brazilwood dye, marcos lucero studio, marigold dye, mexican plant dyes, mexico, momcations, mother creative, natural dyeing, Oaxaca, rug making, travel, Zapotec

Brazil Wood, Marigolds and the Village Market : day 8

I’ve used Brazilwood a few times recently but in powered form that I purchased from Fancy Tiger Crafts. The whole process went well and it felt extremely precious. Brazilwood is a hard wood and can only be found in southern countries. It’s also a bit hard to come by. The pieces of wood Demetrio obtains is from an area where this tree is also being replanted. I purchased a small log from him to bring home. I look forward to trying to chop up little slivers of kindling to soak and dye with. Maybe wrap into eco printings? And to keep using the same sticks over and over until they give no more dye.

We took a quick drive into the village and walked around the market that seemed to extend into every building and around every corner. I found a few aprons for the family which was fun and on my list. And we visited an artist’s studio, Marcos Lucero. I fell in love with this piece :

And very seriously taking it home. You can find Marcos on Instagram.

Roof top view in Teatitleon del Valle.

Demetrio chopping up some brazilwood for a dye bath.

The first 5 samples are of marigolds and brazilwood.

Marigolds soaking and staying fresh until we’re ready to dye with them. I’ve never used marigolds at home to dye with because I always have other yellows on hand. But I could picture growing some this spring and summer. The dye bath shown with the marigolds was the annatto seeds cooking from the day before. Something I love about natural dyeing, it’s easy and addictive even to create so many baths at once and to always have something going, something soaking, something waiting to be pulled out. I still have not fired up my stoves since I’ve been home. I instead just focused on the holidays, and the children. But they are back in school now and it’s a new year. I hope I can dive in sooner rather than later.

annatto seed dye, mexican plant dyes, mexico, momcations, mother creative, natural dyeing, Oaxaca, pomegranite dye, rug making, travel, Zapotec

Dyeing with Annatto Seeds and Pomegranate Rinds : day 7

I fell in love with both of these dye stuffs. I had used ground powered pomegranate only once before for a commission piece for a museum replica on Chinese woven silk, many moons ago. It was a fun experience and I remember working so carefully with lightening the shades each time. Using it here in Mexico with a gigantic collection of dried pomegranate rinds was more of a renewing experience. I even saved the rind from one the other day but I forgot to communicate that to my husband and it out it went to the compost. He should know me by now though! Don’t touch the decaying vegetable matter on the counter no matter what!! To be far, it wasn’t obvious like my avocado pits and various colors of onion skins that rest in jars on the window sill.

You know what else was a renewing experience? Doing all this test dyeing with not just white wool, but also two shades of grey wool. It’s been so fun to see the shades all next to each other.

The other dye stuff we used this day was annatto seeds. I love the rich bright orange bath it made. You can see the results in the above card. Dyeing with this made me miss my husband and his interesting collection/ accumulation methods. Since I moved in with him in his house 8 years ago, a lone jar of annatto seeds, collecting dust, has perched on the ancient shelf in our kitschy galley island kitchen. I’ve since snapped them up and brought them to my studio though for later use as a dye. I’m considering playing with the ph to see if I can achieve brighter colors.

huizache dye, mexican plant dyes, mexico, momcations, mother creative, natural dyeing, Oaxaca, travel, Uncategorized, Zapotec

Dyeing with Huizache; day 6.5

It’s 2020 and I’m still working through all these posts. But it’s fine. I knew the Christmas vacation would create a giant sink hole in my creative life. But here I am on the other side and we are still alive.

I realized with these posts that i forgot some fun info about day 6. So here’s the other half of that day. Our first day visiting the market, Demetrio had bought a giant route called amole. He uses it for washing all of his wool he purchases from the spinning ladies. Did I mention they spin the wool in the grease? Demetrio simply grated some of this route into a pot of water, swished it around to create suds and then washed a few skeins of his wool. It was a beautiful process to watch. Another plant to be used for the wool process.

We then prepared a pot of huizache, a small dried pod that can give black with iron. Pronounced (wa-saw-che). A word we loved saying a little too much. It needs to be ground up before added to the bath.

