16 October 2013

Stirring the Cauldron

Have you heard the rising wind?

Have you seen the rays of golden light?

Can you smell the musky smell of wet leaves and earth?

Whenever Autumn rolls around to the Chesapeake Bay, I get pictures in my head of magical things, mysterious and not always dark. Sometimes the pictures are of the light.

There was an image of a cauldron in my head but a month ago that would not leave my head. Cauldrons are old-fashioned cooking vessels, but popular culture has vilified a humble, peasant's kitchen instrument into something that it is not.

Or, is it?

Cauldrons also appear in myths, in tales of magic and the supernatural from around the world.  Legends told and re-told across the ages of humankind.

Those Cauldrons are there in our ancestral memories for a reason.

The studio table beckoned that morning and my original intent was to practice drawing patterns on colored background. I never make *anything* simple. That blank page was just too blank, if you know what I mean.

I thought to myself, "Okay, I need a shape. Then the designs will come naturally and I'll color them in. Hmmmm. What shape to draw."

My cauldron -- the one that emerged from that moment at the precipice, was not what I had intended to draw at all.
I was ready to dive into this drawing, but that Cauldron would not stop bugging me until it was starring back at my from a page. I knew one thing about it, and one thing only. "It is not Black."  I knew that because, as my fingers drew the gentle swell of its belly,  the Dream Cauldron piped up, "Oh no, you don't! Put that black marker down! I am a magical Cauldron. I am not plain, nor am I black at all."

And so it was. And colorful bands decorated with patterns came to be.

I am very happy with it.

Even more surprising to me was how echoes of my Dream Cauldron rippled into my reality only a week after I made this drawing.

For several years in late September, I have gone on spiritual retreat with a gathering of friends from around the Eastern half of the US. It's at a picturesque, private camp nestled in the Pocono Mountains not far from the Delaware Water Gap. This year, one of our guests was an English artist, Cerri Lee, who is a ceramic sculptor and, generally, a wise woman. Cerri has made long study of Celtic legend and people, and her sensual clay figures reference symbols and beings drawn from mythic lore.

Cerri's entire workshop centered around the image of the cauldron in culture and history of the British Isles. In the space of an hour, she conveyed more about the symbolism of cauldrons than I had ever heard in the last four decades. I found my jaw dropping when she described the Welsh poet, Taliesin's tale of the Spoils of Annwn, which features strange encounters of King Arthur in the Otherworld. This story can be found in The Book of Taliesin, a poem written down during the first half of the fourteenth century (although its content is an oral traditions much older, from around  AD/CE 900). In the Spoils of Annwn, the Bard recounts a scene where he envisions Nine Maidens standing around their cauldron - the women's fingernails pearl-white, holding the rim.

Here from The Camelot Project are the Middle Welsh and Modern English translations from Preiddeu Annwn: The Spoils of Annwn:
13. yg kenneir
    or peir
     pan leferit.
13. My poetry,
    from the cauldron
    it was uttered.
14. Oanadyl naw morwyn
 14. From the breath of nine maidens
    it was kindled.
15. Neu peir pen annwfyn
    pwy y vynut.
15. The cauldron of the chief of Annwfyn:
    what is its fashion?
16. gwrym am yoror
16. A dark ridge around its border
    and pearls.
Detail, rim, Cauldron of Inspiration by ~runningwave~

Look closely at the cauldron which I drew from pure fancy only a week before this workshop, and you may recognize what it is that amazed me so.  When I drew it, my Cauldron of Inspiration decided that swirls of white lines and roses could be seen all the way around its dark rim.

Although I did know of Taliesin and his bardic tales before, and had even heard of the Spoils of Annwn, I could not in September have described to you anything so specific. Yet there is something in my painting of the Cauldron that well-illustrates the lines of poetry. Coincidence to be sure, but fascinating nonetheless.  

After years of studying Celtic lore, and of loving its poetry and mystery, after imbibing across disciplines of books, music, poetry, and movies, I have begun to create my own visual language. 

I am finding my way slowly towards making art that is truly my own. 

