Monday, December 16, 2013

The Spinster's Bubble?

The holiday sale went well.  I sold a few skeins of yarn and traded one for a beautiful ceramic piece by Anne-Marie McIntyre.  There is something about yarn and ceramics...they go together so well, especially as trades.

Here is one interesting difference between selling handspun yarn in Brooklyn vs. Newfoundland: people in Brooklyn had to be told that the yarn was handspun (this, despite the tags labeling it as such). For a good long while, I did not understand that visitors did not understand that it was handspun until someone asked me if I was the distributor for the yarn or what.  When I replied that I actually made the yarn, she still looked perplexed, no doubt trying imagine what kind of massive machinery I must own.  Finally I said, "I handspun it".

"Oh!!  You mean you spun this yourself?  Like on a spinning wheel?  Wow!"

What seemed obvious to me was clearly not even on people's radar here.  After that exchange, I mentioned it to everyone who seemed even vaguely interested in the yarn.  Nearly every single person had the same reaction, as if the notion of spinning wool into yarn was so out there as to be unimaginable.

I guess we all live in our own version of The Bubble.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Give WalMart a Break

The bkbx (Brooklyn Box) collective will be hosting a holiday sale this Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.  There will be small works by many of the collective artists for sale at very reasonable prices.  So, give WalMart a break and purchase your gifts this weekend on the banks of the Gowanus Canal.  They need a rest after all that Black Friday melee stuff and we need your money!

(Does anyone besides me remember the self-appointed economic ambassador/homeless guy who used stand outside the entrance to the 9th Street PATH station in Manhattan greeting people with "Welcome to New York!  The city needs your money!"?)

Anyhoo, I will have handspun yarns for sale along with a small selection of handknit items.

bkbx holiday sale
Saturday, December 14th &
Sunday, December 15th
12:00 – 6:00 p.m.

bkbx will be joining Proteus Gowanus and Morbid Anatomy Library to bring you a fabulous array of beautiful, curious and protean artist-made gifts for the holidays.

bkbx (Brooklyn Box)
543 Union Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

This = Yes

Paul Chahidi & Jenny Tiramani from Shakespeare's Globe on Vimeo.

It was my extreme good fortune to be able to see this amazing production of Twelfth Night.  If you are in NYC, go see it.  Why are you still sitting here?  Go!

Really, I laughed 'til I cried.

And the costumes!  The actors get dressed on stage, which sounds a little gimmicky but really it is quite remarkable.  Somehow, although you see these people begin as regular, 21st Century people, by the time they are dressed, you are already forgetting that.  Minutes into the play, you are completely convinced that (1) it is the 16th Century and (2) men are women.

Ok, now please go see it.

Sunday, December 08, 2013


Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Holiday gifts to make, student robes to sew, two solo exhibitions to make work for (say what??), not to mention actual work to do, applications to send, teenagers to feed, housework to be done...

...I could go on.  But really that is all so ho-hum.  What is more important is this skein of yarn and the marathon of watching Project Runway that spawned it.

Ms. Olyve approves.

And so do I.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Mojo is No Go

Coffee, books and yarn.  This is the good kind of multi-tasking.

Somewhere among all my trips these past two months, I lost my multi-tasking mojo.  I am definitely a "more is more" kind of person.  Homeschooling?  Art making?  Yoga teaching?  Zen practice?  Bring. It. On.

Or so I thought.  These past couple of weeks, however, I have noticed that I keep losing things.  Important things.  Things that need to be deposited into bank accounts and things that cost real money.  I am taking it as a sign that, perhaps, I need to stay home just a little bit more.

Early on in my homeschooling career when the kids were quite young, I remember hearing another mother (of five, no less!) saying how the solution to almost all of her family's problems could be solved by staying home more and running around the city less.  I think of it often, in fact.  Even now, as the mother of teenagers, I see how my being home - not necessarily interacting with anyone - is very important to the general happiness of everyone involved.  But the schedule has been a bit more hectic than usual and things feel like they are leaking out at the edges.  Leaking out and, apparently, disappearing because I can not find anything anymore.

Now I will leave you so I can search for that sheet of stamps that I know I left somewhere around here...

Monday, November 25, 2013

We Are What We Sew?

