a bit easier knowing that the “rivers” in his neck are flowing freely.

Finding Inspiration in Small Collectibles

For a good part of my life I have been drawn to small handmade objects. As a child I collected glass figurines and had a shelf over my bed where I kept my precious collection. When I “grew up” this interest shifted and I began collecting hand-made “fish”. When my father died my sister and I split his small collection of jade and ivory which now reside in my studio along with other small objects collected over the years.

Wherever I have traveled in the world local I am drawn to museum displays of artifacts made from bone, ivory, metal, wood, stone and fiber. And my favorite travel mementos are small beads, amulets, jewelry, dolls and animal fetishes.

As I view these wonderful objects I think about their universal appeal and wonder about when, where and why they were made? How were they handled and used. I know I love to look at and touch my collection. Just having them nearby nurtures my inner creative muse.

If I can’t bring objects home, I can always bring home a photograph. These photos are of objects I’ve encountered recently in my travels:

Small bone and ivory objects are among my favorite inspirations. I love the primitive qualities, the interesting surfaces and sensual shapes. They inspire drawings, dolls and jewelry. And if you want to make similar objects, polymer clay is the ideal medium for creating faux bone and ivory. blogbonecarving

A simple angel figure made from carved twigs and some wooden scraps found on a larger wooden sculpture appealed to me.

I’m always fascinated by bundles and wraps. These items attached to a blanket wrap have inspired me to wrap and tie fabric and paper into beads and dolls.
That fascination with wraps goes even further with the concept of making art, putting it into boxes and then tying them up in interesting ways. This Kwakwaka box from Canada was used to store things. Often the boxes were made with a bentwood lid and could be used as an extra seat! They stored just about anything; food, furs, and valuables.
This wonderful doll is covered with found beads and milagros. The last two years I’ve celebrated my birthday by making a doll. I’m thinking that this year it will be a miracle doll – with milagros sewed on it to help keep my body strong.
SomeBooks to Explore
If you are interested in these same kinds of folk art you may find the following books particularly interesting:
“Amulets, Sacred Charms of Power and Protection” by Shelia Paine
“Faith and Transformation, Votive Offerings and Amulets from the Alexander Girard Collection” edited by Doris Francis
“Bodyguards, Protective Amulets and Charms” by Desmond Morris
“Amulets and Talismans, Simple Techniques for Creating Meaningful Jewelry” by Robert Dancik

Polymer Clay Workshop with Tory Hughes
Last summer I took a wonderful workshop with Tory Hughes at her studio in Santa Fe. She has an incredible collection of amulet-like objects which serve as inspiration for some of her work. She is one of first artists to use polymer clay to replicate bone, ivory, amber etc. Her work is quite beautiful and her classes are lots of fun. If you will be in the Santa Fe area this summer, check out her website for classes etc.:

The Dean’s Alaska Adventure
Ed has posted a album of photos we took while we were visiting Alaska and Vancouver. You can view it at: (That’s 4 d’s!)

Finding Inspiration

We just returned from a three week trip to Alaska and Vancouver, B.C. The scenery was simply beautiful and went on and on and on. Fairbanks was our starting point with our first major destination being Denali National Park. It was blanketed with snow providing a multitude of mountain vistas, each more beautiful than the previous one. Soon we’ll have a photo file up on Ed’s Zenfolio site.

One of my favorite travel activities is looking for interesting local art. I use my camera as a notebook use the snaps to inspire creative juices. I’m working on some posts related to these. Maybe you’ll find a little gem to inspire you.

In Fairbanks we went to the “Museum of the North” where I discovered these wonderful items made from gut, skin and fur. I love this Inuit seal gut parka with it’s visible seams and bits of bone and fur? feathers? I ask myself could this be a starting point for a stitched paper project? Maybe I could make it from waxed paper. What if I applied encaustic to paper to give it a translucency.
Those of you who know me well know that I love interesting bags. They are so practical for holding “stuff”. I love bags because I hang them off my body and my hands are still free. And by hanging stuff on me, I only have to make one trip from the car! I look at these bags and wonder about ways to make bags art pieces. This bag and hat? is made from loonskin and loon feathers? I never thought birds could be skinned!!! How might I use feathers (or maybe even papers cut like feathers) to embellish a bag? I don’t want to replicate this bag, but I’d love to create a piece that is “informed” by it.
These two bags really caught my attention. The black bag is made from swan skin, gut and bird feet! Those Inuit’s find ways to use everything! I’m not so sure I could or would make a project with bird feet. But I’m thinking that maybe there are other natural materials here in the desert that could be applied to a painting or dimensional art piece. I do have a dried out lizard and a few brilliant green beetles! Cholla anyone? I really like the shapes of these two bags. Maybe I can build some similar bags using paper. Now how can I make paper more flexible. Many asian papers are very strong and can be sewed. Some papers become leather-like when they are coated with gesso. I could also bond paper to fabric (a la Jane Davies). The possibilities are endless.
For some time I’ve thought about doing a series of bags and envelopes and maybe this summer is the time to explore that theme. The more I think about it, the more exciting it sounds.