This is all just a bit scary, I mean, to go it on your own as an artist. I've relied very heavily on the talent and encouragement of others for years. And yet, and yet, there's a voice now in my head that wants to express itself and that voice is something new, bold. It's daring me to stare down at blank pages and to fill them with color and line. It's prodding me to finally tell my own tales. 

My Cauldron of Inspiration is boiling. 

                         High time to dive in and taste the hardy brew it's offering me. 

01 September 2013

Challenge: Remember what it was like to be a photographer

20 years. Two decades. Half a life ago.

That's how long it has been since I thought of myself as a photographer. I had just graduated from Art School then, and had decided I needed the intellectual challenge of an academic discipline to counterbalance the associate's degree from a technical college. So I left my "first profession" photography behind and moved to Indiana and art history.

Fast forward a generation. > > > > > 

Most people I know carry a camera with them everywhere, a smart phone that does as much or more than those fictional Tricorders that Doctor McCoy and Spock used to carry around while exploring the universe. Some people use their mobile phones to play games. Some just tweet to their peeps. My dearest Mr. S uses his phone to learn Chinese characters with a sophisticated flash card language learning software. Me, I can't stop taking pictures. 

Through an artistically-minded yoga instructor friend I found Instagram.  Instagram is an amazing community of artists and an app that lets you do extraordinary things with simple and mundane photos. For me it's like candy. 

My phone is a camera that would have been sci-fi to the Midwestern art chic I was in the 1990s. What I wouldn't have given for the opportunity to have an ultra-lightweight device that takes and stores high-res photos and could instantly share them with friends or publish them to the whole planet. Now that's the power I hold in my little hand.

Some of the fine artists who I follow on Instagram participate in a challenge begun by a photographer in Australia. Fat Mum Slim issues a challenge of one idea per day. Your goal is to find that image in your day and snap it. Upload it and hashtag it #FMSphotoaday and you are in.

Today is September the First and I'm going to give this a try.  Fat Mum Slim has posted her September prompts inspired by members of the #FMSphotoaday community.  Those who want to follow my progress may want to check my runningwave Instagram feed, since I won't be blogging here at Pull of the Tides. 

To kick off my photography challenge, however, I will share with you a journey to a quiet, cultured small town in the Blue Ridge. Staunton, Virginia is a picturesque town of that Main Street gentle Victoriana mode. Chock full of elegant buildings, upscale cafes, and antiquey-boutiquey shops, it is a Twenty-first century city of a bygone-era.  It's also home to a repertoire theatre (and I mean theatre and not theater) company that is nationally-acclaimed with some good reason: actors of the American Shakespeare Center will knock your socks off.

Here's a photo essay recap of my recent foray. Enjoy!

I  won't bog down Pull of the Tides with daily photo posts.  I do promise, although, to post my photo-a-day results at the beginning of October. 

Until then, I will keep sharing my mixed media explorations here where the Tide comes in.  I have several art journaling pieces and tags on my studio table in progress at the moment that you'll be seeing soon.

I *love* comments, so if you are stopping by, please drop me a line, or even just a few characters. Thanks so much for reading. Cheers, ~runningwave~ @ Pull of the Tides management.

24 August 2013

Beating the Demon: My Survival Story

An open letter to the amazingly creative gang on Fantastical Crafters Ravelry discussion group.

Reader Be Forewarned
This story contains mentions of demons and demon hunters. If the thought of reading about supernatural creatures or tangled skeins disturbs you, read no further for your own safety.  
If Buffy the Vampire Slayer were here, surely she would cheer on the many of us who arm 
ourselves with (knitting) needles and (crochet) hooks. 

Stick 'em with the pointy end! 

Greetings, Fantastical People!

I've been less active on this board and on Ravelry.com in general during the past year. But now, I'm Baaack! I am so happy to be here again.

I've just survived a crafter's nightmare. A Demon came and crawled into my wrists. He would not let go. I armed myself with every weapon available, and yet still he came. Every time I thought that I had vanquished him, freeing me from my chains, he came back again with a vengeance.

