Thursday, September 30, 2021

Artwork for the Grovewood Gallery

(Above:  Four, new Peacock Feathers.  Each one is 31" x 11" framed for $395. Click on any image to enlarge.)

Generally, I am very diligent about snapping individual images of all my artwork.  This week is different!  All this work was finished (as in framed) earlier today but none of it will be here for much more than twenty-four hours.  Why?  Well ... I'm very happy to report that the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville, NC has requested more artwork.  In fact, the message came while I was enjoying my month as the Artist-in-Residence at Guadalupe Mountains National Park in west Texas.  Thankfully, I brought my stash of polyester stretch velvet and other material with me.  After hiking in the morning, I started constructed these pieces in the afternoon.  I didn't stitch them though.

(Above:  Detail of one of the Peacock Feathers.)

Actually, the Grovewood Gallery let me know that they were down to a single peacock feather before I left for Texas.  I really couldn't do anything about this because I didn't have any peacock feathers either.  (Yes ... these pieces encapsulate a real peacock feather.)  My search for peacock feathers was simple:  Google.  I found Moonlight Feathers almost immediately.  Inside of three days, a box of one hundred arrived.  Who would have known that peacock feathers can be dyed? (I didn't buy them but I was tempted!)  Who would have known that they can be ordered in different lengths? Who would have known they can be ordered in different quantities and that the website also sells ostrich, turkey, duck, pheasant, and all sorts of exotic feathers? Well ... now I know!

(Above:  Peacock feathers from Moonlight Feathers.)

I was also quite impressed with the feathers I got.  It will be a while before I run out! LOL!  I didn't actually add and stitch the peacock feathers in Texas.  I just constructed the polyester stretch velvet bases.  I also didn't stitch any of the In Box Series pieces either.  I just constructed them.  Since returning home, I stitched, melted, and framed them.  They've all been entered into my inventory book.  On Saturday, they will all go to the Grovewood Gallery.

(Above:  One large and three medium In Box Series pieces.)

So far, I've completed one large, four medium, and four small In Box pieces.  I have two medium and two small ones left to complete.  I might get them done tomorrow but probably not.  Why?  Well, I've also finished stitching another Found Object Mandala.  I have to mount and frame it too!  There's plenty to do after a month away!

(Above:  One medium and four small In Box Series pieces.)

The large In Box piece is $550. The medium sized ones are $325.  The small ones are $235 ... same price at the Grovewood as when purchased directly from me.  Consistent pricing is always a good idea! 

Monday, September 27, 2021

Julian Cope, a commissioned portrait


(Above:  Julian Cope, a commissioned portrait.  24 1/2" x 19".  Image printed on fabric with hand and machine embroidery, beading, and trapunto.  Custom framed with decorative tacks and a brass plate.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Right before leaving for a month as the artist-in-residence at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, I received the honor of transforming an old, black-and-white photo into an embroidered portrait.  Julian Cope (known lovingly as "Aunt Julie" to everyone in her extended family) was Stephen Wade's great aunt.  He remembers her fondly, playing the banjo at every family gathering.  Everyone loved Aunt Julie and cherishes the memories of her music.  Stephen Wade was already familiar with my artwork, especially Persistence and Resilience.   He liked the idea of a halo.  There was a problem though.  The only picture of Aunt Julie with her banjo was cropped at the top ... leaving less room than a beaded halo would need.

(Above:  Detail of Julian Cope.)

Thankfully, Stephen had a digital file and I had time to play around in Photoshop.  I extended the top, just getting creative with the background.  I altered the black-and-white tones to a warmer sepia too.  Then, the image was uploaded to Spoonflower.  When the printed fabric arrived, I was already in Texas but my husband Steve mailed it to me.  I was really glad.  Many evenings were spent seed stitching the background. 


(Above:  Julian Cope, detail.)

After returning home, I stuffed the figure from the reverse ... trapunto.  This gives the figure a three-dimension quality.  I added several stitched lines straight through the stuffed areas to outline her sweater and emphasis the banjo.  Then, I worked out the framing.  One of my favorite things to do is to add decorative tacks to the frame ... plus a brass plate. 

(Above:  Stephen Wade holding his commissioned fiber portrait of his Great Aunt Julian.  He's wearing a t-shirt featuring the same picture!)

