Friday, July 30, 2010

Yarn for Sale!

Single ply BFL, 180 yds

Two ply superwash BFL, a whopping 420 yds, sock weight.

More sock weight superwash BFL, 224 yds.

Merino, chain plied, 164 yds.

After a very long hiatus, I am happy to announce that I have (finally) started to re-stock my etsy shop, Wee Ball Yarns. I just added four new skeins and I hope I will be able to continue to add more yarn and some hats over the coming days.

All that and we awoke to a cool breeze this morning. Nice.

ETA: One of the new yarns is currently featured in a treasury on etsy. Check it out and click, click, click!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Buddha and the Baker

Look! Actual wool being handled. It's a beautiful thing.

While I was happily spinning - merrily spinning, I would go so far to say - the doorbell rang. I could see from where I was sitting that there were two young women at the door. Uh-oh, religious people, I thought. But no, they were young and rather hip looking, which I took to mean that they were not religious zealots.

Fooled again!

They just wanted to leave some literature that talked about God and creation. They really emphasized that last word. As I usually do, I told them that my religious practice was Buddhist so I thought their literature would be more useful for someone else. Normally, that is enough to send religious doorbell ringers away. But not these young women.

"Oh!" they said, "we know about the Buddha because there are a lot of Tibetan people in this neighborhood." A fact that is true enough.

"Is that so?" I replied.

"Oh yes. We know that Buddha was searching for answers about the meaning of life and why we suffer and die." Ok, now I am impressed that they know that much. With sadness in her voice, one of the women said,"But he never found the answer." And launched into her Bible talk.

Hold on a minute! He never found his answer? Yes he did! I stopped her there. A bit flustered, she continued, read me a bit about sin from the Bible and asked me if I was to bake bread in a pan with a dent in it, what would happen to every loaf or cake that came out of that pan?

First off, who bakes cakes in bread pans? And second off, huh?

At that point, I told them that the gulf between us was probably too large to be breached by literature and bread pans and it was time to end the conversation. I have no problem talking about religion but, please, if you must use baking metaphors, at least make them accurate.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A brief reprieve from the heat has allowed us to catch up a bit on things that required movement - housework, gardening, that kind of thing - as well as anything that involved clutching wool. It was so hard to find myself sitting at home without anything scheduled and unable to do the things that such a circumstance would normally allow.

Busyness. Laziness. Flip sides of the same coin? Or the same side of the same coin?

Here are two poems I discovered in our enforced stillness. They are by a Polish poet named Tadeusz Różewicz

The Gate

Lasciate ogni speranza
Voi ch'entrate

abandon all hope
ye who enter here

the inscription at the entrance to the inferno
of Dante's Divine Comedy


behind that gate
there is no hell

hell has been dismantled
by theologians
and deep psychologists

converted into allegory
for humanitarian and educational

behind that gate
the same thing begins again

two drunken grave-diggers
sit at the edge of a hole

they're drinking non-alcoholic beer
and munching on sausage
winking at us
under the cross
they play soccer
with Adam's skull

the hole awaits
tomorrow's corpse
the "stiff" is on its way


here we will await
the final judgment

water gathers in the hole
cigarette butts are floating in it


behind that gate
there will neither be history
nor goodness nor poetry

and what will there be
dear stranger?

there will be stones

upon stone
stone upon stone
and on that stone
one more

Translated by Joanna Trzeciak

Busy With Many Jobs

Busy with many jobs
I forgot
one also has
to die

I kept neglecting that duty
or performed it perfunctorily

as from tomorrow
things will be different

I'll start dying meticulously
wisely optimistically
without wasting time

Polish/English translator Adam Czerniawski

Monday, July 26, 2010

For A Friend

I have a friend, who also is a great teacher to me. But when I started to thank him for that, he interrupted me and wouldn't let me finish. That's how great a teacher he is.

One of the things he teaches me is about being open and giving out lots and lots of love.

The other day, he asked me if I knew where he could get a traveling sewing kit and I wasn't really sure. When I answered that I wasn't really sure, he told me that I was getting snotty.

This actually makes no sense. Later he told me I had a bad attitude, which also makes no sense. But it left me with something to prove.

