Saturday, May 30, 2015

Trust Yourself

For the past two weeks I have been flushing the system.  Making whatever came to mind without a lot of discrimination.  Just get it outta there.  Derivative, cliche, even strongly vaginal - I just made it and worried later.  And I have worried a bit (read: a lot).  Mostly, it has been the usual suspects: am I really an artist?  Am I wasting my time?  Have I pissed off my whole family to come here only to just diddle around making strongly vaginal artwork?

The thing is, you can't have doubt without its opposite, faith, lurking somewhere in the background.  Even in my lowest moment, as I sat in a chair, hating everything I saw while feeling the clock and the calendar pressing down on me - somewhere in there - I had faith.  Faith in this process of making, faith in my decades of experience, ultimately, faith in myself.  I distinctly remember sitting there completely distraught and paralyzed when I thought to myself that nothing will change as long as I kept sitting there.  The only way out of this disaster was to make a move.  Draw a line, cut a piece of fabric, whatever.  Just do something.  And in that one action, things will change.  There has to be movement.

It sounds pretty obvious but, for me, it was a turning point.  I can't say that, from that moment forward, I have been making masterpieces.  Not at all.  But I found my counter argument to when I start down that slippery slope of negativity.  The only way out is through.

Yesterday, I felt like I made a few worthwhile things.  There are enough layers of meaning and formal interest to hold my attention.  I started repairing a pillow case that I found in my bin of textiles - it dates from the 1970s.  I used "liquid embroidery" to paint on these stenciled images on a rainy weekend with my siblings.  No doubt my mother was just grateful that we were being quiet.  For some reason, I still had this thing that I made back then but it was in pretty bad shape.  I decided to use a Japanese mending technique called sashiko to repair it.  I thought it would be amusing to use this beautiful technique on my 1970s liquid embroidery pillow case.  (And I still think it is amusing!)  But something else began to happen as well - color and texture started to come together in a beautiful way, perhaps aided by a sense of caring and history.

A detail of one of them.  I ended up liking the back more than the front.
I have made two so far and they are holding their own.  With the energy of those two objects, other objects and drawings started to come together in a new way too.

In yoga, we talk a lot about śraddha, usually translated as faith.  In Zen, my teacher often repeats what his teacher often repeated, "Trust yourself."

Trust yourself.

And, it was a beautiful evening last night too.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Work Continues Apace

Someone - I won't mention names - being of a collaborative nature, suggested that each of the artists and writers here make a page that will be bound into a little book, edition of six.  One of for each of us and one for the Saltonstall Foundation.  Being of generous nature, everyone agreed and we have all been working on our pages.  I chose to make all of mine the same so everyone will get the same thing - there is a front, centerfold and back.  This is the front and back; the centerfold is a watercolor landscape of the hillside I see from my Studio B aka the patio.

That would be me.

I decided to embrace my status as the lucky one.  Must say that I am quite pleased how they turned out. I think everyone else has been working on their pages too so I think it will be a sweet, little project in the end.

Here is a glimpse of my watercolor drawings and yarn.  You can see why I jumped up to spin it, no?

Here are some other of my materials.  Somehow childhood bedsheets and pillow cases have been figuring heavily.  I am not asking questions!  I am just making things!  (As an aside, what do you call that little rotary tool?  I found it in a second hand shop and it is proving very useful but I can't remember its name.)

Each evening, I take a walk after supper with my little camera.  I challenge myself to find something new on what has become a familiar path.  Somedays I don't see much but, last night, it was easy.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Get Lucky

The other day, someone said to me, "You really got lucky with your kids -  they're great."

While I couldn't disagree - they are great! - I added, "Luck…and years of hard work."

Of course, that is what it seems like in the moment: luck.  We all know stories of parents who were not so lucky.  And they might have worked hard too so maybe there is an element of luck in there.  But to just chalk it up to luck seems incomplete at best.

Likewise when people marveled at my luck at getting to spend a month making art here in Ithaca, I understood.  Yes, I was lucky to be selected.  I mean, look at where I am!

It isn't a complete picture either.  I have written about this before.  Yes, I am lucky to be here.  I am lucky to be living this amazing life.  And, I have worked pretty damn hard for it all.  Please rest assured that I am working pretty damn hard here too.

