all things counter

November 26, 2015


Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things–
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced–fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise Him.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

bluer than blue?

November 19, 2015

As in any other medium, there seems no limit to the imagery one can create in working in shibori.  That’s one of the things I love about it.  The challenge lies in its engineering aspects. The image below is student work, but it wasn’t child’s play, it was work.

I was fortunate to witness some of the aspects of the making of this piece – and yes, part of it may have been play – certainly experimental. It was a dip at a time, letting it oxidize, assessing it and repeating the process until the dye was deep enough or that it covered the desired areas. I love the playful aspects of the piece. It also takes me to a long ago place, a certain lake and some memorable sailing.

From time to time, especially when I’m in the middle of a workshop, often, a particular proverb comes to mind. I encountered it my early years of teaching as well as explorations in indigo. It has become a favorite:

「あおは あいより でて あい より あお し」
Ao wa ai yori dete ai yori ao shi.

The translation has to do with blue being stronger/better/beyond the blue in the indigo plant (at least it’s a reference to an original color source) or something of that ilk. At any rate, it refers to the student being better than the teacher – quite often the case and certainly in my experience many times. So, I wonder if this has more to do with becoming better – growing past the teacher, which is what is wanted in the end. That may be the message in the proverb and to the teacher as well.

silly, fun, but open doors to possibility….

November 12, 2015

The sun’s out after more rain, and the weather is so fine – mild, breezy (a front’s moving in) – a perfect autumn day. A late monarch even paused on one of my milkweed blossoms – too brief to photo, but long enough to note the variations in their reds and oranges.

milkweed pods - slow progress, but progress nevertheless

milkweed pods – slow progress, but progress nevertheless

This week brought to completion my workshop on creating texture. I will miss this class and their quiet explorations. They simply continued to reinforce why I teach – their questing, discovering considering, thinking – they challenge.  In the days that follow each class, I also ponder and wonder.

student work - exploration in texture & landscape

student work – exploration in texture & landscape

We don’t always find the answers, but the journey is…quite the thing. So, even though classes were over a 5 week period, it feels like we were just getting started and it is a slow process.


lamb – why do I enjoy the piece so much?

Imagery was fun, fanciful, sometimes silly…but definitely open doors to possibility. I think we all had fun with it. So, I’m really looking forward to more exploring coming in late February (listed on the “Upcoming Workshops” page).

this time of year

November 5, 2015

How is it that “nature” decided it was time for the indigo harvest? Yesterday, in my routine garden walk-through, I found no blossoms at all, save for a few leftover scraps. Both beds had been pretty thoroughly cleaned out. Was it deer? It had to have been – tasty greens, I suppose, but they weren’t greens. I had no idea they were so discriminating. Only the tops where blooms (and seeds) grew were removed. Dessert perhaps?

The blossoms are no longer....

The green remains

I’ve felt fairly immune from these visitors and really had no idea they were coming in so close to my little flower beds. Next year, I’ll approach things differently and with them in mind.

crape myrtle, mulberry for starters, also sweet gum....

crape myrtle, mulberry for starters, also sweet gum….

There’s an abundance and a variety of leaves in my small yard. I’ve added trees and shrubs as well, but mostly, I know that my presence is an imposition on the surrounding nature. My attempts to tame and remove whatever wild sprouts up is basically futile.

detail from

detail from “Elements”

Even though, I seek to tame it, I love the colors, blossoms produced and the fauna it attracts. And if you’re a reader, you’re aware that I also enjoy documenting it. From time to time, it makes its way into my making (above detail).

small impressions

small impressions

Lately, though, after attending the Waitzkin workshop and seeing various blogs and imagery elsewhere, I thought while the leaves were “ripening” on my lawn, I should gather some and see what could be done with them.

faint outlines of sweet gum?

faint outlines of sweet gum?