I hope you find these photo notes as interesting and stimulating as I do. Maybe they will inspire a project you are working on. Let me know what you think and do send me a photo if you make something based on an idea provoked by this post.

More to come. Next I’ll post some small bone pieces that I think are beautiful.

Playing Around With Smoothies

Those of you that know me, know that my interests are all over the place!  I seem to “doodle-bug” here, there and everywhere!

I read on Facebook about the health value of honey and cinnamon.  In checking it out, I learned that there are a number of studies that confirm their medicinal and health contributions.  So I decided to find ways to get more honey and cinnamon into my daily diet. I realized that it would be very easy to use honey and cinnamon on my toast instead of butter.  Another good toast topper is coconut oil with cinnamon sprinkled on top.  I wondered how the honey would work as a sweetener in other things.

That very day I had some strawberries that needed to be used.  So I created a smoothie using about 1 cup sliced strawberries, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and about a 1/3 cup of fruit juice.  What a yummy drink it is!   That blast of cinnamon makes it quite perky.  Since strawberries have been plentiful recently, I’ve made it a number of times since, and each time it tasted terrific.  smoothie

Speaking of smoothies, I’ve had a lot of fun making them with various fluids such as almond milk, coconut milk, coconut water, Trader Joe’s mango lemonade (delish!!!) and their Lemon Ginger Echinacea drink. I also have discovered acai juice which has a wonderful taste.  Since you only need a half cup or less in the smoothie, a $7 quart of juice can last through the week.

Another recent smoothie concoction included 1 cup blueberries, 1/2 cup spinach, 1/2 avocado, 1 cup yogurt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 cup acai juice.  It is about the best smoothie I ever made or tasted.  But it makes a lot,  You can adjust the recipe  downward and it would taste just fine. I think honey and cinnamon would be great in this drink.

If you want your smoothie to be extra creamy add half an avacado or a whole one if you want.  It changes the texture from beverage to creamy delight!  Sometimes it’s so thick I have to eat it with a spoon!

I like experimenting with a variety of fruit, juices and veggies in my smoothies.  A big handful of raw spinach goes a long way in pumping up the nutritive value.  I don’t have a juicer but if I did, you can be sure I’d add carrots, beets and other colorful and nutritious ingredients.  Sometimes I’ll add protein powders for extra value.  I like the ones available at Trader Joe’s – especially the chocolate one.

I’d be interesting in learning your favorite smoothie recipes and discoveries.  I make them several times a week for breakfast or lunch and am always interested in finding a new yummy one to add to my growing collection.


iPad Discoveries

Never loose your stylus again!

I love using my iPad and I prefer to use it with my stylus when I can find it.  The stylus is always at the bottom of my purse, in another room of the house or lost!  But that doesn’t happen any more and here’s why.  I made myself a stylus necklace that can be kept fastened to my iPad.

To make your own, you’ll need a stylus with a cord and a piece of elastic.  I put my stylus on a long cord (about 1 yard).  After attaching it to the stylus, I tied a knot about 1.5 inches away to keep the stylus from getting out of position. I made a second knot at the end of the cord so that it formed a stylus necklace.

Next I sewed an 19” piece of elastic into a circle with a one inch overlap.

Finally I looped the stylus on to the elastic so that it could not come off.  This can be worn around your neck when you are using the iPad.  Your stylus is handy when you want to use it.

When you are all finished, just mount the elastic band around the iPad and wrap the stylus cord around and stick the stylus under the elastic band.  Everything is in place and ready for the next time you use the iPad.


Cord Storage – What to do with all the cords?

I found this idea on the internet and immediately went off to Target to get some hair clips.  I bought extras and gave them to my iPad buddies.  They bought more and gave extras to their iPad friends.  Isn’t life wonderful?


Bluetooth Keyboard

Not being very confident with my technology skills, I decided to take advantage of a class for iPod users being offered by John Nemo here in Tucson.  He our local “go-to guy” when we need help Apple products.  He has started several iPad study groups that meet regularly.  Each session starts with a q&a where John fields our questions.  Then he presents “how-to’s” designed to help us to get the most from our iPads.

It’s here I saw people using their bluetooth keyboards and decided that I might want this “toy”.  Wow, what a difference it makes when writing anything.  I love my new Logitec bluetooth which is available from Amazon for $75!  It makes typing a pleasure – especially if you want to do any kind of writing using an ap like “Pages”.  An I love the way it snaps in place as a cover for the iPad. If you are interested in John’s study groups you reach him at:

I hope you found this post helpful.  I must admit that I was very pleased with myself when I made these discoveries.