Every day I would get home from work and I wanted to cry because the burning, aching sensation would not stop. I would lie in bed every night with my arms throbbing and pounding. It was only after three months when the Demon's visits became unbearable, that I hauled myself off to get some medical help. Sure enough, that Demon Pain was none other than the terrible Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I battled with him daily for almost of year and a half.  

Even on the weekends I battled him.  I would begin to chase my Demon away with the help of rest and ice packs, but surely as the sun rises in the East, back he would crawl every Monday like clockwork.  

Meanwhile, my knitting needles and crochet hooks started gathering dust. (I had just learned to crochet the year before this began.) Small armies of mice asked if they could take up residence in my project bag, since I wasn't using it 'n all. My Stashweasel started complaining bitterly about my yarn pile going untouched and she moaned that she was unloved. My heart was breaking. How could I neglect such an important part of my existence? I had to destroy this vile creature, no matter what it took.

My work was suffering too. My day job involves a lot of typing. I am an archivist in charge of historic collections in high demand, so I couldn't just slack off at work to save my soul for Aran and Mohair.  While I was off battling my Demon, I wasn't very communicative online in my personal time because I was trying to avoid the pain by not typing. Occasionally, my Demon would allow me a spare moment's rest to craft something tiny. In fact, the only FO* I knitted in the past year was the item I made for our Bag of Holding Swap. Even bringing this little critter to life was precious time to me. 

To win this epic fight, I had a lot of help. For knowledge, I went to a genius chiropractor-scientist, Mr. Schwartz, who taught me the benefits of certain training exercises and a clever trick with a rubber band that worked like a charm. Demon-Pain Hunter (and massage therapist) Bobbie was often at my side, offering me support, advice, and back-up. I could not have been more fortunate than having divine interventions -- often at just the right moment -- from my Super-Wonder-Goddess acupuncturist Tracy. I am convinced that only She, with her magic needle can set my internal wiring straight after battle.

Whew! It's been a long haul. The Demon is dust, and it's rare now that I even glimpse a pixie-demon-spawn lurking. I am back, baby! I really cannot thank my medical team enough. I have finally conquered this, and learned the importance of using arm rests and buying ergonomic furniture and along the way.

I know that after reading this you might think: This sort of creature always afflicts "old" people. 
Let this be a warning to crafters reading this: I am only in my mid-Forties. There were warning signs of this Demon's presence in my life that I should have paid attention to even earlier. The twinges and creaks haunted my body during my Thirties, but I blew them off as no big deal. “I'm a tough girl. I can stand up to you, Mr. Pain,” I told myself. In fact, my very first evidence of this Demon trying to steal my handwork away was when I was typing my Master's Thesis in my mid-Twenties.

Public Service Announcement:  If you love to knit, crochet, or even just to write things out longhand, please, please learn from my mistake. 

PS. I'm happy to post what I've learned for the benefit of others, so such Demons as Carpal Tunnel will not be able to walk our streets again.

*FO = Finished Object

© Maria Day, 21 August, 2013. All rights reserved.Author's note:  This work of autobiographical satire is posted by the author for your edification and reading pleasure. Please do not reproduce, copy, or borrow portions of this story or illustrations without her express written consent. Thank you! ~runningwave~ @ Pull of the Tides management

16 August 2013

Burning Bright

“The flame that burns Twice as bright burns half as long.”

The work on my studio table has tended to be bright and loud, like a symphony orchestra.  

I think it's happening because I am so energetic during the heat of the year. The summer months feed me and drive me to do - do - do.  It can be exhausting, but it's always exhilarating.  I guess I am making up for my lethargy and sluggishness during the dark, winter months.

In August it's almost inevitable.  Sometimes I find myself burning my candle at both ends.  I sleep less and hop out of bed in the morning -- the opposite of what I do in, say, January when I'm cranky, tired, and in a mental torpor.

Summer is with me now. And what a summer it is! The Mid-Atlantic coast has had unbelievable dry, pleasant, and balmy weather since early July.  It hardly feels like Chesapeake weather at all.  It is so blissfully perfect. I find that this unexpected and positive mini-climate change feeds my desire to be up and making and seizing the hours.  This morning is no exception. I am up long before the sun.  I am reviewing my amazing sprint of creativity this past week.