It was a great day when Stephen Wade came to collect the portrait.  He talked about how this artwork will be handed down in the family.  It's already an heirloom!

Sunday, September 12, 2021

My last post from Guadalupe Mountains National Park

(Above:  Selfie with the Guadalupe Mountains National Park Sign which is located alongside Highway 62/180. Click on any image to enlarge.)

Although I am writing this post on Sunday evening and not leaving Guadalupe Mountains National Park until dawn on Friday, this will be my last blog post as the park's artist-in-residence.   Why?  Well ... STEVE IS COMING!  I'm very excited that this opportunity allowed my husband to visit.  He's flying into El Paso on Tuesday.  We will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary (which is technically today!) over the next few days.  I plan on taking Steve to the park's sand dunes, Frijole Ranch, and over the Smith Spring Trail.  If he's willing (and it isn't too hot on Wednesday afternoon), we might even hike to Devils Hall.  We also have Thursday reservations for nearby Carlsbad Caverns and plan on seeing the evening bat flight.  (I've already gone to see the half-million bats leave the natural opening at Carlsbad Caverns, and this morning, I went to see them return! Absolutely AMAZING!)  Steve and I will leave here for an overnight in Marfa, Texas where we also have reservations to see quite a bit of the artwork on permanent display.

(Above:  The old highway at dawn.)

So tomorrow will be my "wrap up" day.  It will also be a time to properly clean the provided studio apartment.  Having been a Girl Scout, I live by their motto to always leave a place cleaner than found.  I've had a wonderful and inspirational time here.  I've met some lovely people, gave a Power Point presentation to the Carlsbad Rotary Club, familiarized myself with my new laptop, hiked a lot, presented my Clothesline Project over Labor Day weekend, volunteered to pick up trash along the highway, seen a wild javelin and deer and two rattlesnakes and a Texas hare, and so much more.  

I adore art residencies for many reasons, not the least of which is the chance to live for a month following a lifestyle that was not the one I picked.  At home, I'm a married "city girl" who works behind a custom picture framing sales counter, someone who answers the phone, goes to art events and an art house movie theater, walks to Starbucks, and is never more than a block from a busy intersection.  Yet, for the last month, I've been on my own in a sparsely populated, desert landscape, without a paying job, away from unsolicited telephone calls, and living in a rural setting under Milky Way nights and within sight of a designated wilderness area inside a National Park.  This is indeed a different sort of life, a true blessing. 


(Above:  Roadside memorials along the old highway ... and within Guadalupe Mountains National Park.)

I've also intentionally stayed on Eastern Standard Time.  It has allowed me to hike on trails before the intense afternoon heat.  I've seen the sunrise most mornings (and I've been up and about before dawn every day whether I've seen the sun rise of not!)  Never before have I been so in tune to shifting light, the position and phases of the moon, changing seasons, wind, the noises of night, and other, every day natural occurrences.  All these things happen at home but I never notice. 

This month has been a time to reflect on prehistoric events that shaped the mountains, on the native populations who visited the natural springs, the early settlers to this region, and the changes to the environment over time ... including the replacement of the old highway ... which is often right beside the 1860 stage coach route.  Walking along the old highway is like stepping back into history.  I've found myself thinking about the both the past and the future all at once.  This is truly how my creative spirit is inspired and revitalized.


(Above:  My makeshift work table inside the provided studio apartment.)

During this month, I've also been working on several artistic projects.  I've constructed thirteen new In Box Series pieces.  I positioned a plank of wood found in my studio apartment on top of my own ironing board and the back of a chair.  I've also stitched a new series called Sue Goes to the Protest, using a collection of vintage Sun Bonnet Sue quilt blocks.  A hand-stitched portrait commission is nearly complete too.  All these things need further work and will be finished when I'm back home.  Yet, I've also been thinking about the artwork that I will create as my donation to Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  I have a year to complete and ship it.  Ideas are plentiful for this!  

(Above:  Two of the Park's mules getting new horseshoes.)

After all, inspiration is everywhere!  All I have to do is open my eyes.  I was fascinated by the specialized horseshoe nails and the giant rasps used by the farrier when reshoeing the Park's mule team.