During sesshin, we spend about 1.5 hours each day doing "work practice".  The question becomes, how can I continue my mind of zazen while engaged in activity.  Also, we need to do certain tasks to keep the place running - there are bathroom to clean and vegetables to chop - so it is a beautiful melding of practical necessity and practice.  I freely confess that I love work practice, even when my job is shoveling shit (ok, it is really just compost), as it sometimes has been.  For me, the bareness of the silence and stillness in zazen is far more challenging than being present while I slice up apples for the next morning's breakfast.  Often my work practice seems more about letting go of work practice and my opinions about it - how I look forward to it and how I wish it would last just a bit longer.  I even have had thoughts like, "we should have a sesshin that is all work practice!" until I realized that sesshin that is all work practice also could be called ordinary life.

Ah, well...

This past week, however, my job was to learn how to make a student robe.  I had essentially one pattern piece for the top of the robe and a closet of existing robes in various sizes as my guide.  It was a little like showing someone a picture of a house and giving them a pile of lumber and saying, ok, now make a house!

At first glance, it was an impossible task.  I had the measurements of two new students-to-be so this exercise was not just theoretical; real people will be wearing these robes for as long as they are students.  But, you know, no pressure.  I definitely spent the first day somewhat overwhelmed with the task.  Then I took a deep breath and thought about how even the most complicated project (oh, say, like, you know, realizing one's own true nature perhaps?) is really just a series of steps taken one at a time.  How could it be anything else?  So, I thought about what I did know, what I needed to figure out and what the first step needed to be.  And that told me what the next step needed to be.  And so a conversation began between me and the fabric that wanted to be a robe.

This conversation was not all easy nor pleasant.  The reality of fabric and thread isn't quite as smooth and simple as the idea of it, so I ended up tearing out almost every single seam I stitched in.  But I learned a lot.  And yes, I did wish I could have kept working each day.  And yes, I did spend some time during zazen thinking about what I needed to do next and surreptitiously checking out the robes of the people sitting around me.  Why does she have six little pleats in back and he has only four?  There were so many questions to be asked.

By the end of sesshin, I had most of the top of a robe completed and all the pieces cut.  More than that, I actually had a pretty clear sense of the order of things and the robe, that looked so impenetrably complex on Wednesday morning seemed much, much simpler by Sunday morning.  But as I sewed and ripped out and sewed and ripped out, I began to wonder about the person who would receive this particular robe.  He will be wearing all my mistakes - mistakes that were corrected! - but still.  What will his practice be like in that robe?  Was I stitching in good jou-jou - patience, perseverance, and a good dose of humility?  Or was I guaranteeing that his practice will just be one mistake after another?

I guess it will be up to him.  Meanwhile, I will definitely be (secretly) keeping an eye on him to see how it goes.

Monday, November 18, 2013

One Thing Leads to Another

What?  Were you trying to do something?
Because the pinnacle of human achievement maybe the internets.
Because the internets were invented to post Kute Kitty Kat photos.
Because I have actually been selling some yarn (and batts!) lately.
Because selling yarn then means needing to buy envelopes, printer ink and a trip to the dreaded Sunnyside Post Office.
Because the Sunnyside PO has improved, ever so slightly.
Because these errands are still extra taxing as I am preparing for a week of sesshin.
Because I always put off today what I can do tomorrow.
Because I can not do them tomorrow, I must do them today.
Because I will be away starting this afternoon.
Because I want you to know this - have a wonderful week!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Helpful Hint #1749

If you have a jar of dye made from marigolds sitting on your counter for well over a month, do not open it up, pour it into a pot and heat it up.

Oh, my dear.  I have been in public latrines at bus stops in India that had a more kindly fragrance than what emerged from that pot.  I am still slightly stunned.  The kids may never speak to me again.

Yet, it was all in service of intensifying the colour on the recycled silk that I dyed a while back.  I knit it up into a cowl that will be a gift but once I decided who would receive it and for what, I realized it needed a bit more snazz.

Or, rather, it will be a gift if I can make it smell less appalling.

It is very pretty, no?

But it's also a bit stinky.

Update:  Some lavender essential oil seems to have done the trick.  Now it smells like lavender instead of rotting corpse marigolds.  I hope the recipient likes lavender!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fair Trade

After packing and unpacking three times in three weeks, I discovered that I am a little disorganized.  I thought I was holding on by a hair's breath (hare's breath?  Are hares particularly breathless?) but today I had to admit that I was not holding on at all and things have pretty much fallen apart in certain areas of my life.

But!  But I did finally find one of the several items that seem to have disappeared mysteriously, which is the cord to my camera that connects it to my laptop.  So, now I can show you some pictures.

These particular photographs are of two items that I acquired in Sackville at the Heart and Pocket Revue as part of A Handmade Assembly.  I acquired them through trade, which is a most excellent way of acquiring things in my opinion.

