And perhaps even introduce myself...it has been, after all, SOOO long! Much longer than I expected it to be when I said "so long". And for that, Dear Reader, I apologize. I have missed you so! Truly. It has been a bit like losing a best friend.
There are choices to be made today, as a result of the lapse...do I fill you in on every detail? Do I pick up where we left off? Do I begin now as if nothing has happened in the 4 months since we last met?
Since art is, in its essence, about editing and choice-making, I shall endeavor to make a few. Here's the story in a nutshell...
We moved to Phoenix, which included among other things, saying good-bye to my daughters, putting all my possessions in the dubious care of United Van Lines, leaving Cooper at camp in MN, a never-ending trek across the country in a loaded van, and a 6 week stay in a corporate apartment. There was not much to complain about there...hot tub and frozen yogurt every night, maid service, nothing in the world to do but twiddle my thumbs. (So why wasn't I here? I will try to answer that.)
After re-doing every inch of our 4000 sq. ft. home in order to sell it, I had no intention of buying a fixer-upper. I intended to choose CAREFULLY. I intended to stay in that corporate apartment for as long as it took to get it right...therefore, I went out and bought the very first house I saw.
It has the kind of charm that should be illegal in a fixer-upper! And the price was so right! It left us with almost enough money to fix (half of) what we needed to fix! Irresistible. Insane, but irresistible. And I stand by my decision, most days. We did live without any kitchen for 3 weeks...and re-paint every single paintable surface in the house, including insides of cabinets...and do it all with the stuff from our 4000 sq. ft. home crammed into less than 2000 sq. ft. (of charm!)...We accomplished all the work while living in a rat maze. And there are battle scars -- some days, we both limp. Now we are trying to unpack -- and sort -- the maze. (So why wasn't I playing hooky and hanging out here? I will still try to answer that.)
Big life changes are hard. No news there, I know...but I say it to remind myself. I put down my needle after the Baltimore show early last year to work full time on re-doing, then selling, my house. So I was already feeling a little displaced. Now I find myself in a new home that requires endless work...my studio is still floor-to-ceiling boxes. Someday I will find my desk, hopefully be able to reassemble it, unpack my computer, wish Chelsea were here to plug it in for me, and possibly even thread a needle again. But not yet.
If you've hung out at Small Works for awhile, you may know that I love the sunshine. I am happy as can be to have landed in my beloved desert, where I can expect more sun than I'll ever be able to absorb. But you might also know that I am susceptible to depression/anxiety problems. I've always been pretty up-front about that. I wouldn't have minded if United Van Lines had lost those problems for me, but unfortunately it seems that wherever I go, here I am. And big life changes are hard. So there's been some couch-sitting. Hand-wringing. Floor-pacing. Swedish Fish eating. Copious amounts of all those things, in fact. So much so that I've been unable to hang out here. Because it reminds me of what I'm NOT doing...and of what I'm doing instead. And it's terrifying.
There's been plenty of time for reflection. Time to decide what I want to do next. I do, after all, have the opportunity to completely re-invent myself if I so choose. No one here knows a thing about me. They don't expect me to make art, or anything else...the only expectations are probably from the lady who sells me my large diet coke every morning. (But I could change stores and she'd never give me another thought.)
So to make a long story short...much too late, I know...I have come to a decision of sorts. Writing this blog has been my favorite thing I have ever done in all my 50 years. I have loved every second. It has fed my soul. I have loved the connections I have made, loved exploring art in many forms, loved having a place to gossip and spout off and poke fun at 1950's magazine illustrations. But did you notice what I just said? Writing this blog...has been my favorite thing. Writing about the art. I love that more than making it.
So I think it's time to stop putting off the dream. I've never been very comfortable in my artist-skin. I am completely comfortable in my writer-skin. Also scared to death of it. But since everything else in my life seems to have taken a leap, I figure it must be time for me to follow. Try to grab the dream, or at least be able to say I tried. That's the important part, I guess.