As a fiber artist, texture is everywhere too ... even these hairy tarantulas!  There are so many possibilities for my donation, a more-than-fair exchange for this amazing month.

Conquering Hunter Peak at Guadalupe Mountains National Park

(Above:  Selfie on top of Hunter Peak.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I made it!  I made it to the top of Hunter Peak here in Guadalupe Mountain National Park.  It took three attempts.  Yes, I'm well aware that Hunter Peak is not the highest point in Texas.  I know that Guadalupe Peak is the highest at 8749'.  I had no problem getting up that mountain during my second week, but Hunter Peak (a mere 8368') proved to be much more difficult. 

(Above:  Panorama of Guadalupe Peak from along the Tejas Trail on the way to Hunter Peak. Image from just after dawn.)

First of all, I had to learn that the afternoon heat made hiking near impossible. I hiked the easy Foothill/Frijole loop at the end of my first week.  It's only a 5.5 mile round trip with very little elevation change, but I started at 9:00 AM.  Big mistake!  Toward the end, I noticed the first signs of heat exhaustion despite having plenty of water with me.  (I also saw a rattlesnake. It scared me half to death and I didn't even get a picture.)  So, I learned to start earlier ... as "at dawn".

(Above:  Having breakfast along the Tejas Trail with a view to Guadalupe Peak.)

Before attempting Guadalupe Peak (while thinking that Hunter Peak would be easier ... which it isn't!), I decided to start at dawn and hike up Bear Canyon.  After all, there are two ways to get to Hunter Peak:  Bear Canyon Trail and the Tejas Trail.  Well, Bear Canyon has probably the steepest ascent in the entire park.  It was HARD.  By the time I reached the top (8002'), I still had over 300' feet more in elevation and six-tenth of a mile to go.  It was also approaching 10:00 AM.  Hiking the rest of the way would likely take me at least forty more minutes.  The descent would require at least three hours.  If I continued, I would be ending my hike during the afternoon on a day when the temperatures were forecast to be over 86 degrees.  Plus, the bottom mile or more of all these trails is over the open desert landscape ... in full sun.  I knew I had to turn back, not reach Hunter Peak that day.

(Above: View from the top of Hunter Peak.)

Several days later, I decided to try again.  This time I would take the Tejas Trail and start at 5:30 AM while wearing my headlamp.  It was a good plan but it failed.  The first problem happened within the first tenth of a mile from the trailhead.  At this point, hikers have to cross a wide wash.  The earlier seasonal rains brought down so much gravel and debris that any markers across the wash were lost.  I ended up fumbling around in the dark for the first twenty minutes.  Then, dawn broke and I found the Tejas Trail on the other side of the wash.  I lost all this early, cool time.  The hike though went well.  I made it to the top trail junction easily.  Three trails proceed from this point (also around 8000').  There's the Bush Mountain Trail, the Bowl Trail (which I wanted), and the continuation of the Tejas Trail.  I got confused.  Accidentally, I went on the Tejas Trail.  I should have realized this sooner.  After all, the trail was descending and Hunter Peak seemed to be getting further away (because it was!)  I'd gone almost a mile before I figured out what went wrong and hiked back to the trail junction.  By this time, it was again too late to continue to Hunter Peak.  My descent would again be in flat out sun and in temperatures over 84 degrees.  Wisely (but disappointed), I went back down the Tejas Trail instead of continuing to Hunter Peak.

(Above:  View from Hunter Peak back down to the Park's Visitor Center and campgrounds.  My cargo van was just a speck in the parking lot!) 

I'm not a quitter though!   Last Thursday, I tried again ... and I MADE IT.  Okay, I started a few minutes before 5:00 AM.  The Milky Way was overhead.  My headlamp lit the path for the first hour.  Breakfast was while watching the first rays of dawn hit Guadalupe Peak.  I made the trail junction just before 8:00 AM and was on top of Hunter Peak by 8:30.  From there, I hiked over to the steep Bear Canyon Trail for my descent.  This loop is about 8.7 miles (a little longer than Guadalupe Peak) and the last 1.6 miles is over the open desert.  It was already  HOT, HOT, HOT ... but I was back at my cargo van before 11:30 AM, before the more intense afternoon heat.  Thank goodness my provided studio apartment was just a mile away.  I spent the next hour relaxing in tepid bathwater.  It was a good day.  I conquered Hunter Peak!