I finished an art journaling page that is a lesson taken from my online journaling course, Life Book 2013. This exercise was created by Aimee of Artsyville, who is a wonderful woman of doodling and a color genius.  I am doing the course exercises in random order based upon whim and mood.  This one seemed right for me at the peak of my frenzy.  I used the loudest colors of stamping ink I owned and plopped them down on regular printer paper to get the brilliant background tones you see here:

Things I Can Control - art journaling page by ~runningwave~
Following Aimee's guidance I then cut out a "ground" and a bunch of smaller shapes, regular and irregular. I did some detail-work in pen on the shapes. I selected my favorites and jotted or wrote or collaged pieces onto the shapes that relate to my theme, Things I Can Control. The lock and key motives just sort of happened. The printed and stamped quotations that I discovered while making this project suited my tastes, so I adapted them to fit the pieces. Once everything was glued down nicely and dry, I went over everything with some Sakura markers. Sakura gel, glitter, and glaze pens are my new favorite art tools.

Thank you gift tag
I've also been using my talents to send gifts. The "Thank you" gift tag went to my co-workers in the tech department at the endgame of a major project and the completion of the summer internships. Those folks have been working hard and I've been a demanding customer, but I am so pleased with the results. I made sure that the tag arrived on a box of French macaroons just because they have been so extra helpful.

I am also preparing a gift - *shhhh* - for a friend of mine who'll be visiting town soon. I am not showing the gift, but I can reveal the envelope.  She's an astrophysicist and a really amazing friend. I am celebrating her success; she just received a major promotion. This accomplishment is a validation of hard work that she's been slaving over for years. It's a big deal and she should be proud of herself.  

Lesson to artists:  Never leave a white envelope un-decorated.

Envelope painting for my astrophysicist friend who just received tenure

01 August 2013

A Post from Big Sky Country

When you bring a camera out to Wyoming and Montana, it is very difficult to be a bad photographer. Still, I am grateful for my commercial photography background when I head out on a trip as spectacular as this one was. In full disclosure, my husband is the photographer of a couple of these images and even without a degree in photography he did an awesome job too!

I have been hanging on to these images for a while, trying to sort out which ones to share with you here at Pull of the Tides.

I settled on a group of images that showcase the spectacular, sweeping landscapes in the Greater Yellowstone region, as well as a sample of the striking moments when my husband and I came face-to-face with a few of the wild creatures who call this Big Sky paradise home.

You are on board "Red Devil" here, called so because his ears remind the cowboys of devil's horns.
In reality, even a total horse novice had no difficulty with riding him -- although it *was* hard to
prevent him from munching on wild grasses and flowers. Red Devil loves lupines.

I keep hearing Howard Shore's soundtrack to The Two Towers here.
Especially the part when they get to the scenes in Rohan.
It's really like this in Montana.

Sunrise at Antelope Flats.
Cascade Canyon.

Red Devil would have loved this glade. More lupines!

Ground squirrel, digging up a cache?

Fledgling woodpecker waiting for breakfast.
It's Mamma came right after this.

River otter pup swimming around Trout Lake.
We saw his mother and sibling all together.

Mr. Bison is not to be trifled with.

Our naturalist guide took us to an amazing place. We spent hours just watching the landscape, and then this lovely young lady came to visit us. She was curious, and not as flighty as I would have imagined a pronghorn being.

Hungry black bear looking for lunch.

Does Montana have rainbows every night, or were we just fortunate?

My watercolor sketch of Mount Moran.

And here's Mount Moran, as it actually looked right before sunset.

23 July 2013

Tricks of the Trade

Aspen tree stencil applied in gesso
with green spray ink.
I've been having a lot of fun making & discussing art socially in the past week, in addition to making art on my own. I have some very talented friends who are a constant source of energy boosts and support and I want to use this opportunity to give a shout-out to thank them all for being there. I *really* mean it!