The card sample below is a collection of so many dyes with this last one right in the middle. At some point I may reorganize it all onto small cards of something.

I loved these small moments of learning and being introduced to completely new to me techniques, and dye stuffs.

mexico, Oaxaca, rug making, Spinning, Sheep Breeds, travel, Zapotec

The Spinning Ladies; Day 6

Having the honor to meet and visit with this group of women was an experience that is just set apart from the rest of the trip. Demetrio drives a ways (I forgot how long it took) to visit with and purchase hand (spindle) spun churro wool from women in this small village. I watched as greetings, negations, news and teasing was spoken in Zapotec. I know I was teased for my ghost white legs and feet. I wanted so much to communicate in a normal fluid way, so hands were used a lot.

Demetrio makes this journey about once a month to purchase the yarns for his rugs. It’s a Fibershed happening and I kept thinking of all the natural connections of community, plants, wool, families, and how it’s just been a way of life for so very long. I felt envious and happy at the same time.

Back home now in Maine with Christmas near. School vacation has started & as I navigate yet another routine coming undone because of no school, I try and embrace instead all the opportunities of togetherness. Currently a tantrum has erupted so I have to cut this short.

mexican plant dyes, mexico, mother creative, natural dyeing, Oaxaca, rug making, salsa dancing, street food, travel, Zapotec

Pecan and Zapote Leaf Dyeing : day 5

I’m sitting in my cozy home now. I just helped R with his trains. He wanted to tape them together. He’s really into tape. I end up tracking pieces of it everywhere around the house. My slippers make a “speck, speck, speck” noise as I shuffle around the house dodging legos and baby dolls. I was away from home and my family for two solid weeks. It was restful in a way that I wanted but didn’t really know could exist. ANd I didn’t quite feel the extent of the impact of that rest on my mind and spirit until I lived these last 4 days after Thanksgiving.

The night before Thanksgiving, we stayed with my mom who lives up the coast. Through the night I was extremely sick (6 times). I knew what this was, it’s happened way too many times before. About 6 I’m guessing over the course of my younger adult life. Just bad luck while eating out. It really sucked, but whatever it was left my body and on Thanksgiving Day I slowly mended while feeling like a pile of mashed potatoes on my mother’s blue sofa and my extended family all around chattering while I just focused on breathing and resting. Thankfully by the end of the evening I felt like, and kept down a very small dinner. I was feeling very thankful I was at my mom’s, where J could also have help with our kids and where life kept on moving in a colorful momentum that I’m so familiar with. I kept thinking about how I went all the way to Mexico, was terrified of getting sick, didn’t (though my gut hasn’t been quite the same) and I get violently ill from a local coffee shop instead. Recovering, being able to eat again but also to be very aware of what else was making me feel off, has just added one more layer of awareness to my self and what helps my body and spirit stay calm and focused.

I don’t remember what day it was while in Teatitleon del valle, but at some point, something just reset in my system. Maybe it was the dry slightly smoky air (I smelled peat fires being burned next door to us and it made me think of Ireland). Not eating so much gluten, sugar or dairy (except the salty Mexican string cheese which I still miss). The complete and utter focus on weaving at a standing loom with four other women and sometimes Demetrio, our host and instructor. We’d play music, talk, or silently click, shuffle and beat on these old looms. The sound of the reed swiftly beating the churro wool into line delivered a soft and sure hush that I think my heart needed. Over and over. And the markets, agave fields, street dogs, new faces, not cooking, not cleaning, just not being responsible for a single thing except showing up to weave and dye. That’s it.

I’m home now and I hold all these tips, lessons, experiences, conversations, sites, in me as a reminder that things can change over night, people can change over night and it’s ok to stop inviting things that aren’t good for you into your life.

So about this dyeing. On days we didn’t venture out to markets, the village or the mountains to the city, we dyed. And being a student of natural dyeing in this way was eye opening and inspiring. I needed this. To just flip gears for once. After this whole experience I feel refreshed on every level including how I approach my natural dye practice.