Flowers in Guadalupe Mountains National Park

(Above: The moon over El Capitan in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.)

Even before I arrived at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, I was told how very, very "green" the park was this year.  More rain than normal fell during "monsoon season".    Plants were growing. Flowers blooming. The desert was alive with blossoms.

The average annual rainfall in Guadalupe Mountains National Park is only 17.4 inches but no month receives more than in August.  Just over three inches of rain is expected in August, and apparently most of it fell right before I arrived.  Lucky me!  There were afternoon thunder storms my first week too.  They brought a little more rain.  It was only natural for me to be awed by all the colorful flowers.

Now, I'm no botanist.  I can't begin to tell you the names of any of these plants but I hope you enjoy the images as much as I enjoyed taking these pictures.  Most of these plants grow all over the park, on every trail I hiked.  These photos came from along the following trails:  Frijole, Foothills, Bear Canyon, Guadalupe Peak, Bowl, Smith Spring, Salt Basin Overlook, El Capitan, Devils Hall, and Tejas.  Yes!  I hiked them all ... some more than once!


Hike Along El Capitan Trail

(Above:  Selfie with El Capitan in the background.  Taken while having a picnic breakfast.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

My month-long art residency here in Guadalupe Mountains National Park in west Texas is quickly coming to an end. The experience continues to be inspirational on several levels. I've hiked lots of different trails and seen all sorts of wildlife.  I'm learning about "wilderness", as an officially designated area with the nation's highest level of natural conservation.  I've taken hundreds of photos, but I haven't blogged as often as I would have liked.  Why?  Well ... the truth of the matter is that I am in the midst of learning a new system ... Windows 10.  I know!  I know!  Most people have already upgraded.  Steve and I didn't ... until a week before I left home.

(Above:  El Capitan as the first rays of dawn's light hit it.)

Our old laptop's internal fan is broken.  Every day there's a chance the entire device will fail.  I didn't want to risk going to Texas and ending up unable to use my laptop. So, we bought a new one over a tax-free weekend. 

My laptop is important to me ... and not just for art residencies or other times when I'm away from my home computer.  My laptop is where I write "Morning Pages", a daily, ritual habit after Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way.  I have stream-of-consciousness journal entries written on my laptop (and backed up on an external hard drive) since fall 2007.  I can't imagine spending time in nature without the ability to record the sensations and thoughts in my own words.  I NEED my laptop.  It is essential to my creative life.

(Above:  El Capitan after the rosy glow of sunrise burns off.)

Here's one of my problem!  New laptops no longer for slots for CDs.  This means that my Photo Shop CDs cannot be used to install them on the new laptop.  Nowadays, those who want to use Photo Shop purchase an on-line subscription.  I haven't done this (yet ... the day will unfortunately come).  Instead, I've brought along the old laptop which has my familiar Photo Shop program.  Every image I've taken has been uploaded to the old laptop, color & contrast corrected, saved to the external hard drive and then uploaded to the new laptop (which does have a better wireless connection here in the park and is much quicker ... and less likely to "die" at any given moment.)  It is a pain!

(Above:  As close as one gets iconic El Capitan when on its namesake trail.)

Here's another one of my problems:  The new laptop's default for photos is insane.  There's all these little images in "recent to oldest" order.  Even though I've carefully changed the filenames, the images don't list alphabetically.  Alphabetization isn't even an option.  Finding my "folders" (away from this default) took a week or so.  I'm also used to opening folders in multiple screens.  I haven't figured out how to do many of the tasks that have been, up to this point, rather automatic.  I am learning ... slowly.  It has cut into my time for blogging.

(Above:  The rather flat, stone base of the wash where the El Capitan Trail meets the Salt Basin Overlook Trail.)

Now, after three-and-a-half weeks, I've finally gotten all my saved images onto the new laptop.  I must be getting used to it (and I do love the feel of the keyboard!)  So ... today I'll write several blog posts.  These were things I planned to do earlier.  But, better late than never!

(Above:  Some of the delicate flowers along the trail.)