Ms. PocketSize, who blogs regularly these days on her incredible adventure with "arting" has been posting some examples of her work with stencils and gesso.  I wanted to learn this art, since I'm rather limited in my stencil repertoire. Fortunately, I know Ms. PocketSize IRL, so she generously agreed to include a gesso with stencils demo into our randomly-scheduled art-nites at her mother's gorgeous and well-equipped mixed media studio (Zingala has another studio just for her textile art. Wow! Two art studios.)

The gesso stencil technique is rather fiddly, but I got the hang of it fairly quickly. I started with several stencils from TheCraftersWorkshop.com and then went for gold and used my artistcellar TEXTure Rivermap stencil by Jill K. Berry. The results were uneven, but I'll share my best efforts.

I made several great impressions of each stencil eventually. Ms. PocketSize encouraged me to try turning the stencil over on a blank page after I've pushed the gesso through the "positive" side of the stencil. The results of the "negative" stencil of the gears was rather steampunky, especially when I sprayed ink over it using my Glimmer Mist in chalkboard by Tattered Angels.  Another successful attempt was the aspen tree stencil with a medium green ink spray overlay (see above).  The best of the bunch was definitely the Rivermap stencil.  Not only is Jill K. Berry's font so awesome-looking, but I used red and green spray inks blended together, meeting in the middle.

Gessoed Rivermap stamp by J.K. Berry with spray ink.
The result of flipping the gear stencil over
while it was covered with gesso. Chalkboard mist.

Art adventure number two, was an impromptu opportunity at work. Several friends in my day-job world are paper conservators. I love to watch them carefully sew books back together, reattach their covers, and glue down marbled end papers whenever I walk through the conservation lab. They are all artists. Really, you have to be to do what they do everyday. You not only put things together, but often you have to take them apart, remove layers of nasty tape and other ickiness.  It's a kind of magic to me.

The other day, Vicki Lee was demonstrating for the benefit of her summer interns, how simple folded calendar books are made.  The calendar books are based upon surviving examples of late medieval and renaissance books in the Vade Museum. Vicki learned how to make these at a workshop, so now she was sharing the techniques.

No greater thing is there in life but to learn something and then share it with others. Spread the love, I say.  I want to try and make a fold-out art book using a binding technique like this.

Folding Calendar binding,
based upon historical sample

"Take Me Along" binding showing where
the pages will be sewn together
"Take Me Along" binding page laid out open

Working alongside other artists and creative types is the surest way for me to continue to practice and grow as an artist.  My other collaboration of the week was formed from a need to reconnect with a friend and to beat the heat wave we've been experiencing.

My friend is herself a budding multi-media artist. She's taking classes in a variety of techniques and working out through practice how she can best express herself. In other words, she and I are on a parallel path.  We spent more time just catching up on each other's lives and gabbing than we did on making art itself, but the process of talking about the art you're making is almost as important as the art-making part.

We tried out a "artful shamanism" guided journey technique that I've learned from artist Effy Wild as one of the mixed media lessons in Life Book 2013.  If that sounds too out there, think of it purely as mediation like you might do in a Buddhist monastery or during a yoga class. Anyway, let's just say that the process, or journey, enabled each of us to find a powerful symbol to use in a creative way.

The symbol that I imagined is becoming a work of art. Since the resulting visual image is still in progress, you'll have to wait for the next edition of Pull of the Tides to learn more.

Stay tuned to this channel.

Until then, get off your duff and do something, anything, creative!

29 June 2013

Game on!

I managed to finish a complex project. My game board was created as an art journal page, inspired by an assignment presented by mixed media artist Kelly Hoernig. Kelly is one of an array of instructors who are teaching as part of Life Book 2013 - a yearlong odyssey of mixed media goodness guided by Tamara Laporte.