I have signed on for the San Francisco ACC Show in August. I don't really have any intention of stopping my stitching, but it will take a back seat for now -- perhaps fewer pieces, bigger pieces -- who knows? I'll keep you posted.
And since Small Works was invented as a vehicle to acquaint the world with my stitched work, I don't really feel my writing belongs here now. Perhaps there will be things that are appropriate in the future, so I will be leaving the blog intact. Feel free to visit old post friends, if you have them. And check back from time to time. When I do find my needles and thread, I may pick up here again.
But now it's time for me to talk -- write -- about other things for awhile. Maybe about what it means to be approaching 50. Or to be chasing a dream. Or to be staring into the gulf of re-inventing myself. Or to be a mother whose children live in other time zones. Or perhaps a novel about another woman altogether...although I would not be surprised if she finds herself in a similar situation. And if that voice finds another blog home, I'll let you know.
And thank you, thank you for being part of my favorite thing!
You'll never know what that has meant to me.
Thank you, Dear Readers, my friends. From the bottom of my heart. xo
Barbie shoes have long been a metaphor in our family for overwhelm . . .
They are the kind of annoying little thing that can multiply until they seem to be turning up everywhere. They rarely stay on Barbie's feet, where they belong.
Their significance originated when Hannah was very young. Cleaning up her room was an overwhelming prospect for her, so I would have to break it down into manageable tasks. We would often begin with,"Just pick up all the Barbie shoes. Then come back and report."
With three daughters, there never seemed to be a shortage of Barbie shoes (or barrettes, or figurines, or books, or whatever) laying around waiting to be stepped on. But for some reason, Barbie shoes are the thing that has remained code for, "Help! I'm drowning in all this little stuff...someone please just take over and tell me what to do!"
Yes, this is a cry for help. I am drowning in 30 years' worth of Barbie shoes. There's something very comforting about family junk -- 30 years of tangible history -- and something terribly disquieting about watching it get carted out the door. Even if it is to a new life with someone who really needs it. Or to a daughter who has been eying it for years and hoping she could take it to her own home. Or to the landfill, where it should have gone 25 years ago.
Fact is, my brain isn't functioning terribly well right now. I'm not much of a friend, mother, wife, blogger, or anything else. Mostly I want to curl up in my chair and watch old television shows and eat candy. And I've spent a good deal of time doing those things....until now. With the packers coming next week, there is no more time for wallowing. The Barbie shoes MUST be sorted, and sort them I will. And am.
I've never missed a move yet. But I'm a little out of practice.
All of our possessions that make the cut will be going into storage in Phoenix for an unspecified amount of time. We'll be moving into a corporate apartment for the first month, then who-knows-where until we decide what we want to do next. So much freedom! All the things I've told my daughters are being repeated to me: "The world is your oyster....You can do anything you want to do...Look at it as an adventure....We can do hard things...." (But I like all that advice much more when I'm the one giving it.)
Small Works will return....sometime. Once the dust settles. Once at least the Barbie shoes have been put away, and maybe even a few other things. Heaven knows there's plenty to be done, on both ends of the move. Thanks for your friendship and your patience during my technical difficulties (read: failure to cope). It gives me a great deal of comfort to know that, no matter where I go, my blog neighborhood goes with me.
I laughed at this cartoon when I came across it the other day - well, shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot trying to combat a vague sense of anxiety, more than laughed, I guess. Yes, I'm a dinosaur. We've documented it here so often before. This was just another reminder.
Then I showed it to my daughter (the newly minted teacher) to see what she thought. And for emphasis, I added the information that, in my hometown, cursive has just been struck from the curriculum - hit by a meteor at last and destined to become quaint hieroglyphics to future generations.
As with most things, she's keeping an open mind. It's one of her best qualities.
