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.

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


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.


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.

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.

Guest House – An Encaustic Hanging Book Structure

One winter Saturday I took on a personal challenge to make a book in one day informed by the sculptural qualities of Daniel Essig’s work.  I wanted to submit the book for the Poetry Center show “Beyond Word and Image”.

Before starting, I “juiced” my muse by looking at artists books and setting aside some of my favorite texts and looking again at Dan’s work.  I began by painting two large sheets of Stonehenge and folding them into pages.  I reread the texts I had set aside to see if there was a fit.  I found that Rumi”s “Guest House was coming to life.

The individual folios became rooms.  I created openings to suggest  doorways and windows so one could travel through the house.  After much experimentation, I found a writing style for the poetry. But I was not finished.  The work needed a “wow” in the form of some sculptural element. That is part of the charm of Daniel’s work.

The GuestI stepped away from the piece and several days later realized that the book should be hung from something!  I could use a human form since the text refers to our humanness being a guest house.  I decided to suspend the book from an upper torso shape which I constructed using a foam-core base wrapped with plaster bandage.  This provided an opportunity to implant a hanger so the book can be displayed on the wall.

I painted the form with acrylic paint and applied a encaustic coating.  The final step was to attach the book to the form using artificial sinew.

The book took more than a day but less than a week to complete!  And it was not chosen to be in the show!  Oh well, that disappointment is just a part of being a human guest house.  I subsequently found out that the jurors were more focused on the graphic elements of the work submitted and in choosing a cohesive show, had eliminated some unique pieces that embodied innovative structures.


Immersed in Texture

Several weeks ago I spent three days in a workshop sponsored by the Contemporary Artists of Southern Arizona – www.casaaz.org . They had brought in the popular and excellent teacher, Jackie Sullivan, www.jacquelinesullivan.com to do a class on working with texture.Merrily

For me the workshop was extremely informative and productive. I don’t judge a workshop by how much work I finish because I am a fast worker and usually complete several pieces in a class. I judge workshops by how much I learn and how hard I am pushed by the instructor to explore my “edges”. Jackie did that very well! I left feeling I had learned some new “tricks” and I ended up with a number of pieces ready for mats!Ocean's Edge

I particularly liked Jackie’s way of transforming aluminum foil into an interesting collage material. The way she layered pieces on to her work to give work additional dimension was interesting. Her use of mediums was fun to revisit, and her unique way of building a painting was new to me.Red Wonder

Jackie likes sparkle and she had a number of ways to incorporate “glitz” on to the page. Years ago she and Victoria Pittman developed a wonderful class that was presented at the annual calligraphy gathering at Sonoma State in 2000. While I did not take that particular class, I have taken that same metallics workshop three separate times and have learned something new each time. I don’t think Victoria is offering it any more, but Jackie does include some of the techniques in her texture class.Blue Door

I won’t give away Jackie’s secrets but she said many of the techniques that she taught are demonstrated on the video offered for sale on her website. Forest

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: www.eddddean.zenfolio.com (That’s 4 d’s!)

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:  john.nemo@gmail.com

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


Managing Anxiety

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything to this site. Weekends come and I promise myself that “I will post this weekend”, and then, before I know it, the weekend is over and I haven’t posted. I claim to myself that I have nothing to write about and that is partly true. I think the real reason I haven’t posted is that I’ve been preoccupied with other thoughts which have taken priority in my life.


All my life I’ve been what I would call a “fear based” person. That has been both a gift and a burden. Whenever I undertake any kind of project be it a vacation trip, an art project, teaching a class, even writing a blog, I prepare for it. This often involves research to make sure I know what I should do, list-making to insure that I have what I need and that I don’t forget any vital steps, and rehearsals to make sure I really do know what I’m doing. That way I avoid mistakes and disaster.

I have been so good at being prepared, that I mostly experience fine outcomes. But the burden that comes with being so well prepared is that the “angst” and fear of coming up short has taken its toll on me. It has become my primary way of dealing with life. And it produces lots of anxiety and adrenaline!

