Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

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.

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.

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.


September 18, 2015

Flying in earlier this week,  the lakes and rivers were a welcoming indigo blue.

welcoming blues - heartening


A good sign! I’ve been away for a bit.

butterfly bush

butterfly bush

Other good signs – it has taken all summer to coax this bush to bloom. Was it the heat or lack of rain? I can’t be sure, but we have bloom.

promise of seeds....


This shows promise of seeds later in the season. I’d started talking to the plants out of desperation.

beginnings of indigo bloom - can't wait.

beginnings of indigo bloom – can’t wait.

I thought they would never bloom, now suddenly, there is promise, possibility.

morning's dip

morning’s dip

Yes, vat, I’m back.

late summer

August 27, 2015

I’m chasing butterflies and watching certain flowers bloom that I’ve been waiting and watching for, for most of the summer.



It’s truly worth the wait when they finally arrive.  It’s feeling less summer – more of that in between seasons.

indigo catamaran

indigo catamaran

The vat’s still in summer mode though – being playful.

bits & pieces

bits & pieces

I’m trying to keep bits and pieces on the line as well – anything to keep the vats occupied and me outdoors, as the cicadas are something to listen to this time of year.

pampas grass

pampas grass

My upcoming autumn workshop is listed on the “Workshops” page – where you’ll find more detail. Class registration is available now at Pullen Arts Center (Raleigh).

that humbling craft

July 30, 2015

The question was when to harvest, but it’s no longer in question.

It's time!

It’s time!

They were pinched back this morning.  So I hope it will give them impetus for new and better growth – hoping for flowers and seeds in the new cycle. Processing the leaves may have to wait until the weekend.

nothing but triangles

nothing but triangles

Continued “feeding” of the vat, but also small studies and practice. It’s a humbling craft. The lessons are never ending – meaning, it’s always exploration – no solid answers.



This was back on the line this week in preparation for further work. The question is orientation. I think that’s been decided, I suspect I need to pick up more batting for this project, then I can begin to assemble the elements.



Another summer challenge has been getting used to larger and seemingly better quality containers for my vats. I’m finding them much easier to work with so far. The vats seem healthier, happier.


July 23, 2015

It’s (蒸し暑い・むしあつい)mushiatsui – steamy hot or lets say, muggy. It’s been like that the last few days. Today, though is a thunderstorm type day. It’s keeping me away from the vats and clothesline. I’m also adjusting to not teaching and trying to refocus on past projects. It takes a while.

catching a breeze

catching a breeze

In the meantime, I’m “feeding” the vat with activity, just to keep the spirits happy.

 old embroidered silk scarf

old embroidered silk scarf

Anything will do, as long as there’s cloth in the dye.

playing with pattern

playing with a summer pattern

I’m also keeping an eye on my small indigo plots – not the lush garden I’d dreamed of. The first harvest will be small.


maybe more sunshine with the second growing

It may be too much shade, or the heat (dubious)…I’m puzzled. At least there are some results, not displeasing, but definitely wanting. Next year, a different spot.


She passed through yesterday late afternoon, and again after a downpour this morning.

Other plants, despite nurturing are still struggling and failing due to mildew and similar things. Yet, others are thriving and attracting bees and hummingbirds. I’m holding hope for butterflies, but they have been skimpy in my garden.

PS.  Having said that, later in the early evening, a yellow and black swallowtail sailed by on its way to a neighbor’s garden just across the street.

a short jaunt

June 28, 2015

A short jaunt to New Bern, North Carolina’s first capitol, was enlightening. I could have stayed longer but we had a little further to go. Still, we had a chance to examine some of the old gravestones around Christ Episcopal Church and what I thought were stained glass windows.


in the churchyard

Viewing the windows from the outside was a draw, of course.  I wasn’t leaving that town without seeing them in full color.


So, I did go inside and learned that they were not stained glass, but hand painted.  The guide said “museum quality”.

Then, we drove on to Beaufort, where we caught a ferry to Shackleford Banks where the wild ponies roam.

We didn’t see them this trip, but the fresh air, soft sand and other natural aspects of the island were refreshing.  Another return trip for sure.

Home again – working on my son’s curtains and preparing for 2 weeks of youth camp at Artspace.I will make a point of finding time for my personal explorations. Definitely. It’s still June, after all – my month.

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