So I made him a traveling sewing kit. In its snotty, bad attitude kind of way, I think it is rather cute.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Widdershin Woolworks

Please allow me to introduce you to a new shop on etsy: Widdershin Woolworks. The proprietor, Michelle Mueller, is a Buddhist nun in the Tibetan tradition who has recently returned from India, where she was ordained by H.H. the Dalai Lama. She is living with Martie of Taos Sunflower and started, or rather re-started, spinning and making yarn. You can read some her story here. She is selling her yarn on etsy as part of a fundraising effort on behalf of a new retreat center in New Mexico that will offer housing and community for recently returned monastics, like Michelle.

I bought her yarn because I thought it was beautiful and only later learned what it was supporting.

Have I mentioned that it is incredibly soft? And beautiful? And well-spun?

Oh heat, please go away! I have knitting to do!

I am very happy to have the added bonus of supporting Michelle's project with my purchase. So, if you love yarn, the dharma, or both, please check out her shop!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Success, Art and Business

Via that double-edged sword, Facebook, I have been back in touch with some people who have moved on to bigger and brighter things from the time when I first knew them. Artists who have made it big, or at least, bigger than me. In one case, the artist is part of the stable of artists in one of New York's best known galleries. His shows are regularly reviewed by the New York Times and he has recently been appearing on a new TV reality show that is supposedly about finding the next, hot artist. At one time, we were very close. Indeed we shared a studio apartment (platonically, I feel compelled to add), which is about as close as it gets. We had bunk beds. I got the upper.

It was utterly not surprising that he has become so successful as an artist. In fact, it was quite clear from early on in our art school career that, if any of us was going to "make it", then it would be him. Why? Because he had the will to make it happen in a way that none of the rest of us did. For a time, that will to make it happen included shutting people out who said things that made him uncomfortable (um, that would be me). Although it felt very tumultuous at the time, I can look back and say that it made sense and was for the best - we were headed very different places. It has been nice to reconcile with him via Facebook. It is fascinating to have that window into his life and observe what he does for a living.

When I look at my acquaintances who are the most successful as artists, all of them have, at one time or another, dumped people who were getting in the way of their singular vision of themselves by mentioning things that disrupted that vision (oops, me again).

Writing this, I can't help but wonder...why am I such an asshole? Always out there reminding people of their human frailties. Who needs that?

Anyway, my original question was whether it is possible to achieve success in the art world (a separate thing from being a successful artist, which can have so many meanings) and still be a nice person - whatever that is, having just proved that I, myself, am not so very nice. Is it a prerequisite that one be able to cast aside those who raise doubts or are otherwise hindering the trajectory. Maybe the art world isn't so different, after all, from any other high stakes, business career path: to make it in that way requires certain abilities and if you ain't got'em, then here's the door.

It is so easy to get caught up in our romantic notions about artists. It is easy to forget that business skills - skills that require a mind that is sharp, subtle and calculating - are as critical to success as any technical ability or imaginative power. While I do believe with all my heart that two of the secrets to success as an artist are being prompt and saying "thank you", if you are headed for the big time, there are other forces at play. It is not so mysterious.

Now, if you want to read about what it is like to actually make art successfully, check out zendotstudio for a lovely quote from John Daido Loori's book Zen and the Art of Creativity.

I am curious to hear your thoughts about art and success. It is, ultimately, such a personal thing. Is my old friend any more or less successful for being so financially successful with his art? I am certain he thinks of himself as nice, and why shouldn't he? So what am I really on about anyway?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Raoul Hague

While Shawn and Eamon were visiting, we got talking one evening about our days as art students. For Dan and myself, we attended the School of Art at Cooper Union. Somehow or other I began to remember a visit I made with some friends to an artist who lived in the woods near Woodstock, NY. He lived like a hermit in a little house, which he had made into an artwork itself.

He also maintained a large studio where he carved the most amazing sculptures from pieces of wood he collected from around his property.

These images do not convey the power of his work. First, they are huge. Second, one has an immediate sense of a hand that knew how to dance with the wood and draw out what was held inside it. They are wood being wood.

So often, as an art student, I met older artists, professors or visiting artists, and their work was ever so slightly disappointing. A feeling of compromise pervaded the work, or a sense of not quite finishing it to edge. But not with this artist. Every detail of his art, his life, was not just considered but lived, experienced, to the fullest.

I remember he served us Turkish Delight and Miller beer. The three of us sat in his little house, anxious to have him like us but unable to say anything that could possibly meet such an amazing person where he was. At least that's how I felt.

While reminiscing with Shawn, I could not remember the artist's name but, as these things usually do, I finally remembered it the next day as I made up my bed. His name was Raoul Hague.