While I didn’t succeed, I didn’t entirely fail.  I see the potential. For one, I didn’t mordant the cotton (that may have been one aspect of it’s not working). There may have been other elements that played a part as well. I did wrap my leaf bundles securely around cherry tree sticks and boiled them for roughly an hour. That resulted in a pleasant aromatic “tea”. They soaked in it for a couple of days and then were unwrapped.

It was a first “just jump in and do it” – never mind the prep – stab at eco-printing. I realize there’s lots to learn in the process, and using what’s in my backyard has tremendous appeal, especially this time of year.

engaging with nature

October 29, 2015

Observations continue in the autumn garden and also a lot of wondering. I wonder…how long these blooms can last? How long will the weather hold or will it stay warm enough for them to develop their seedpods?

butterfly weed – the process has finally begun

I started them from seed and it has been slow growing this year. If needed, I may have to put them in a sunny window somewhere.

in the studio

I did attend the paper making workshop last weekend. There was much to take in and learned much more about fibers and Waitzkin’s approach. She provided a thorough introduction to the topic as well as a glimpse into her studio life. She was funny, energetic and generous.

simple beginnings

beginning simply

After the first day I was exhausted and returned for only part of the second day. Needless to say, I’m grateful for the time and tremendous effort she brought to all of us.



We had 2 days of rain again this week, giving the indigo some sustenance, I hope. I’m planning on a November harvest.

texture study - week 3

texture study – week 3

Explorations continue and my students brought samples of older and new work this week for consideration and discussion. The topic was texture in fauna and I feel like I barely had a glimpse of their results – next time….

Heron sketch

heron sketch

The heron has been a subject in my photos for more than a few years now.  There are several that nest in a nearby lake, so they are definitely part of my focus when I walk there.  My intent has been to one day “do something” in shibori involving one or several of them.  So this was a first attempt. It didn’t take long to realize that there is much to learn about it – its form, and then again, how to portray it through texture.  Again, it was a reminder – it’s always practice – and it’s a humbling craft.

different harvests

October 22, 2015

To have had a harvest at all was surprising and perhaps serendipity.  Last winter’s late blast seemed to have diminished any possibility of fruit this fall.  At least, that’s been my theory.  I don’t really know.

surprising harvest

surprising harvest

It was a lot less fruit this year, but they were larger.  I was watching four persimmons all summer, but an extra two made their appearance when the oranges and reds emerged just before frost.  The deep red one on the right has already been sampled – mildly sweet.

early frost

early frost

And speaking of the season, frost came early this year and I’m doing all I can to help the indigo along. I’m still hoping for seeds, so keeping tabs on the nighttime temps.  For the moment, we seem to be in a kind of Indian Summer.

texture study

texture study

A study by one of my students in this month’s series of classes on creating texture. They are engaged in their pursuits, exploring the fibers – a variety of cottons – textures in different contexts – water studies, landscape…and in that limited palette of indigo and white.

handwoven cotton

handwoven cotton

I’m exploring too, and it is a slow and patient process – not so much about imagery or results as it is about the nature of it.  I’m thinking about indigo here.

what it has to say

October 16, 2015

Class started this week – it’s a small, intimate group, so lots of room for “individual attention” and conversation. I took no pictures from the first class as the pieces took some time to work with. The dipping took place at the end of class.

"boro" tablecloth - indigo

“boro” tablecloth – indigo

Also, feeling a bit restless this week, so I dug into my “boro” stash and found a tattered tablecloth. I think it’s cotton.

nearly in tatters

nearly in tatters

I dipped it a few times. I don’t know if it’s deep enough yet, but we’re having sprinkles today. I’ve got just the cloth to stabilize those open places. Then I’ll see what it has to say.

Gibby Waitzkin

Gibby Waitzkin

Yesterday was the opening for Gibby Waitzkin at the Frankie Weems Gallery at Meredith College. I attended and also signed up for her workshop next weekend. She works with plant fibers and natural dyes, creating paper and sculptures that reference some plant forms. I’m looking forward to a fresh perspective and enjoy being a student for a change.

