Nature is us.

I’m thinking about inspiration and how creativity happens in our intersections (conscious and unconscious) with the “natural world.”   There are few things more direct in their ability to shift us out of our normal way of interacting with ourselves, others and the “mother of all mothers,” than when faced with a dramatic change in the weather and landscape.  The chemistry of snow, the meteorological fact of snow, pales in comparison to the subtlety, the sublimity of it – the way it can calm and quiet us, and also the way it energizes us and draws us outside to move about in it.  Snow is one of those events that invites us, if we are so inclined, to move beyond “looking” and see, feel the deeper significance of a thing.  How we actually do that is unique to each of us, yet we also share a cellular memory of that significance and are all supported by it as trees in a forest support each other at the roots (to paraphrase Rumi).  When we access the creative process or the result of that process, we are accessing that shared support.  Nature.  Sun comes up.  Snow retreats.  Icicles shed their mass.  Birds, squirrels, worms and humans all go about their daily activities.    Nature is us.


Back in the studio and delving deeper into the work…the sketching/rendering process exposes more metaphor-ia – the work is still very abstract – and although materials begin to suggest themselves, I resist the impulse to make anything solid.  Right now, I’m interested in unearthing the voices that reflect a merging of mind’s eye with subject-object…


fantastic flaps, channels, carvings…speak of honeycombs, webs and sponges

some edges smooth and curly, soft and pliant
some dense and stiff,  rigid and articulated

exhuberance in naked, strident figures graced with animal allies and unearthly escorts on some fantastic journey…


there is still so much more to uncover….


Winter Spinning Interlude:  Thanks to JoJo for guidance and inspiration from the very beginning, I started spinning for relaxation and fun a few years ago.  I have been a bit inconsistent in my commitment to building basic skills, but I would currently categorize myself as an novice-intermediate spinner.   Fiber lovers have a hard time saying “no” to more fiber…and so it is that I have accumulated a good deal of bulk fiber for spinning and felting.  Last Fall I purchased a lovely collection of mohair and wool fibers from Steam Valley in Pennsylvania ( with names like “Sedona Blue” and “Iris” and “Pansies”.   I don’t have much (probably 3.5 pounds or so) but I would like to make room for more (hee hee, she says with glee)!!  So…my challenge for the Winter is to spin the remaining fiber and make it into something (or at least begin a project).  Since I am equally inconsistent when it comes to making time for casual needlework, I was looking for a simple project (but one that incorporated as much color as I could stand and allowed for some stitch modification).  I found it in The Ashford  Book of Spinning by Anne Field.  It’s a basic crocheted afghan (we all love a good afghan project right??)!  Something I can pick up at anytime and jump right into. 

So, THE PLAN (for the benefit of anyone not familiar with the spinning process):  1)  The spinning: I’ll be mostly spinning singles.  I have been spinning a medium weight yarn, roughly 15 wraps per inch (wpi).  I would like to produce something closer to 10-12 wpi for the afghan project.  It could actually be bulkier, but since I have already spun a medium fiber to date, I want it all to be somewhat consistent.  2)  Washing and weighting:  after winding off, I will periodically wet out a group of skeins in cold water so as to retain some of the “greasy” quality of the fiber (since the piece might be worn outside).   3)  Winding balls:  When all the fiber is dry, I will put each skein on my umbrella swift and wind each into a nice ball for work later.  I’ll check back in periodically to share my progress.


Personal Inquiry:   There is a lot of emphasis placed on getting creative product to market (and these days on finding more creative ways to do that!).  This is especially vital to anyone who has built a livelihood out of art or design.  Of course, everyone has different reasons for making art, but what is at the root?  What was the impulse that informed the choice to create before any thoughts about marketing the work ever entered the equation? To investigate this question for myself more deeply, I must look at the thread of continuity in my work that reaches back to my days as a student of landscape architecture.  It is this thread that I want to tug on and follow to its roots in an effort to bring more clarity to my current work. 

Looking and Seeing.  What I most remember about learning a design discipline was the emphasis on process itself – the attention to, and appreciation of, the steps one climbs in building an aesthetic foundation.  Two practices to which I returned again and again in building this foundation were image-gathering and mark-making: the photographic studies, conceptual diagrams and sketches that served as each project’s well of inspiration.  This was the “looking”: gathering information, objectifying, cataloging, ordering and classifying.  There was also another process occurring at a deeper level, that of “seeing”:  an integrating of outer observation and inner vision.  Ultimately, the images and marks served two discrete processes that would weave together to create a “finished” work.  I felt then, and still feel, that the success of a work depends in large part on the quality of one’s attention at these early stages, chance and serendipity, as they say, “favoring the prepared mind.”

 Observing and Recording.  Bringing it back down into the textile studio (!)…Nuno rusca is a very textural, tactile medium.  One of the first things I feel compelled to do when reintroducing mark-making into my preliminary process is to engage with trees and tree bark and, by extension, anything related to trees and their immediate surroundings.  What I am interested in is a certain intimacy – a conscious act of acquainting myself with the skin of a tree, the crust and chaos of leaf litter, a clump of moss, a bug’s exoskeleton.  These surfaces are portals into a deeper knowing and seeing.  They reveal their secrets one layer at a time, but only upon closer observation.  They are invitations to stop, look, listen, smell, touch and “taste” the meaning of the place and it’s inhabitants.  I consider this intimacy vital to my creative process, the process that will assist me in finding my way back to the Root.

The first nuno felting workshop was offered at Studio Mariposa last weekend.  It was a resounding success and I would like to thank my guest-participants, fellow fiber artists, Christine Stanton and Judith Krone, for their enthusiastic support!  The workshop was of short duration but we managed to complete both group and solo projects, achieving an understanding of the process and discovering possibilities for future exploration.  View the gallery below for a window into the weekend (added thanks to Christine and Judith for permitting me to show their process and finished product in this blog). 

The next workshop offering will tentatively be in Spring of 2010.