Look!  I made this yarn!  I haven't posted any pictures of my work because it feels so new and tender that I don't want to share it yet.  But I will share that, in the midst of making drawings and watercolors, I realized that I had to make this yarn and it is now part of a little installation of those drawings and watercolors in my studio.  I have been intrigued with the idea of including handspun yarn among drawings and other items that would be considered fine art.  Can it hold its own?  Can the relationship between all the objects create something new - a third thing?  Can this handspun yarn have a role in the conversation, which is a conversation that is NOT about handspun yarn or craft or anything like that.  Can handspun yarn be a Serious Player?

I'm trying, my dears, I'm trying.

And then, this happened:

It's a hand towel.  No, it's a book.  No, it;s a hand towel AND a book.
Not entirely sure where that line of thinking is headed but it was fun to make.  (Uh-oh, am I allowed to have fun?  Or does that put me back in the "lucky" category?)

A friend commissioned some yarn as a gift for someone else.  It makes a good evening project when I am pretty well done with studio work.  This yarn needs only to be pretty and not a Serious Player.

I think it does it quite well.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Inevitable

By all accounts, Finnian is not what you might call effusive.  His homeschool buddies decided to make a cardboard cut-out of him to bring to the various homeschool end-of-year events (I hesitate to call it a graduation, but it kind of is).  The big joke was, how could you tell?  Now, in fact, Finnian has a fantastic personality and is drop dead funny when he chooses to be and I get on him about being too stingy with sharing this side of himself.  But he can have a stoic look.  Last night as we headed towards JFK where he was to board plane to Italy with the intention of staying for a year, Lucy said, "So, are you scared??"  He said, "I'm panic stricken!"

Here is what he looked like:

Coolness personified.

By the time we parted ways, there were tears on all sides, however.  I wasn't quite prepared for just how much it would feel like a piece of my insides had been ripped from me.  And the heart break…it is real feeling not just a metaphor.  Ouch.

Talking with a friend recently, we agreed that just about every human endeavor ends in heart break.  Think about it - it all ends in heart break.  In a way, it is comforting because it means that shielding your heart is no longer a reason not to do something - whether you shield it or not, it will end in heart break, so just go ahead and do it.

But this kid thing, man.  It's like a living encyclopedia of heart break.

This morning, he texted me that he had landed safely in Madrid and had managed to rustle up both coffee and food.  I see by the online flight tracking (not that I am obsessively checking it or anything), that he is almost halfway to Rome now.  He will spend a couple of nights in Rome before heading to Verona where he will meet up with his first WWOOFing host.  

Much adventure lies ahead.

PS.  As we waited in the ticketing line, I said, "You know, you are going to get really buff doing all that farm work.  Have you considered that?"  Finn's answer, "Yes."  (see first photo above for facial reaction)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

All Day, All Night

Answer:  Of course I brought my spinning wheel!  I also brought some black Shetland because, well, the fat lady hasn't sung on that one.  But first, I had to clear some bobbins.

Yumsville!  This is some Polworth dyed by the wonderful Ani at Widdershins.  She is going into retirement from her online store so I am not even linking you up.  She is still selling yarn and roving out of a shop in Taos.  I suppose it is time to grow up and really start dyeing all my own roving now.  The mama bird has kicked us out of the nest.  Ok, wallowing in self-pity is over….isn't that a gorgeous yarn?  It bloomed a bit more than I expected so the plying isn't quite all it should be but it is soft and luscious so what more do you want, anyway?

After working in the studio all day, I don't have much left to offer after supper, but I have started an embroidery as my evening project.  It began like Total Trust and I thought I might show the reverse side, but I deliberately set out to do it that way this time.  It is so funny how projects insist on being themselves - almost immediately it was clear that this was not what needed to happen.  Apparently this is what needed to happen.

And so it is.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Starting yesterday, the computer has been going to the main house for the day.  It's siren song was too powerful and I found myself "checking" things far too often when it was left around, handy at a moment's notice.  Notice how productivity skyrockets when the computer is put out to pasture!  Today, however, I have to take one of three yoga therapy exams (who knows, maybe I will do all three!).  There is no getting around having to take them while I am here so I am trying to focus and get them done.