(Add photo of sample card)

This beauty came home with me. I’ve only dreamed about owning a rug like this. And it coming from a weaving family like Demetrio’s knowing where the wool’s from, what dyes are in it and seeing it all in the workings around me, I’m honored I get to live with this piece in my home. And thrilled my husband is as enthusiastic as I am about it.

(Add photo of rug in our bedroom)

Later in the evening when Demetrio asked who wanted to join him in Oaxaca, three of us jumped at the chance. It was such a fun outing. One of the first things we did was get street corn, something that was on my list of hopes. It was just like I imaged. But it was so huge, I could barely finished it.

I then had the pleasure of watching one of my travel companions salsa in the street with some very happy ladies. That was the best part of that outing, witnessing so many individuals just cut loose.

mexican plant dyes, mexico, mother creative, natural dyeing, Oaxaca, rug making, travel, Zapotec

Market and Wild Chamomile dyeing : day 4

How I LOOOOVE exploring new places by shopping. I don’t care what kind of shop I’m in or discover, I want to check it out.

After our hearty breakfast, we caught the bus right outside the B&B to Tlacolula Sunday market. Here they have EVERYTHING. And I came back with EVERYTHING. The smells of roasting meat, cilantro, freshly ground chocolate, and freshly cut fruit where enough to keep me balanced enough from not getting too overwhelmed by all the activity. I can’t wait to return.

Once we settled back at home, we got started in dyeing with dried wild chamomile. I never used it before and oh my goodness, the vibrant gold orange & earthy greens we got are fabulous.

Market dried peppers
A delicious treat filled with custard
Inside the market
Pup knows where it’s at. Waiting for roasted meat to fall.

Freshly dyed skeins with dried chamomile

mexico, mother creative, natural dyeing, rug making, travel, Zapotec

Cochineal : day 3

I’m not a great student. Listening has always been an issue for me. Just let me see with my hands & hear with my eyes & I’ll create what I think is best. That practice has not always worked for me. However, when it comes to experimenting with the cochineal bug dye, the possibilities are endless. I can get lost in reds, purples, & pinks here. And here, that is exactly what you’re meant to do.

I’ve worked with cochineal enough to be familiar with the basics. But this afternoon with Demetrio and dyeing with cochineal, it brought it to a new level. Lime juice, ground limestone, & even baking soda was used. I’m excited to try these variations with more dyes soon.

Indigo dyed skeins hanging in the well and cochineal in the pot.

Cochineal sample skeins & weighing out marigolds for dye.

mexico, natural dyeing, rug making, travel, Zapotec

Mordant and Design : day 2

Well, my plan for posting while away didn’t pan out. I was consumed with weaving, dyeing, & exploring so much- which is how it should be. But I’m back home now settled in with my loves. Unpacked & stories told.

My idea of sharing about my trip here isn’t a tutorial or even a blow by blow. Just a meandering of sharing travel experiences & thoughts of what I experienced.

Everyday was filled with completely new experiences. Even when we stayed close to home and were emerged in learning.

This first learning experience blew me away. I’ve been exploring natural dyes for 11 years. Reading everything I could get my hands on and experimenting. But this day, I learned about methods I’d never read in books, tried, or even thought of. I was delighted and my head exploded. And what made it all the more mind blowing was these were techniques that are a bit contradictory to everything I’ve read. I trusted it 100% though because I was being taught by a person who’d been dyeing professionally, in mass quantities, for his business for over 20 years, so being skeptical just wasn’t a thing I needed to be and it felt good to leave that behind. It also felt real good to be a true student in something I’ve been teaching myself & others for what felt like to me a long time. Something I’ve come to just love and appreciate especially about natural dyes, is everyone does something different.

We began with skeining samples from the largest of skeins is ever seen, all from Mexican Churro wool. (I will never again feel guilty about having my dye students do this with me in class). Prepared a mordant and got the yarns to cooking away.