This post shows an early morning (as in starting before dawn) hike along the El Capitan Trail.  From my vantage point, I couldn't see the sunrise but I did see the first, rosy rays hitting the iconic mountain face.  I brought my breakfast with me and sat on the flat, stone wash near where the El Capitan Trail intersects the Salt Basin Trail.  In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful spots in the entire park.  This is likely because there's a nearby natural spring.  The plant life is amazing. Bird were everywhere.   

(Above:  Detail of one of the cactus plants along the El Capitan trail.)

Few people ever take this trail and find this spot.  Sitting there was a moment when I felt one with nature.  Julia Cameron writes about "filling the well".  This is the time when an artist finds inspiration in its divine origin.  Creativity isn't necessarily ideas for new work but the result of a refreshed soul.  This art residency is less about the artwork that I will make in the future but the ways in which I've tended my own spirit.  Yes ... I wrote all about this in my Morning Pages.

Monday, September 06, 2021

The Clothesline Project at Guadalupe Mountains National Park


(Above: The Clothesline at Guadalupe Mountain National Park's Frijole Ranch.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Even before driving across the country for this unique art residency, I knew that only a very small portion of The Clothesline would be needed for my public activity here at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  Somehow or the other, I brought just the right number of pieces to fill a clothesline strung up between two trees and the corner of the spring house.  (To see more of The Clothesline, CLICK HERE for a video taken at the Rensing Center outside Pickens, SC.)  Everything was set up and ready by 10:00 AM on Saturday.  The activity went from 10 - 3 for all three days of this Labor Day Weekend.  It was the first time in eighteen months that the ranch house was open, and plenty of people came!   

On one picnic tables, I set out a nice selection of vintage fabric already backed with Wonder Under (Pellon 805, a heat-activated adhesive.)  Project participants sat down and traced their hand print on the adhesive's backing paper and it out.  


All sorts of individuals, families and friends had fun selecting which pattern they wanted and helping younger kids use the scissors.

At times, people got to meet other hikers and park visitors.  Many conversations swirled around which of the trails was the most picturesque and what wild life had been seen that day.  I mostly talked about the benefits of line drying clothes ... how the dryer is the biggest suck of household energy and how clothes actually last longer if never put inside a dryer.  Of course, there is also the joy of doing something by hand ... something that the families who once lived at Frijole Ranch knew all about.  Certainly, they had a clothesline!

Most people snapped photos of one another and their finished piece.  There was lots of laughter ...

...especially on Saturday, the slowest of the three days.  On that day, I also brought out my Bernina sewing machine and let people attempt to zigzag stitch around their hand print.  In the photo above, the young girl's father assisted in moving the fabric from the opposite side of the table.  She was working the foot pedal.  Together they persisted.  Both parents had fond memories of their older relatives who hung laundry on a line, used a vintage iron like mine, and sewed all their family's clothes.  Yet, this was the first time their daughter had ever done any of this.  We had a meaningful conversation about the way our world has changed.

It truly was a glorious day for stitching outside!

After cutting the hand prints out of the chosen fabric, participants moved to my ironing board.  On the ground was a large tub of vintage linens ... guest towels, place mats, pillowcases, dresser runners, decorative napkins, and dish towels.  Each person or group made a selection, removed the Wonder Under's facing paper from the back of the hand print, placed the hand print on the linen, and ironed it down ... fusing the hand print to the linen.  Several couples linked their fabric fingers!  It was sweet!  The husband in the photo above was from Hawaii.  For this photo, he posed with his hand in the Hawaiian surfer shaka/Hang Loose gesture.

 Later, another couple got creative with their hand prints.  She cut out a peace sign.  He did the shaka sign.

There were several families who sweetly put their hand prints together, but I only got this one photo.  Even the National Park's superintendent participated ... and I forgot to snap that picture too!  No matter what image I didn't take, I think the project made a positive impression.  The three days were rewarding in many ways.  Perhaps a few people will even use a clothesline in their future ... conserving energy, prolonging the life of their clothes, and enjoying the simple pleasure of doing something BY HAND!