First up are a bowl and cup made by Kaeli Cook.  She does all sorts of fibre-y things, including knitting amazing socks, and she also makes beautiful pottery.  The bowl has become my go-to bowl for everything because it is so beautifully simple and elegant but also because it is deep.  I didn't realize how much I wanted a really deep bowl but now I know that I had been hungering for such a bowl all my life.

This is the cup made with a design of birch trees on it.  I have noticed that I have to be quick in the morning to claim the bowl and cup before Fin and Lucy get their paws on them.  I take it as a sign that these are welcomed additions to the household.  In exchange, Kaeli received a skein of handspun which she promptly turned into slippers.  May they keep your multi-talented feet warm, Kaeli!  Thanks so much for trading with me!

You can get your own Kaeli Cook bowl or cup by visiting her etsy shop here.

My other trade was with Rilla Marshall.  I own one of her scarves and I had been jonesing for another one for some time.  I had my eye on one particular one all day at the H&PR and I finally worked up my courage to ask Rilla if she would be willing to trade yarn for a scarf.  She said yes!  And fortunately for me no one bought my scarf by the end of the day.

It is silk and wool.  She weaves it then felts it so the wool shrinks creating a great shape.  It is warm and soft and so, so beautiful.  I love it.  Thank you, Rilla!  I promise that I will not lose it at the post office or anywhere.  I promise!

You can buy a scarf or other woven item from Rilla in her etsy shop here.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

One Word

When I wrote the other day about feeling not completely at home in the craft-only world nor in the art-only world, a person commented and asked me to say more.  Well, you hardly have to twist my arm to get me to say more (it is far more challenging to say less!), so I will do my best to explain further and clarify what I was getting at.

My thoughts were sparked by a question that someone asked at the closing remarks of A Handmade Assembly, which was, can you describe in one word what is different about what we are up to (if I may use the word, "we") as opposed to any other artist.  People came up with all sorts of replies, mostly more than one word but some of the words that did get spoken of were: sincerity, attitude, honesty.  I especially like attitude.  Maybe I would add: generousity.

But it is a slippery slope.  Everything we said also could be applied to painters or others who use "traditional" art materials.  It clearly isn't the materials that make the difference.  "Attitude" resonated well with me.  One of the moderators made a comparison of what we had been doing all weekend to people who engage with a church community - get together to do things, have meals, discuss ideas, tell stories, and generally appreciate and honour what we were all doing.  He was going out a limb to use a religious metaphor in that crowd but he had a point.  

I am not afraid of religious talk, so I could see what he was getting at and I think he isn't far off.  In the end, I don't think there is one word that can be said to sum up whatever difference there is between those of us who take up handmade as part of exactly what we want to talk about in our work.  

As I worked in my studio yesterday, I felt something that felt like an answer to the ongoing dialogue about this that has been happening in my head.  It didn't come out as words exactly.  Well, it did come out as words but not answering kind of words...more questioning kinds of words.  

But who wants answers anyway?

Saturday, November 02, 2013


It has been quite a week of border crossings.  Last week, I was in New Brunswick for A Handmade Assembly and this week, Lucy and I went to Toronto so we could attend the opening of Colette Urban's retrospective exhibition at Museum London in London, ON.  Colette died before the exhibition opened, making the experience quite sad even as it is a beautiful celebration of her life and talent.

We found a very inexpensive place to stay in Scarborough via airbnb.  We feel right at home here because Scarborough is to Toronto what Queens is to Manhattan.  It is where many new immigrants land.  Here is Lucy at Bismillah Pizza.  How could we not have a slice at such an authentically Italian sounding place like that?

It was actually not too bad.
 Then we drove out to London for the opening.  We shall not speak of traffic or poor google map directions.  Suffice to say, we made it and joined a throng of people who we have only seen in Newfoundland.  A funny and wonderful mix of people that only Colette could have gathered together.

Some of her performances were re-enacted throughout the evening.

Her last drawings, which were very much about her bodily experiences of cancer, although made before her diagnosis.

I think Colette would have approved of this!

Feeling her presence so strongly, it was hard not to wish her presence was really there.  She has left such a large hole...we scrambled to fill it with talk and laughing and reminiscence.  But....

I've said it before and I will say it again:  we miss you, Colette.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Z L-W Strikes Again!

Zabeth has two more lacy shawl designs in the latest issue of Vogue Knitting.