We then shifted into designing our 2×3′ rugs. Demetrio has taken us to Mitla the day before to see Zapotec ruins & for inspiration for our rugs. Though we could do whatever we wanted. I was moved by the designs the tour we had & was pretty stuck on a particular pattern I saw at the ruins. With the help of others plus Demetrio helping me unscramble a design into a readable and manageable pattern that didn’t involve 2,000 bobbins of yarn, by the very end of the day and after several drafts, a design was laid out. I managed to squeeze a few rows in before I collapsed in my quiet, solo room, happy to listen to the gecko, crickets, dogs, make their night music.

I’m not really a weaver. I’m a dyer, spinner, knitter, and sewer. But not a weaver. I know how to weave & I am plan and dress a loom, fix warp strings, and so on. And I do own two looms, but I’m not a weaver. But for the next 10 days, I lived & breathed weaving.

Demetrio’s demo area
All natural dyed yarns by Demetrio and his son Victor
The mordant pot
Winding off wee orange skeins for myself
Bobbin wheel. It was an… adventure to use.
Close up of a Zapotec design which inspired my rug
The beginnings of my rug.
artwork, mexico, mother creative, natural dyeing, rug making, travel, Zapotec

Oaxaca Journey : day 1

This trip has been two years in the making. Traveling with close fiber friends to learn from master dyer & weaver Demetrio Bautista Lazo of Teatitlán De Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico.

I first met Demetrio in 2010 in my first year as an instructor at Medomak Fiber Arts Retreat in Washington, Maine. I had done only a little bit of dyeing at that point. I never imagined that I’d be in his home town 9 years later learning even more. It is a gift & a blessing that I am not taking lightly.

Since that time, I’ve become a mother of two. My creative & making time has evolved. Going away to fully immerse myself in my craft has become a necessity to my sanity & helps me be a more attentive & intentional mother.

I love travel & I love the unknown. However, this was a bit different for me. As the time grew closer, my nerves started to rattle. I hadn’t been away from my 4 & 2 year olds for this long before. I haven’t traveled this far before. And all the traveling I’ve done have been to white English speaking countries (Canada, England, Ireland). I blended in there & adapted quickly & easily. I’ve never enjoyed going to a new place & being viewed as a tourist but I know it’s bound to happen. However, this is Mexico. There’s no way to not be conspicuous & then there’s trying to get by on my high school Spanish which I struggled hard with. I’ve been really enjoying hearing it, trying to pick up phrases, & practicing as much as I can, but I can’t help being reminded of the struggle I have with processing sounds. I try anyway.

I’m excited to be sharing experiences again in this format & I’ll be sharing more about this trip with many more posts. Now that I’ve had a few days to settle in, process & absorb my new and oh so beautiful surroundings, I look forward to sharing more here about it over the next several weeks (I’m here for 2 but I’m super lax on the publishing timeframe. I put no pressure on myself)

The experiences in just the 1st day have included, but are not limited to:

Sleeping in.

Visiting Mitla.

Strawberry/guava ice cream.

Zapotec ruins.

Chili & lime on pomegranate seeds.

Meeting the last family in the area who still does back strap weaving.

Chewing on smoked agave.

Driving by long agave fields.

Continued to forget every single bit of Spanish I’ve ever learned. Even hola. I blamed it on travel fatigue.

Some zealous eating & trying Mexican hot chocolate the first chance I got. Which was about 1 hour after getting off the plane.

A single phrase went through my mind all day & the day before: How is this my life right now?

artwork, mother creative, Sketch book

Sketching = therapy

My background is in visual art. I never wanted to do anything else. With two degrees behind me, learned skills, experiences, favorite and not so favorite artists learned and nearly memorized by site, travel, and now a family of my own, I still always long to just study light. And movement. Water. And trees. Flowers. The human figure. Color and how light changes everything all of the time.

But I got into this habit of or rather this way of thinking that I think always existed; that painting and drawing and creating art was just frivolous. Like… what did it contribute, really? I even felt this way in high school when really it was all I wanted to do. But I could never fully relax into it. It has felt like a such a guilty pleasure my whole life. Over the years I developed this mind set that I needed certain materials and that I needed to create a certain amount of work and I had to feel amazing about each piece every time AND that I should be showing it. Like in a professional setting. And all that pressure just got the better of me and kept me from even stepping into my studio. I hated it. Then I became afraid to even try, thinking my time spent would result in nothing.