When my husband recently had cancerous growth removed from his nose, I felt on the edge of disaster, like my world was coming to an end. Three or four times a day, I would feel a knot forming in my stomach. My heart rate was irregular. I couldn’t concentrate. What I was experiencing was extreme anxiety and I knew I needed to do something to alter this crazy-making response.

blogSt FrancisNormally I would turn first to my doctor. I had done that this past fall when I was having acute anxiety about turning 75 and a planned trip. He referred me to a wonderful hypnotherapist to learn self hypnosis. It was extremely helpful, and I broke the anxiety pattern for a while. I thought I had it licked and was most surprised that I had spiraled back into unmanageable panic – even with the self hypnosis.

This time I turned to my sister, a retired nurse paramedic and asked her how she worked with people who had PTSD after being in accidents. She got me started on this new journey, with a very effective 5 minute exercise that shifted the panic response with breath and visualization.

I immediately started using this approach each time the panic set in, and began to feel better. I realized I needed to learn more about anxiety. I’d like to share with you some of the very interesting books that I’ve been reading.

blogSagofernThe first book I purchased was “Fear” by Thick Nhat Hanh. It presents a Buddhist way of looking at and dealing with fear. It is easy to understand, and just reading it has brought me greater peace. Ed and I are reading it together out loud and I’ve found this experience has stimulated some great conversations where we both have come to know each other more deeply. I’ve found the practices and affirmations offered in the book to be very effective in lowering my anxiety levels.

I was talking about all of this with a friend who has spent the last year in treatment for breast cancer. She is a huge proponent of positive thinking and told me about the book “The Brain that Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge, M.D. It arrived from Amazon several days ago and I’ve devoured it. Through fascinating narratives about real people with challenging physical issues, Dr. Doidge explains how neuroscience is offering break-though treatments for all kinds of neurological disease. The chapter on fear described my situation to a “T”. The explanations presented the most current approaches to treating extreme anxiety and shed light on my problem. This has given me hope that I will be successful in managing my anxiety.

MothAnother friend told me of her experience with “HeartMath”, another view of dealing with emotional issues based on innovative research and the development of tools and techniques that work on anxiety, depression,hypertension, anger, stress etc.
She loaned me several publications which offer me yet another way of looking at my situation. The book “Transforming Anxiety” was particularly helpful, providing a sequential approach to developing new life-long practices.

What has been most fascinating has been the congruence in all three views with emphasis on the ways that breath and visualization can bring about long-term physical changes and a shift to normalcy.

I did make it outside a few times and took the photos included in this post at the Tucson Botanical Garden. It is a visual delight since spring has arrived and the next few months will offer visitors a botanical cacophony of color.

CupidSinkIn conclusion, I’m back and I think I’m ready to begin posting again on a regular basis. My goal – to post once a week. The desert is blooming again and, hopefully, so am I.

Valentines and Quilts

Now that we’ve got the blog working properly, I’ve not been very motivated to post.  And it’s mainly because I haven’t had any “wow’s” to write about.  I like to share with you the wonderful things I’ve discovered be it a new art process, a delicious recipe, or a great sight to behold.

Nothing like that has happened recently!  So I haven’t been inspired to write for you.  Who knows what I’ll discover tomorrow, and if it hits me big, you’ll be sure to hear about it.  Today I have written up a couple of little “finds” that have come my way.

Small paper and fabric quilt flag

Small paper and fabric quilt flag

Back in January Jane Davies came to Tucson and gave a “Paper Quilt” workshop for PaperWorks.  We printed on all kinds of papers with a Gelli Plate and then combined fabric and the printed papers to create sweet little collage quilts. I enjoyed the process and the results were satisfying.  They take a lot less time to make than regular quilts.  If you haven’t heard of Gelli Plates, do check them out on-line. www.gelliarts.com  They are a great monoprinting tool.

Gelli printed papers and scraps of fabric stitched and glued on to fabric.  Paper glued and wrapped on to the quilt to finish raw edges

Gelli printed papers and scraps of fabric stitched and glued on to fabric. Paper glued and wrapped on to the quilt to finish raw edges

Thursday, a small group of art friends met at Carolyn DuPont’s home and played around with alcohol inks.  I decided to use the inks to color valentines made with aluminum tape hearts.  I cut the heart shapes from mat board scraps, covered them with the aluminum tape and then drew designs on them with an embossing tool.  I dropped alcohol inks (Adirondack and Copic) to color the metal and then finished off with clear Krylon spray.  There are lots of instructions on-line for using alcohol inks.

Embossed metal hearts colored with alcohol inks.

Embossed metal hearts colored with alcohol inks.