Saturday, December 29, 2007

"Going Home"

I'm not really sure how to begin this, except to say that it has been like waking up from a beautiful dream, and trying hard to keep sleeping so it won't stop. I returned to Austin last night from a week long visit with my #2 son, who lives just north of Tallahassee outside a beautiful small town called Havana. Four acres of enormous pine trees - complete with owls and magnolia trees and big camellia bushes in full bloom. It was raining and freezing cold the whole week, but it was a visit to restore the soul. (We also had a fine fireplace with plenty of wood to burn) The picture is of my son Charlie, loading wood north Florida style - a man on a backhoe keeps it neatly piled, and the way to buy is to keep a notepad with the number of armloads one loads into the car. I don't know if it is because I am an artist - but I have always said that this region, of all places on the planet, is the one that literally feeds my soul and fuels my creativity - and I have sorely missed it in the 14 years since I left. I insisted that he and his wife take me to Panacea, which is my very favorite of the little coastal fishing villages just south of Tallahassee - and of course I had to stop at the classiest "tourist treasure" shop we could find. (there aren't but three there, as it hasn't been found by the tourists yet.) This is the front of "Linda's store," - a very classy spot with a fine mixture of gorgeous and tasteful antiques and totally tacky tourist stuff. This was her last day in business, so she helped me out with a big bag of seashells I had promised my grandson, Jake, - and told me he doesn't need to know they aren't native. I think they are all from Indonesia. (it isn't seashell season in north Florida.) We laughed and made memories here that I will never forget! On the side of this building is a big mural depicting a mermaid - lighting wasn't good due to cloud cover. As I said, this region causes me to want to get out the watercolours again and start painting - I saw a picture on every street corner and some in between. The little house across the street is vacant and very colorful - and I am threatening to run away to Panacea and live in it. Wonderful thought!! The next installment will be pictures and descriptives of Hook Wreck Henry's seaside cafe - a friend of my son's from high school has opened this wonderful establishment - gourmet cuisine in a seafood shack setting - right on the water, with it's own fishing boat. When they were in high school, I never expected that they would turn out so well - educated and productive and still friends. They were very imaginative in their mischief and misdeeds!! I felt more love in the hugs from these guys, and laughed more than I have in many years. I'll do it again maybe in the spring when the dogwoods are in bloom.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Close-up of the Pelican

Well - I'm still not as adept at this as I would like to be - I lost the close-up on the previous blog - so here it is!! That bright white band with the "jewels" is kind of distracting, but it will be easier to stitch, as the settings are metallic gold.

The Pelican of Piety - a prayer kneeler

The time to write this, I have decided, is before I crash due to total fatigue of body and brain, and before the onset of some serious PPD.
This prayer kneeler is for a friend, who is also a parishioner at my son's church, so I was pleased to have it do. Louann brought me the pictures several years ago, but I haven't quite had the nerve - or the time - to really concentrate on it. But now it is done!! She took the pictures herself a number of years ago - she said, judging from the style of the mosaic, probably somewhere in eastern Europe.
The lighting and the color are difficult to see, so I had awful trouble getting the paint mixed to suit me. The Pelican was noted in medieval times to pierce it's breast to feed it's young when food was unavailable - therefore, it became a symbol of Christ's Passion and the Eucharist. I would love to go there and see that vaulted ceiling with it's magnificent mosaic!
This symbol is seen in Christian art elsewhere, but many times is mistaken for a stork. This one is new to me! The close-up should show more detail on the needlepoint rendition of the picture - the challlenge here, of course, was putting it onto a 15" x 30" piece of 13 mesh canvas, and making it feasible to stitch.
I had to eliminate a great deal of the detail of the mosaic, as it would have just looked like a busy mess on this size mesh. The white bands were left that way, as they will be stitched in dark gold thread - and we decided it would be easier on the eyes to just leave it white. I'm actually very pleased with it - which is unusual for me.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Web Pages!!

My oldest son gave me a computer and a web page for Christmas about two years ago - to keep Granny busy and out of the dance halls, I'm sure - and off the telephone whining and demanding attention from in-town children. I had never even looked at a computer before, so just learning to turn it on was a major triumph - and then came the internet and setting up a web page and learning to use a digital camera - to take pictures, put them into the computer, and find them again! Anyway, I have spent many many both screaming/frustrating and happy/contented hours and days at this activity - BUT I could write a book about what I had to learn, as I knew NOTHING about doing a web page, and made many mistakes. I finally, in one of those serendipitous occassions, found a most wonderful web host - a man with the patience of a saint and an expertise that is incredible. His wife is a needlepoint designer also - so looking up her website from curiosity one day is what pointed me in his direction - and in addition, I found a new friend in Tish, (Happy Heart Designs), with whom I can gossip about the industry. whine about slow days, and generally scheme, plan, giggle and collaborate. The picture is of Steve Watkins - a portrait by his wife. He is a paramedic in his spare time when he isn't wrangling with our needlepoint sites (I am a dummy, and I'm sure extremely frustrating to work with.) and digging a 4 acre lake on his farm. But the point of this is Tish's web page - it is, without a doubt, the best I have seen. It is colorful but simple, as are her designs - and soooo easy to navigate. There is a new feature on it that you must see - click on "finished pictures," and you will see a book with pages that turn as you click on the rolling edges. I go often just to play with that, besides looking at the delightful canvases. (I'm featuring two of her beginner pieces in my March/April article in Needlepoint Now). I have a lot of people ask about starting a web page - who are like I was, and haven't a clue where to go or whom to ask or even what questions to ask. I highly recommend this service - Starnet Services - take a look!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A New Challenge