He died a few years after our visit but the memory of the power of his work and the integrity of his life and the unbelievable amazingness of his house have stayed with me. His house is now the home of the Raoul Hague Foundation and, apparently, one can tour it by appointment.

Perhaps on our next trip upstate...

ETA - After posting this, I email the Raoul Hague Foundation about making a visit and they replied that they are not currently allowing visitors on the property.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

If You Can't Stand the Heat

If you can't stand the heat, well honey, you're outta luck. It continues. The best cure that I can think of? How about some nice, wooly yarn? My palms are sweating already, just thinking about it.

I know I have been blathering endlessly about our big trip - the land and sky and knitters and suburban sprawl. But have I mentioned that I was actually spinning while driving?

In Wisconsin, it came to light that Mr. Kundert, one of the World's Top Spindle Makers (as determined by Spin Off magazine) lives right near the blogless Janine. We popped into a yarn store and there was a jar of his spindles, acting all coy and like they didn't care if I came over and felt them up and down. Who could resist that kind of playing-hard-to-get invitation? I held each one of those bad boys, weighing them in my hand, and one of them just wouldn't let go. It wasn't the fanciest one, by far, but I always did lean towards the simpler type. Who needs the complications? The drama?

A steady worker, that's what I like.

It actually has turned out to be the best spindle I own. I now understand why some people claim they don't need a wheel. This spindle is a dream. My dream. That I use to make yarn.

And here is some of that yarn:

A two-ply blend made from CVM and pygora. I thought I was spinning lace weight but when I soaked the plied yarn it bloomed, big time. I think it is closer to a DK now.

Right before Shawn and Eamon came to visit, Shawn posted a new yarn to her etsy shop, islandsweet. She called it Gannet Egg after the colours of eggs she saw on a recent visit to Cape St. Mary on the east coast of Newfoundland. It was love at first sight for me, the colours being all my favourites in one skein. Little did I know that she made an extra skein with my name on it.

Look! There it is! In my living room!

If it wasn't already 80F/30C at 7:30 am, I would rub my face in it. Someday, when the temperature drops...someday...there is fun to be had.

In the meantime, I did try to spin a little one day. Here is my proof:

But it was just too awful to hold the wool.


Thursday, July 15, 2010


There is nothing like having people visit from away to make the old seem new again. Shawn is a veteran, with many visits to NYC under her belt. But for her 10 year-old grandson, Eamon, everything was brand new. Although he lives in the largest city in Newfoundland, he really hadn't experienced a large city before. As we went around the city, visiting sites large and important, as well as ones that were more out of the way, it was often the trip to our destination that made an impression more than the place itself. It is so easy to forget what an amazing thing it is to take a ride on the subway or sit in Central Park eating ice cream on a hot day. Or catch fireflies in the backyard and walk over to get an Italian ice after supper.

I know Shawn will have many more (and better, no doubt!) pictures. But here a few of mine.

We planned to visit places in one borough/day.

On our Brooklyn Day, we started at the Botanical Gardens.

Rain couldn't stop us from enjoying every moment.

Then we moved on to Fairway in Red Hook for lunch and a view of the Statue of Liberty. I know some might say, "You took them to Fairway in Red Hook??" But lunch on their back porch overlooking NY Harbour was fantastic. And since Fairway is so far and away different from any place to buy food in Corner Brook, Shawn was enjoying seeing so much amazing food in one place.

Who are these lovely children?

Then a quick aside to Brooklyn General. Shawn made it clear that this trip wasn't about her but about showing Eamon the city. But since Brooklyn General was a six-minute ride from Fairway, it seemed to make sense to drop by, just, you know, in case they had something special that day. And they did! Shawn found some hard-to-find angelina in various colours. Coming soon to islandsweet yarns!

The kids waited very patiently.

Somehow, for three days, they talked non-stop. We did so much and yet, it didn't feel rushed or stressed. Everything just felt fresh.

The carousel in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

An Island About To Get Sweeter

We awoke from our heat-induced coma to discover that the house was a wreck, there was a pile of bills to be paid and I was behind on our homeschooling paperwork. How did that happen?

And we have visitors coming! Shawn and Eamon will arrive this evening.

Something must be done.