Then I moved to Peaks Island and I couldn’t help but want to move my pencil across a page of anything while staring at the waves while also traveling back and forth on the ferry. Studying the light on my neighbor’s house and my other neighbors boat and our yard all at once as the sun set in September, that too got my whole body set in motion and I found myself sitting for three evenings straight in the same chair just drawing what I saw and felt.

I’d look down at my work later and not really believe it was me that made those marks. They weren’t perfect but I could really feel what I was looking at. It felt glorious and made me come alive. But I’d put my sketch books away and forget, getting lost in daily routines and schedules.

Then something finally clicked. I realized I was just drawing on regular paper. With regular things and I didn’t care. I had no plans except to just emerge myself in the experience of observing and making marks to try and capture something I found perfectly beautiful.

Since that time, I’ve filled up a few sketch books of child faces, weathered boats, light houses, flowers, trees, leaves, mushrooms, lichens, and pine cones. Snails are on my list next.

I now often carry a small watercolor kit and small sketch book in my purse in case I’m stuck in town. And sometimes that’s all I do in town.

This has all led me to want to crack open my oils again as I’m itching to find my children’s faces in layers of lighted colors. But first, my painting studio needs a major reorganization.

Until then, I’m content to study tiny things in nature.

artwork, mother creative, natural dyeing, rug making

Rug Dreams; designing my 1st rug

The progression of this project has been a graceful climb. As much as I hope my children will find what I do fascinating and want to partake someday soon, I also forget they still see me working and hear me talking about my latest project. I’ve given up on keeping things tidy and organized all the time. And the baby gate that separates my fiber space from our bedroom is now only a suggestion to my oldest when I’m not around. Oh well.

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at rug hooking for years. 15 to be exact. Ever since I drove up and around the edge of Nova Scotia and discovered the Shediac and the tradional of rug hooking there. The tactile warmth that a hooked rug offers just had me dreaming to try it.

While at the Maine Fiber Frolic a few years ago, I met a rug hooker that creates beautiful small hooked rug designs in both forms; with a punch needle or a hook. There was a quiet moment and I felt socially brave and my curiosity took over anyway. She demonstrated both techniques. When she said that the punch needle method was faster, I bought an Oxford needle on the spot. It seemed more common to hook with wool cloth strips. But I make yarn, have collected yarn, and wanted to use what I already have. She gave me a few tips and I walked off day dreaming about this very rug I would make.

You see, I don’t really know where these ideas come from. My dreams at night sometimes. I once dreamed of two sweaters that I hadn’t knit before. I wrote done the details and will same day make them real. I dream of paintings, ideas, theories, and usually write them down. If I don’t, they keep coming in my dreams at night. Either before or after my 4 year old son joins me in bed. I dream of these ideas when I’m not dreaming of my children. Who are always somewhere in my dreams laughing or sleeping.

Since moving to the island and especially since planning my son’s nursery, I’ve been dreaming of this kind of motif. One of fish scales or waves? It doesn’t matter. They are both of the sea. I gathered some needed tools and materials at Camp Wool in Kennebunk and got to work. I did first text out my needle punching on a store bought kit. I used whatever commercially made yarn I still had laying around. Sometimes combining yarns to enhance dimension and texture. Then I got to work on my new design. I was at the time heading into my third trimester with my 2nd child so I tried not to feel anxious at the fact that I wouldn’t finish it before she was born. 2.5 years later though, I’m finished. Well, almost. Just need to sew down the edges. But once I took the completed rug off the frame, shook it out and lay it on the floor, stepped on it, I was overwhelmed with pride and accomplishment. I relished telling my son how proud I was of myself. He beamed up at me and said, “I’m proud of you too, Mommy!”

Don’t mind my picture sequence, it’s backwards.