It's funny how I try to pigeonhole these activities, as if I could.  Art now, yoga later, parenting next.  But they are all mixed up.  Yesterday, after a strong day in the studio, I set out my yoga mat and things just started pouring out of me.  Not literally exactly although there were some tears.  Totally unexpected and definitely not on the schedule.  Difficult and shitty and wonderful, all at the same time.  What a treasure to have this time and space to let it all hang out, together.

Meanwhile, the world has become very, very green.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Dropped Stitch

Some months ago, I received an invitation to participate in an exhibition to be presented at Neddies Harbour Inn in Norris Point in Gros Morne.  Titled, Dropped Stitch, it was to be something of a Salon de Refusés.  The story of how such a thing came to be is, perhaps, beyond the scope of this blog.  The important thing is, I wanted in.  

I wanted in but this piece - my piece - is not currently on view in the exhibition, which by the way, opens tonight.  If you find yourself standing outside the Neddies Harbour Inn, please go inside and see the show!  It is, by all accounts, wonderful.

This piece - my piece - is still en route.  When I agreed to be part of the Refusés, I had all sorts of ideas.  So many ideas that I found it difficult to choose which one.  Meanwhile, the clock was ticking.  Then, I made this piece, or an earlier incarnation of this piece.  It was just kinda meh if you know what I mean. Meanwhile, the clock was ticking.  Shawn, one of the co-organizers of the exhibition, emailed me to inquire about what I was submitting and to confirm my participation.  And that is when I told a lie.  I told her it was in the mail.  I thought that I would send the earlier incarnation of this piece and I would go, right then, to pack it up and mail it.  So my lie would be a very small lie - a matter of minutes or maybe an hour.  

But the meh-ness of the piece was too much.  It kinda sucked.  I didn't want to send such a sucky piece so I held onto it and waited for it to tell me how to improve it.  Or for the piece that I was supposed to send to present itself to me.  As I write this, I am thinking that this story could be seen as lying to protect my artistic integrity but that might be pushing it.  Mostly I was just embarrassed that I only had this rather sucky piece and it seemed better to not be included at all than to be represented by this thing.

Meanwhile the clock was ticking.  Finally, weeks - yes, weeks! - after I told Shawn that the piece was in the mail, I realized what had to be done.  I painted the whole thing with ink, then I re-embroidered the words.  Then I painted only the words with ink.  Then I re-embroidered the words again.  And so, like this, several more times.  And then I realized the back was much more intriguing than the front. It was saying the thing that I was trying to say - Total Trust.

I made a backing for the front just in case someone would be tempted to show that side, which was now the wrong side.  And, by gum, I mailed that thing!

Dear Shawn,  I am very sorry that I lied about my piece being in the mail but I am happy that I didn't mail it.  It is much better now.  If you don't want to include it in the show, I understand.  Liars must take the consequences of their actions.  I am excited about the show, whether or not my work is part of it.   
Love, Robyn

Viva les Refusés!

Total Trust, 2015, ink and embroidery on found textile, 25 x 20 cm
Dropped Stitch will be on view at Neddies Harbour Inn through the summer and until the FibreArts NL conference ends in early October.  Please see it if you can!  It features works by ten western Newfoundland artists including Jackie Alcock, Shannon Ann Coyle, Niki T Hollahan, Barb Hunt, Robyn Love (maybe!), Urve ManuelShawn O'HaganJoan Payne, Brenda Stratton and Molly White.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

First, some pictures!

The view from my patio.  If it ever warms up, I can imagine this being Studio B for me.

The view from the road.  It's pretty here.

Found these by the side of the driveway.  Intriguing space alien seed pods that were later identified as treasels or treasles.  Apparently they were used to comb or full wool before metal carders came into play.  No wonder I was drawn to them!

Studio A.  It was feeling a bit antiseptic until I filled it with blankets.  Ahhh…much better now.

Please don't ask.

It has been 18 years or more since I made studio-based work.  The simple and obvious reason is that it felt impossible with first one, then two, young children.  Adapting to circumstance, I developed a way of working that allowed me to carry on while caring for babies, then toddlers, then homeschooling older children.  To be honest, I am finding it a little overwhelming to have all this time and space and materials and No Excuses.  