I really wanted to do this assignment earlier in the year when it was first posted. But I could not seem to gather the energy to create anything. The course was just not gelling for me in January. Now that I find myself back in my groove, the ideas flowed easily. Kelly laid out the step-by-step procedures and I modified them just a bit to suit my style. The assignment was to create an art journal page with the theme of Let the Games Begin, which was Kelly's take on "Celebration and Journey" (the monthly Life Book theme).
I drew my own streamlined 1930s style roadster for my vehicle. Kelly invited us to choose a word to set the tone for the journey you are on, and mine is "practice". She recommended a map background, and you might be able to make out the highway map of my region under the layers of gesso and paint. My background colors are watercolors.
The pocket at the bottom left holds five altered playing cards which match some of the important ideas of encouragement that I hope will influence my art in the next year. There is also a card with the definition of "practice" written out on the back.

It took me two weeks on and off other projects to make this game, mostly because I spent a lot of time layering with paint, gesso, and collage bits.  I am happy with the results, even though not everything I tried worked. (For example, my attempts to practice Kelly's method of color wash spray to outline the game board did not meet with satisfactory results, so I used Distress Ink instead.) In sum, I learned a lot and gained some confidence with several mixed media techniques. That is what counts.

22 June 2013

High Tide

"A young girl, transfigured by Italy! And why shouldn't she be transfigured? It happened to the Goths!"
-E.M. Forester, A Room With A View

I have been busy this week. Lots of scattered collage bits and paints on my table. I feel energetic with the pulse of Summer Solstice and the incredible "supermoon" that's out there waxing, no less powerful than the Sun.
Can you feel it drawing you? She will be full tonight.

The mixed media projects on my table are part experiments, and part goal-driven pieces. My main project is still in progress so I'll share one of the former exercises for now.

My "Letter from Venice" tag has an Artist Cellar Venice map stencil as the background. I am taking some baby steps with lettering with an actual calligraphy pen like Jill K. Berry taught me at a workshop in February. (Shout out to you lovely Paperworks artists in Tucson.)

Once I laid out the map, I knew I had to dig out some ephemera with Italian words and the whole letter-writing theme is a serendipity. The color palate that I worked with is earth, ochre, and aqua. I can just picture an afternoon in late June with the sun beating down on the canals. It could be a pleasant afternoon sitting at a cafe sipping coffee, reading a good book or a letter from home. Ah, the life of the expat in Italy.

For the curious artists: I stenciled the street map and masked off that lower section. The stencil is done with tea dye Distress Stain over gesso. The bottom third is colored with cantaloupe dye ink and the accent lines are yellow ochre Golden Glaze.

15 June 2013

It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got that Spring

I know, I know. It has been far too long since I last posted. I hit a mental road block late last fall, and found myself unmotivated to create during the winter.

This is a regular, seasonal pattern for me. I am excited to make art in the late spring & summer, and even feel the drive in the bustle of autumn. Then, I find myself pulling off the road by the time the leaves fall off the trees and the sun sets at 5 o'clock.

*sigh* Despite best intentions, I was on the wrong side of the creative train tracks all winter.

Until May. It was a vibrant, bright month. I saw Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, got my hair bobbed, and downloaded Bryan Ferry's classy vintage jazz album.

While we were on vacation, my husband took me to see a hot jazz band touring south of the Mason Dixon from New York City. The Hot Sardines, they're called. They have a half-French chanteuse and belt out numbers complete with a living and breathing tap dancer as instrument.

Suddenly my head is full of art moderne motor cars, streamlined movie palaces, and flappers in elegant cloche hats. All the things I loved in college and why I obsessed about the 1920s are back briefly in vogue and life is wonderful.

I am driven to dust off my studio table and decoupage again. To celebrate joie de vivre, I used a charity auction certificate and invited my friends to a wine taste in the rolling Blue Ridge foothills.

In these heady, madcap days close to summer, I am enjoying the flow of inspiration and the joy of making.

I have several projects going, but the mini-piece I display on this post is my new iPhone cover. I took my background from a magazine, glued tissue over it with a star and a quote from Fitzgerald's book. The champagne bottle is a sticker. Everything got a coat or dab of picket fence shade Distress Ink.

I'm also posting my sketch of a torpedo-car that goes along with the Deco art I am pinning on my Pinterest boards.