Once the heat lifted from Are-You-Kidding-Me to I-Think I-Will-Make-It-After-All, I set to work tidying up. But not your run of the mill, stack the books in the corner, sweep the middle of the floor (what? you never do that?) kind of cleaning. This time I tackled all projects, large and small, that have been building up for months. Lucy's doll was repaired. My zafu no longer leaks buckwheat husks every morning. Homeschooling paperwork was dispatched to the belly of the DoE beast. The art supplies that ate the dining room hutch have been tamed. Laundry? I laugh at your laundry!

In the dim of a closed curtain afternoon, our house is looking pretty and awaits the arrival of our long-anticipated guests.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

From King Corn to Grinder Sutra

Martie of Taos Sunflower made the mistake of asking, I mean, very kindly inquired if we had encountered any sandwiches that could be included in Grinder Sutra on our trip. Grinder Sutra is a project in development, a film about those long sandwiches that are sometimes called subs or hoagies (Martie can be forgiven if she accidently called them that in her kind note). We encountered them in southern Rhode Island and Connecticut but have since discovered that the term "grinder" also is in use in part of western Massachusetts, somewhere in Michigan, and oddly enough, in Riverside, a community that is part of, or just outside of LA.

Well, Martie, the answer is yes!

We stopped in Omaha to visit an old friend, Jeff Peter. Jeff was, in fact, the only person present as a guest at our marriage ceremony at Queens Borough Hall in 1991. He doubled as witness and photographer and did an excellent job as both. He subsequently moved back to Omaha and we have only seen him once in the interim, so it was very exciting to finally see where he grew up and currently lives.

That is my long-winded lead up to the fact that a local pub in Jeff's neighborhood serves a grinder. Of course we had to go and check it out! The research just never stops.

But first, obligatory shot of Nebraska corn:

Seeing that much corn growing did seem wrong somehow. It just can't be healthy to grow that much like that, nor consume that much. If you have read Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, then you know what I am talking about.

Ok, back to grinders...

The menu at the the Dundee Dell. Ok, this is obviously a hybrid grinder place. I mean, anyone who notes that you can have your grinder also served as a wrap? Not happening. And their use of the term "hoagie roll" to describe the bread is sketchy at best. They are a little misguided in the details but the question is, how did it taste?

Finnian and Jeff did the honours. Finnian declared it very good, although the lettuce was not shredded so points off for that. And Jeff, well, with all due respect to him, as someone who spend most of his life in Omaha, I am not looking to him as a judge of the many and varied nuances of the grinder. Love the man! But for grinder expertise, I look elsewhere. But he did say it was good too.

So the Dundee Dell in Omaha is added to the list. If I hadn't been so dazed from the 100F heat, I would have done some actual filming but maybe we need another cross country film tour for Grinder Sutra. Not sure the Canada Council will fund that one, however.

And here is our very last travelogue photo!

A Louis Sullivan bank building in Grinnell, Iowa. We took this detour and photograph for Dan, who is a huge Louis Sullivan fan. Too bad he wasn't there to see it in person.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Trains and Rocks

So, where were we? Oh yes! What? Well, if you must go and use the washroom, please do so, but do so quietly...

The travelogue continues. This time with lots of trains and rocks.

Eastern Oregon, take while dangerously trying to drive a huge vehicle and snap a photo in an artful way.

The spotty hills of Idaho, near Boise.

At our campsite - Lucy pointed out that the trees had cozies of moss on their branches. I felt a dash of motherly pride of having affected the imagination of my children.

Wyoming. Looking at this photo, some days after it was taken, I am struck with the same feeling I had when I there in the original: What the hell? At the time, I think I was also thinking, get me outta here, pronto. I need me some trees. This was too, too much.

There is a train in this photo if you look closely at the center.

Actually, we saw some of the most amazing and amazingly depressing landscape in Wyoming. The depressing part was the human element, I'm afraid. In the southwestern part of Wyoming, there is a lot of natural gas exploration going on and there are large trailer parks of impromtu communities set up in this stark landscape. I had read about how they were filled with men, being paid large amounts of money to do this work, who have nothing to do and nowhere to go. A recipe for a lot of debauchery, as you might imagine. Also, we saw, near a (real) town, a hillside that had been torn up by ATV tracks - a landscape millions of years old ruined forever so that a few people could have a thrill ride on an ATV. I felt those scars like they had been done on my own body. They HAD been done on my own body. Your's too.

More trains and rocks.