They are stunning.
VOGUE Knitting Holiday 2013, photo by Rose Callahan
Item name: Plum Lace Shawl
Designer: Zabeth Loisel-Weiner
Yarn Information: Zitron/ Skacel Collection Filigran
For sizes: 46"x22" 
Amounts: Filigran 2 hanks in #2508 plum 

VOGUE Knitting Holiday 2013, photo by Rose Callahan
Item name: Turquoise Lace Shawl
Designer: Zabeth Loisel-Weiner
Yarn Information: Classic Elite yarns Silky Alpaca Lace
For sizes: 58"x28"
Amounts: 2 balls Classic Elite Yarns Silky Alpaca Lace in #2049 Lake Chad 

But I really didn't need to even say that, did I?  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Not Faking

At the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, I often hear people say things like, "These are my people."  Or "I feel like I have come home and don't have to explain myself here."  And while I totally understand the sentiment, it is not how I have felt.  No matter how much fun it is, no matter that I eagerly commune with as many wooly friends aka sheep as I can during that one, glorious day (and it is glorious), there is this distance between me and everyone else.  I love knitters and spinners - please do not misunderstand! - but that sense of deep releasing security in the knowledge that there is, in fact, a community of like-minded people to which one wholeheartedly belongs - no.  It isn't there.

You can't fake something like that.  It is like going to church.  For years, I went to church, various churches.  I looked around at the people there and felt jealous.  They all seemed to believe in what they were saying and hearing and singing.  I so wanted to believe too!  But there was this nagging problem, which was that I didn't believe.  Saying those prayers, I could feel - taste - the falseness the instant it came out of my mouth.  There was nothing wrong with what I was saying but I knew that I was faking it.

At Rhinebeck, I always feel, just a little, like a faker.  Sure, I knit and spin and I will roll around naked in a pile of Rambouillet - just point me in the right direction - but I have this little secret:  I don't just do this for the love of it.  I am not satisfied by this.

Honestly, this is not so different from how I feel at various art openings.  I so want to believe that these are my people.  Other artists, right?  We get each other.  But even here, there is that gap...I am not quite one of you.  You see, I have this little secret:  I don't just do this.  I am not satisfied by this.

Throughout this past weekend of events at A Handmade Assembly, I had a new feeling.  A feeling that I couldn't quite articulate until the very last event of the whole Assembly.  It was during the closing remarks, when the two moderators were trying to make some sense of the whole thing, that I realized that, yes, THESE are my people.  We make art.  We make stuff.  We let it ALL in.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Assembly

What this blurry photograph doesn't show, besides just about everything, is that the group who came for my artist talk was really great.  You can kind of get an idea of that by the number of blurry figures who are blurrily crocheting.  They listened politely and they asked great questions, added interesting comments and generally made me feel like it is ok to give an artist talk that is just honest and not about trying to be anything or do anything special.  

What with all that talking and questioning and commenting, we only had a short time for the workshop and a small group of dedicated people who participated.  And that was just exactly right.  They made their own version of Indra's Net using their interactions from the previous 24 hours.  We wove them all together.  

One (of the many) extra bonuses of being part of A Handmade Assembly is that I have been able to take two of the offered workshops.  On Thursday, I did a bookbinding workshop using recycled materials with Sarah Evans.  As I said to Lucy that evening, why don't we do bookbinding more?  It is so fun!  And then - you have a book!   Or, in this case, four books.

On Friday, I did a rug hooking workshop with Alicia Steeves.  Alicia's understated superpowers convinced me that I do, in fact, like rug hooking.  I really like it. 

 And if giving a talk, leading a workshop, and participating in a workshop wasn't enough, I was very generously invited to have supper with one of the other artists involved with the Assembly, Anna Torma.  She lives about 1/2 hr. from Sackville.  It was a gorgeous evening and really nice to have the opportunity to see some of New Brunswick beyond the Trans-Canada Highway.  It was even nicer to spend time with Anna and her husband, Ishvan Zsako, who also is an artist.  

How could you add any more to such an experience? there is the Heart and Pocket Revue, which is a craft sale.  For me, the highlight is to see the very dear Rilla Marshall.  Rilla used to live in Corner Brook, which is where we met, but she has moved back to her home province of PEI.  She makes the most beautiful weavings and is just a beautiful person all around.  Check out her blog here.

And alright already, I did buy a little hand-dyed yarn.  It was on sale!  Sheesh.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I Love Thee, Sackville

We shall not speak of how I arrived in Sackville, New Brunswick.  Suffice to say, I arrived.  And a lovely drive it was too.