She replied that it remains to be seen whether penmanship was important for fine motor development or not, whether those hours and hours of practice we endured actually benefited us in some way. Or whether today's kids might be better served by spending the time learning about technologies that have a direct impact on the world they live in and the one they will grow into.
She was right, of course.
And I guess my anxiety actually comes from a worry that words themselves might become extinct. I wonder whether kids can have the kind of relationship I have with words if they are never given the opportunity to master their creation from the ground up - to tame hands and pencils and use them to give tangible shape and meaning to their thoughts. I guess it remains to be seen.
Maybe - keeping an open mind - the speed at which kids can connect words using all the technologies at their fingertips will allow them an even freer rein, to think faster and to record those thoughts and feelings in words more completely and accurately than ever before.
Back when I studied writing in college,
I was working on a manual typewriter. I had to really want every word. The beast had a very stiff touch and a reluctant return, and every error meant one kind of messy and time-consuming correction or another. Usually I wrote first drafts longhand, on a yellow pad, then refined them on my trusty typewriter. I was continually frustrated that my hands could never quite move at the speed of my mind. I can't imagine how much work I might have turned out if I had possessed the technology that I do now. On the other hand, each completed piece might have felt less satisfying. We love most the things for which we work hardest.
Recently I've been enjoying the bookpoemcrazyby Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge. Actually, I've been savoring every word. The book is just a celebration of words, really - poetry reduced to its most basic components. If you are a lover of ideas, and more specifically of the magical ways in which words can convey meaning, you should pick it up.
"Poetry has an interesting function.
It helps people be where they are."
-- Gary Snyder
If words strung perfectly help us "be" where we are, and perhaps more importantly, understand where others are, then I guess I should make room for the possibility that words will always be much more than the sum of the letters that create them, and that how they come together is immaterial.
And if that's the case, I guess I need to let kids be where they are, and that is definitely in a world of fonts. Not penmanship.
I know, I know -- still AWOL, because I've been sicker than sick all week. Brought back a nasty little souvenir of some kind from Phoenix. But I did manage this. Thanks to Tess at Magpie Talesfor luring me to the keyboard. Click over there now to explore a hundred more...
Actually, it was Hannah while we were eating lunch yesterday...she threw that wise gem out over fried chicken tacos and a bowl of melty queso studded with green chiles. It was a perfect lunch and a perfect conversation.
I thought of it again today while I was eating a much less-perfect lunch alone with the August issue of American Craft magazine. In the "From the Editor" feature, by Monica Moses, I read about a new book calledUnintended Consequences by Edward Conard, an uber-wealthy investor who uses the term "art history majors" to slam people he thinks aren't contributing enough to the economy.
Guilty. I haven't contributed enough to the economy in years, actually -- and I shudder to think what he might say about an English-major-turned-fiber-artist.
But Monica Moses offers a perfect response:
"Yet what endures in a civilization is not its spreadsheets and financial instruments but its plays and sculptures, its sonatas and paintings. As John F. Kennedy put it, 'Aeschylus and Plato are remembered today long after the triumphs of imperial Athens are gone. Dante outlived the ambitions of 13th-century Florence.' What has power in the long run is the creative stuff. So shouldn't we invest in the art of our own age? Shouldn't we appreciate the art of the ages? In their own way, isn't that what the art history majors of the world are doing?
Money is a funny thing. Central as it is in our culture, it is only a means to an end. The Edward Conards of this country don't hang financial documents on their walls. Even they see beauty and meaning elsewhere. Money is the middleman, and the real value is in experience, feeling, and art."
It seems to me that the reason art endures is that the questions remain largely unanswered.
Willa Cather said,
"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before."
So although I am feeling a great deal of personal uncertainty about what my exact artistic direction should be, I am glad to be reminded that asking the questions remains valid and meaningful -- important even! -- no matter what form they take.
Nice to remember I'm really happy
being exactly what I am.
Whatever that is...artist, writer...
maybe I'll even think about going
back to school for an MFA in art history.