We drove behind the Tow-Low for some miles, Finn and I speculating on what was driving it. A dog wearing a hat? It seemed entirely possible.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Pacific Time

This is getting to be like visiting friends who insist you watch their vacation slide show when they invite you to dinner. Well, just pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable...

We left Vancouver and officially I was done with my Knitting Sprawl travels, although I feel like I need to do it all over again to get what I now know I missed the first time. In any case, we left Vancouver, not without my gently giving a city bus a little tap, mirror to mirror like. The bus driver, breaking with Vancouver stereotype, was distinctly unfriendly about it and ranted at me while I sat dumbly at a stop light. No actual damage was done but it was a little bit of a sour note to go out on.

We crossed the border, had all our oranges seized and two organic avocados - I am still burned about that! - and headed to Seattle and the home of an old Cooper Union friend, Will Kitchen. Will moved out to Seattle in the early 90s and now has his family there. We hadn't been in touch for over 10 years but, in the best way possible, we picked up as if it had just been last week.

Will is a real painter's painter. Here is a small example of one of his fanciful paintings, part of a series based on his collection of toys: a loose narrative he has created. He also paints en plein air at the Seattle Botanical Gardens. The man can not make an ugly mark, but I know he tries sometimes.

For the first time, we slept in the RV on the street in Seattle. It felt a little dicey, such things being illegal in NYC, but it was not big deal there. Will assures me that he has several friend who live that way all the time. Is that a good thing?

Then we headed to Portland, OR, and another friend and artist, Amy Bay. Amy continued the sub-theme of the trip in which people who used to live in NYC tell me about how great it is to homeschool out of the city. We decided that Portland was like a giant Brooklyn, or maybe a smaller Brooklyn actually. The whole artisanal, DIY, cycling thing pervades the whole city. Very hip place, is Portland.

Here is Amy and her son, Leo, as we sit down to enjoy lunch at the famous carts in downtown.

This is apparently the most famous of the famous carts. It serves only one dish - a poached chicken dish served with ginger rice. Finn and Lucy tried it and swore by it. I tried another, less meat-centric cart. Pretty fabulous and cheap.

Yes, Portland has got things figured out.

Here, Finnian (and Amy's little sweetie, Irma) contemplate a display in a shop that sells light fixtures but, for some reason, was exhibiting this one person's Lego set collection. Finnian, who can be a bit jaded under the best of circumstances, was obviously impressed. Finally something impressed him!

And this has nothing to do with any of our trip at all. I stumbled across it and thought it was very funny. A Madonna and Child, with the baby Jesus holding a niddy noddy. Notice the look on Mary's face...."please don't break my niddy noddy, even if you are the son of God!"

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Blanket Creek

Between Calgary and Vancouver we indulged in some time in the mountains: first Banff, then in a provincial park in BC called Blanket Creek. I just picked it out on a map and made a reservation without knowing what it would be like. Fortunately for us, it turned out to be paradise on earth.

Don't believe me? Exaggerating, you say? Take a look...

It is situated on the Columbia River. Being mid-June, the official season hadn't yet begun so we essentially had the place to ourselves. It was tough going but we managed to make the best of it.

At night I could hear the roar of traffic and I spent some time bemoaning our modern world, where even in paradise, there was noise from cars. The next day we walked up to this waterfall and I discovered the real source of the noise. I could point out how it is that we become convinced of things that we make up in our minds and how those things affect our happiness and behavior and how those things are, more often than not, wrong in reality. But, the waterfall was so gorgeous and powerful, I think it can speak for itself.

The cedar forests were, we were convinced, full of faeries. We were even more convinced when we found these amazing looking black slugs that looked like Dutch licorice. We didn't eat them to find out if they tasted like Dutch licorice, however. Later we found out that they are called Rocking Slugs because they make a rocking motion if feeling threatened. We never threatened them - just enjoyed the Dutch licorice traveling across the floor of the magical forest.

This view, which again I took in completely solo, was what one sees if you turn a corner on the riverbank.

There also were the remains of homestead that added further to sense of magical enchantment. It was rather infested with ground squirrels who would pop up out of the ground and make funny noises. I did my yoga practice here one day, feeling very happy to have found a place - finally - that was level ground, not rocky or lumpy from tufts of grass, nor muddy. But there also were lots of signs around warning about bears. I got up to marychasana D in the series before the feeling that I was being watched by many pairs of bearlike eyes reached a peak and I fled back to our campsite.

We were very happy there.