Saturday, September 04, 2021

An Abandoned 1960s Rest Stop

(Above:  Guadalupe Mountains at dawn on a cloudy morning.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

I have been up before dawn every morning since arriving at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Why?  Well, I'm intentionally staying on EST.  It allows me to start hiking when temperatures are cooler and to avoid the afternoon heat.  Most mornings have started with brilliant sunrises and long rays that cast pink light all over the mountain range, but that wasn't the case on Thursday.  Instead, clouds hugged the earth.  It was a perfectly gloomy day for a visit to the nearby, abandoned 1960s era rest stop.

(Above:  The old highway.)

I learned about this place from a comment made by the Park's superintendent while we were both volunteering to pick-up trash.  Why?  Well, the old highway parallels the new one on the section of road we were cleaning.  He talked about how the old road wound its way inside and out of the current Park's perimeter and that an abandoned rest stop could be accessed from the parking lot for the Salt Basin Overlook Trail.  I knew exactly where this was.  I'd already hiked that trail during my first week.  So, on this overcast day, I headed to find this unique location, a place that is really "hidden in plain sight".  The old highway is being overtaken by desert growth ... but ...

 ... the yellow, center line is often quite visible.  I walked while humming "Follow the Yellow Brick Road".  There was a strong sense of yesteryear.  I couldn't help but remember my Grandpa Baker.  Traveling modern highways to western destinations was very much a part of his American Dream.  In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Grandpa would spend hours mapping out his summer vacations.  He took slides, carefully limiting the number so that his available film would last for the entire trip.  Although he was never in this area of western Texas, I'm sure he stopped at many, similar rest areas to enjoy the vista and to marvel at the road he had just traversed.

(Above:  The abandoned 1960s rest stop.)

This abandoned rest stop isn't actually inside Guadalupe Mountains National Park even though most of the mile up the old highway is.  I had to open a gate onto private property ... thus trespassing, even though I'm sure no one would otherwise know or care.  Yet, this means that someone actually owns this nostalgic place with fine crafted masonry walls and a gorgeous view over the salt basin.

Most of the timbers are now gone.  There are no picnic tables or lines in the parking area ... but ...

 ... the view is likely similar.  Certainly, travelers in the 1960s felt the same way I did when standing in the same place, looking out over the landscape and seeing the road they'd driven ... even if it was a different road than the one that brought me there.

The two roads aren't very far apart, and as I walked back down, I couldn't help but to notice the clouds clinging to El Capitan peak.  The early morning sun was slowly baking off the vapors.  The gentle breeze was pushing the clouds higher.

(Above:  The clouds lifting off of El Capitan.)

I stopped to watch the mass of clouds climb the cliff face.  This is one of the reasons I seek out art residencies.  In my normal, day-to-day life I rarely have time to watch clouds, see sunrises, notice the shifting position of the moon, marvel at the Milky Way, and observe so many other natural wonders.  A month in a National Park provides the opportunity to experience something from a life I didn't choose.. 

I live in a urban city that is 292' above sea level.  There are few stars at night and no rattlesnakes.  This month, I'm living in a remote, mountainous desert landscape, far from traffic, sitting at 5480' above sea level, and never really far from the wilds of a designated wilderness area.  This is truly a blessing.

(Above:  Roadside shrine along the side of the old highway ... and actually inside Guadalupe Mountains National Park.)

I was reminded of this blessing when I came upon a roadside shrine.  It was actually inside the Park. I don't know how old it is.  Could it have been constructed for someone who died in an accident on this stretch of road?  Maybe.  

There was seventy-six cents on the front rock ...

... and a weather-worn angel who seemed to be carrying scales of justice.  My background in Medieval and Renaissance Studies (concentrating on early Italian art) led me to think it was Archangel Michael who is often portrayed with scales, assisting on Judgment Day by weighing the souls of the faithful. This would be quite appropriate for a roadside shrine erected after a traffic accident. But, this angel looked much more feminine.  Perhaps she is Dike, the mythological Greek goddess of justice who is associated with the constellation Libra. 

It really doesn't matter.  Finding the shrine felt special ... in a beautiful, haunting way that blended seamlessly with the trip to the abandoned rest stop.  It made me think of the thousands of people from all parts of ancient to modern history who once came through these magnificent mountains.

By the time I returned to the parking lot, daylight was everywhere.  The clouds were off El Capitan and the weather was heating up.  The trip had already slipped into the past but its memory will remain with me.