I am making stuff - drawings, objects, textile pieces.  But what is it?  Perhaps best not to ask!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

This Kind of Time

It was a fitful night of sleep.  The stimulation of the long drive, meeting the other artists and writers, and getting oriented to the place made it difficult to settle.  Also - the birds!  It was as if I was standing (or laying down) in the center of an amphitheater and the birds were cheering in concentric rings around me - rings and rings extending outwards for miles.  I am not a stranger to nature but this…I have never heard such a raucous chorus!  Hey birds - chill out!

Above and beyond the newness of it all, I could feel in my body a growing anxiety as the night wore on and I was still awake.  "Oh no, my day will be ruined tomorrow if I am so tired.  How will I get everything done?"  And then I realized, there is no where to go, nothing needs to get done, no one is looking over my shoulder.  I can sleep or not sleep.  I can eat or not eat.  I can lay in bed til noon (or beyond), if that's what suits me.  I can do a two-hour yoga practice.  I can sit meditation all day long.  I can go for a hike or a bike ride or drive into town.  Or - wait for it - I could make art.

I have forgotten, if I ever knew, what this kind of time is like.

I will not lay in bed 'til noon.  No.  My thought has been: how do I honour this opportunity that has been given to me?  I think the answer is, do what's needed.

Monday, May 11, 2015

And We're Off!

Well, almost.

The threatening messages still appear, even a day late.

First, I must eat a piece of Lucy's Mother's Day coffee cake.  She made it late at night on Mother's Day itself so I was able to partake this morning.  Delicious!  As I chewed and felt grateful for her efforts, I realized she had a method to her madness.  Unless I suddenly become a complete glutton (and let's not rule that out), most of the coffee cake will be left behind for certain other people to consume.  Hmmmm.  I may have to bring some with me to Ithaca.

Because it is Ithaca where I will be headed in a few short hours' time.  What lies ahead?  I don't know!

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Preparing/Not Preparing

In less than a week I will head up to Ithaca to begin my month-long artist residency.  I have been trying to get the household ready for my absence and to make decisions about what to bring with me.  I spent most of Saturday in my studio and ended up feeling like I should take everything because, hey, you never know.  That bag of shoes that Finn wore when he was two?  I needs it!  That card of moose antler buttons?  What if it turns out that I start making something and moose antler buttons are missing link?  Gotta have 'em!  Paper scraps circa 1998?  Bring'em!  And on and on like that.  Finally I decided that I would come to my studio on Monday morning on my way of out of town and just pack the car until I get tired of going up and down the stairs or I run out of space in the car, whichever comes first.

That's the kind of sharp decision making that I am famous for.

I have deliberately tried not to think too much about the residency in terms of what, exactly, I will work on.  I have several ideas floating around but I have actively pushed them away when they have threatened to come to the surface.  I don't want to limit myself.  Of course this strategy has had the side effect of making me worry (slightly) that maybe I won't be able to make anything.  Maybe I will lose my inspiration.  Maybe I have forgotten how to make art.  Maybe I suck at art.  Maybe I was never an artist the whole time.  And on and on like that.

You would think that, after 30+ years, that line of thinking would get tiresome but I see that there is still some traction left in them old thoughts.  Fortunately they didn't get very far this time because, as I sat in my studio staring at several decades worth of materials, my hands started to make things.  Things like I have never seen before.  Ideas and materials started to come together and even if I wanted to stop my hands, I couldn't have.  I had to force myself to stop, however, because it isn't quite time yet to get started.

Soon.  Soon.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Liberation Prison Yoga

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across a link to an indiegogo campaign for a program that supports yoga classes at Riker's Island prison in New York City - the Liberation Prison Yoga project.  For awhile now, I had been thinking about how I might be able to reach populations that need yoga and its benefits as much as or more than the usual group of self selecting people who wander into a yoga studio.  And here it is!

Not only did I give some money towards the fundraiser, which will double the size of the program, I also signed up to be a teacher!  The complicated bureaucracy of the prison system means that it will likely be fall before I begin teaching, but it is in the works.

The program's founder and director, Anneke Lucas, made her initial goal but she just added an additional $5000 to expand the program to be even bigger and better.  The deadline is tomorrow!  I hope you will consider supporting this beautiful program that brings the healing powers of yoga to those who need it most.  And we all benefit from that!