I arrived to attend and participate in A Handmade Assembly, the event for which I was the online Artist in Residence this past month.  You can read all about it over here.

Sackville is home to Mt. Allison University and to Struts Gallery and Artist-run Centre.  Struts is the presenter of the Assembly and my AiR host.  I had the good fortune to be invited to be part of the inaugural Assembly back in 2011.  That year, we dashed in and dashed out but this time I am soaking up all that is on offer.  

Most of the events are being held in the Sackville Royal Canadian Legion Hall.  It is wonderful on so many levels.  From the outside signage... the paneled staircase... the regalia... the picture of Her Majesty (one of two).

Then, there is the minimalist settings at Mel's Tea Room for supper.  I don't need no stinkin' knife.  Or spoon.  Or napkin.  C'mon, man up!

And, also this sign seen in the entryway of Jack's Pizza.

Thanks for your understanding.

PS.  I will be giving an artist talk tomorrow morning at 10 am and leading a workshop/project at 11 am at the aforementioned Legion Hall, so please come if you can!  On Saturday, I will be selling some yarn along side many wonderful artists and craftspeople at the Heart and Pocket Revue.  Please stop by, especially if your drive is less than 12 hours.

Monday, October 21, 2013

World Domination, One Spinner at a Time

Rhinebeck was...well...Rhinebeck.  As always, my attention was directed towards the sheep.  Yeah, yeah, I may have purchased a small amount of Icelandic fleece from my favourite Icelandic fleece seller but shopping isn't really my thing - it is a bit too much of a feeding frenzy for my taste.  Communing with our wooly friends, however, is.  There was the sweetest little, black Shetland who was content to have her face scratched all day and I was content to do it.  No photo of her, but here are a few others...


Sheep in jackets.

There also were goats.

The fabulous sheep shearing guy.

Possibly the most beautiful Rambouillet fleece ever.  I coveted it but it was a display fleece so my covetous ways were not fulfilled.

Not sure if it was being around all those sheep that did it, but I suddenly have found myself plunged into fleecy goodness since returning home.  I received an order for some carded batts to sell at St. John's newest yarn store (hooray!! not sure if they have a website yet but I will link if/when they do).  I wasn't totally sure when I might get a moment to make them up before heading to Sackville, but some how, some way, I managed to make a bunch (quite nice too, if you ask me), package them up and - here's the real kicker - mail them off in less than 24 hours.  My sense of self-righteous glory marches forward unchecked.

But wait!  There's more!

Today, while I wasn't mailing packages to St. John's, I was teaching a spinning workshop to a group of homeschoolers, ages 5 to 13.  An awesome group!  Maybe it is because my kids' eyes glaze over as soon as the words "spinning workshop" are mentioned that it was so thrilling to be around a group of kids who are jazzed about wool and spinning.  I started the workshop by asking if anyone was wearing clothes (I like them to think about how much effort goes into making a set of clothes by hand - they usually have a new appreciation by the end of the workshop after they have given the spindle a go).  In this case, everyone raised their hand but they did it in total sincerity.  Could there be anything more beautifully heart breaking?  Me, miss!  I am!  Hooray - we were ALL wearing clothes!  And in our clothes, we all learned to spin.  I think I converted at least three of them.

It is a slow way to world domination, but it's a way nonetheless.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Interlude or Maybe Not

Well, yes, actually it is.  But blogging about it doesn't have to be, right?  On Rhinebeck Eve (as someone coined it), let's talk a little about yarn.

This is some recycled silk made into yarn that was given to me by the blogless Janine on a recent visit.  Have I ever mentioned how she also travels - by plane - from Wisconsin with three dozen eggs from her hens?  And never an accident (yet).  This time, however, the airport security person made a joke about the rule against carrying "shells" in her luggage.  Gotta love a TSA person with a sense of humour.  Anyway, this is the silk yarn she also carried with her.  I immediately put it in a jar of my marigold dye and let it stay there for two weeks.  It is a little pale because I didn't mordant it first but I kind of like it.  I might pop it in an indigo pot for a light green...yummy.

This also came from Wisconsin and Janine.  Her friend raised the sheep, sheared the sheep, processed the wool, dyed the wool and carded the batt.  Whew!  I spun it up into a thin single and chain plied it.   Gorgeous!  Janine knows that I love blue so mine were the right hands to put it in.  It is such a precious skein - so much love in that little guy.

Alright, so maybe this post also is all about relationship too.  But, you know, this time with yarn.