No picture today - but I wanted to call attention to the new links I have listed. I was discussing with a good friend last night the need to stay creatively stimulated so that the boredom of routine doesn't set in and slow us down in mind or body. I had watched Sharon B's TAST - Take a Stitch Tuesday - with much interest, but not inclined to do it myself, as that isn't my field. However, as I have gotten more and more involved with watching the Art Crazy Quilters (at the top of my list, Allie's in Stitches, of course), I have been so tempted to "convert" and start working on Crazies. Her label she has posted now on her blog pushed me over the edge, and I decided to go ahead and sign up for Sharon's "Take it Further" design challenge, starting in January. (The links are on the sidebar on this blog.) My hesitation has been that there are only so many years allotted to us in a lifetime, and, as this is a new endeavor for me, I would have to start at the ground floor as a total beginner - which doesn't suit me these days. HOWEVER, I recall about five years ago, after my aunt for whom I had been primary caretaker (Alzheimer's) left us, I kind of crashed - and thought maybe I needed a therapist. Then thought that might be dumb, as I knew what the problem was, so spent the money instead on a series of pottery classes at the local art museum. I had never had time for ceramics in college, but had always wanted to learn. - I had to do something, and decided this might be fun. Well. It was. I can't remember enjoying anything so much - met wonderful friends whom I still enjoy outside of class - and, although I wasn't really very good at it, I absolutely loved it, and would sit in the floor of my kitchen until the wee hours making "mud pies." I realized that I was doing this creative and therapeutic thing just for myself - didn't have to be concerned with marketing trends or pleasing anyone but myself. No commercial aspects to it at all - and after nearly forty years of designing needlepoint for commercial marketing, this is a treat!!
The gist of this, in a nutshell, is that remembering the feeling of contentment, accomplishment, and joy I felt with the pottery for several years, will probably recur with this design challenge of Sharon's. I'm anxious to get started - and so looking forward to it. Check it out for yourself if you haven't already!! All of us need a good challenge of some sort to keep us sharp, alert, and creative. P.S. If you are so inclined, also click on "Ceramic Stuff" on my list of labels and see some of my masterpieces - most of which were created at home in my kitchen.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Faberge'" Ornament in Needlepoint

I am always amazed and startled at what my children have "snagged' from digging in my boxes and closets and drawers. I'm still in residence in the guest quarters at my daughter's house, and was inspecting the Christmas tree this morning - and found this piece I had long ago forgotten about. It was an experiment of several years ago to see if I could pull off a totally round tree ornament. This involved buying a package of 4" styrofoam balls and cutting quarter sections out of paper to make them fit the size and shape - and this was the result. At that time, my favorite design source was the book FABERGE' AND THE RUSSIAN MASTER GOLDSMITHS. (love that book, as it goes waaaay beyond the eggs and into the realm of the cloissone' enamels and different styles.) I had just finished a needlepoint stocking cuff with the design taken from an Art Nouveau style tea service by Faberge' - and as the colors were perfect for Christmas, went ahead and drew the template for this ornament - and actually got all four sections completed. You can't see from the picture, but it really sparkles and shines with silk threads, beads, and metallics. The quarter section shown flat is to illustrate the shape necessary for this round ball. My favorite finisher, Vikki Pinson, is so good at this, she actually got the botton and top "jewels" to match up in the right places - awesome!!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Bargello and 4-way Florentine

Looking back at things I stitched several years ago always seems to be a process of "evolutions," as one thing tends to lead to another - or in this case, recall things we did almost 40 years ago, before we had the wonderful novelty fibers for needlepoint - the shiny, sparkly, bright colored stuff. Starting with a small project for a friend who wanted something inexpensive to hand out as promotional "freebies" for her new shop, the ornament with the small heart in the center ( done in Caron Watercolours overdyed cotton and solid DMC perle cotton) led me to return to investigating the 4-way Bargello I used to enjoy. The Bargello was one of the first things I learned in the early 70's, in which a color pattern was stitched onto bare, white canvas - enchanting, as it was almost literally "painting with a needle." These small ornaments are stitched onto canvas with only a few marks for guidance, as I am lazy and don't like counting, and won't stitch from charts. Very very simple to do - and also inexpensive, as they don't involve painted canvases. ( I know several women who made these ornaments two-sided.) The blue and white one is mine, and the multi-color rendition was stitched by Janet Perry of Napa Needlepoint - wonderful and unusual colors she used on her version - and I am delighted to see someone use her own creativity and color choices on the designs. The threads I used were mostly things already in my stash - and if they weren't, it was a fine excuse to go shopping for more. As this work progressed, I added beads to a few, of course - and there were even some with silk ribbon flowers in the center. The white areas of the red one as well as the blue, could have been done also in bargello, but I like the look of basketweave incorporating glittering seed beads - the Sundance color 250H, which are clear crystal hexagonal beads for extra sparkle and iridescence.