Elements of the Season

Elements of the Season

This Saturday is also the Fall Arts Fair at the Pullen Arts Center. I’ve included a couple of pieces in the gallery along with many other instructors and artists.
The description reads, “Instructor demos, family art activities, a Pottery Olympics competition and a pop-up gallery selling artworks created by Pullen participants.“ – should be festive and fun!

the light has shifted

October 9, 2015

The sun is out finally and even in a week’s time the light has shifted. My small raised beds are mostly in shade now. Still, the seeds I planted in the spring are finally beginning to bloom, so I hope they will yet produce some seed.

Milkweed finally beginning to blossom in the autumnal morning light

Milkweed finally beginning to blossom in the autumnal morning light

If protected from frost, there might be a chance for further development along that line. The early cold snaps, in general, don’t always last in this area.

“texture” study

Another “texture” piece – water, fins…it touches on themes in my upcoming class.  It was an experiment and  wonder if I’d chosen a different cloth or perhaps if the vat was a little more “energetic” how different would the results be? The fish was more complicated than anticipated.

Elements of the Season - detail

Elements of the Season – detail

Today, the stitching is complete – one element of the piece recalls the unusual rains we had recently. The stitches made me think of raindrops as I worked.

editing, and re-editing because I couldn't

editing, and re-editing because I couldn’t “save” it – frustration city.

I’m between computers at the moment, making another transition before this old one suddenly crashes. Last night, I was beginning a relearning of GIMP – I haven’t used it for years. It’s sophisticated and challenging. My mind feels a bit rusty.

abundance of rain

October 2, 2015

It has rained, spit and drizzled for an amazing week and is due to continue for a few more days it looks like.   I’ve often wished for days like this, but this is more than abundant.  However, it’s been a good week for indoor things – like baking, stitching, cleaning clutter…things that need tending to.


a 4 grain batter bread – been quite a while since I made this one

Drying on the line is out for the time being obviously, and I’m currently working with some smaller pieces I hope to show at Pullen a later this month – if time allows.

very small pieces - indoor drying

very small pieces – indoor drying

As there were size specifications, it has meant working up something new.  I also wanted indigo and shibori  to be represented among the other kinds of art and crafts that will be there.  I’ll also be teaching a workshop there at roughly the same time.

Elements of the Season

Elements of the Season – still in progress

The motifs are no surprise, of course – they keep talking to me and I enjoy their conversation.  Through my lens, they speak of the season and more.  I’d hoped to make a few more, but time is short – I need to deliver next week.

And a P.S.: This one’s been on my mind as of late – it’s a way we can all share our abundance (even a small amount) with someone else.

things autumnal

September 24, 2015

There has been that subtle change in the light for some time now and it has felt autumnal in that the humidity has dropped. The leaves on my cherry tree are turning yellow and falling as are others.

indigo tends to be reflective, so the cloth was actually darker

indigo tends to be reflective, so the cloth was actually darker

Nighttime temps are also falling, but they’ll be up and down until later in the month. However, it’s going to affect the vat – something I need to bear in mind. Today, though, reduction and color is satisfying.

tiny flowers reminiscent of sakura

tiny flowers reminiscent of sakura

The indigo has begun to bloom. It’s late, but we will have Indian summer – the growing season isn’t over by a long shot.

silk/rayon piece in indigo

silk/rayon piece in indigo

I’m in the process of unbinding this scarf or piece – it took months to stitch, so is there any hurry in unwrapping it?

a peek at the pattern - can you see it?

a peek at the pattern – can you see it?

It was simply an exploration in pattern, very nearly ended up red and not indigo. Indigo was the easier way to go at this point.

texture study

texture study

In preparing for my upcoming workshop, I’ve been exploring those different aspects of texture in different contexts. Each context holds a world of possibility – that means not just the aspect of the exploration, but maybe even stories.



Another sure sign of autumn – it always blooms around the equinox, sometimes on the day.   Today we had full bloom.  I begin looking for shoots mid-September and then watch the bloom process – so rewarding. The Japanese call it Higanbana.


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