About 1/2 way done, 2017
Nearing home stretch, red corner. 2019
Nearing home stretch blue corner.
Estimating how munch more yarn I’ll need to dye up as new baby Violet sleeps next to my feet, 2018
I loved thinking of what dyes to combine in order to create the colors I wanted.
Me & 2 year old Ronan. Two years later and he’s still fascinated with this magical technique of pushing yarn through and making a picture.
Violet a few weeks old. Those days (moments) of making with a fresh baby snuggled against me was heaven.
More sample making with madder, lichens, etc
Beginnings
I thought of and created a paper template to draw onto the cloth.
mother creative, Spinning, Sheep Breeds, travel

Wool Discoveries; rare wool breeds with Deb Robson

FB8758A9-8604-4F50-98FC-A354B1021E8B

This class made my head explode.

I woke up too early in my Vermont hotel room. Too excited to sleep for what the day may bring. Just the thought of driving through winding country roads early in the morning in Vermont to a place I’d never been was enough to thrill me. And keep me from sleeping.

Weeks before, a friend encouraged me to sign up for a rare wool breeds class. I was intrigued so I looked it up and knew it would be a great adventure to go somewhere new. I’ve also been excited about rare wool breeds ever since I started my journey in the fiber world over 20 years ago. I laid there wondering what on earth my instructor would be sharing with us.

I cracked open my Life of Beatrix Potter biography. Here started the chapter when Beatrix became interested in Herdwick sheep. Having never heard of this breed, I looked it up. A link led me to Manx sheep who come from the Isle of Mann. And then more links about branches of Gaelic. What a wonderful thing to get lost in interesting information in silence knowing no tiny humans with tiny but very loud feet will interrupt or ask to watch a video or eventually kick me in the face as they flop around the bed in fresh morning glee. I read some more of my book.

Hours later I’m sitting in a large circle of other spinners ready to learn. The women next to me pulls out a large cone of sport weight two ply off white almost light grey yarn. “I brought my Herdwick yarn” she says. I gape at her in disbelief. A few minutes later our instructor passes around a list of the wools we’ll be working with. Manx is on the list. I nearly cry.

Deb Robson is a fantastic knowledgeable instructor with such interesting stories. I’m so grateful I could escape for a few days and play this way. Before I reached home, I ordered a large quantity of 1 oz sample rovings of 30 different sheep, many being rare or watched. I felt it time to start exploring more breeds and this is a great way to start. And because they are each an ounce, I’ll spin them on my Turkish spindle so as not to tie up my wheel for my fleeces. Once finished I’m thinking of knitting each one into a different stitch pattern; cables, lace, Bavarian twists, stitch patterns like linen and seed stitch. Or work a different flower pattern into each? I’d need to figure that one out. I do always thrive on a knew challenge.

 

mother creative

Showing up; (or) don’t wake me. I’ll wake you.

How does this happen? I shift clothes, toys. Change diapers, clear dishes. Stack drawings, throw away more dried up markers. Absorb more tears and snot. Talk less to adults and spend even less time with my hands in wool.

How does this happen? I have a 4 year old and a 2 year old. They love each other, thank god. The younger pounds on the older when sharp words are spoken and toys are taken. The older cries. Then the younger. Then the absorption of tears and snot come and I’ve yet to knit a full row, go pee, finish my first cup of tea, get properly dressed, or eat a full meal.

For an introverted artist who thrives on unknowing periods of uninterrupted time to create, managing my creating with my home life has just HAD to become one. I take what I can get, even if it’s for 1 minute. I’m learning to let go of expected outcomes of time alone and just roll with it. The beauty of creating with littles around is they are so curious and new skills and interests are built. Even in the moments I do have alone now when they are in school or when they are sleeping and I’ve finished a project, I’m so excited to share it with them. They’ve seen me puzzle over it, undo stitches, start again, all while using scraps that fall to the floor for their “soups” and “bracelets”. I may long always to have more time alone to create but the fact that they are so interested in what I’m doing and what to try too is also so precious.

Anyway, I’ve been out of my writing practice for far too long because I’ve been very busy. But this here is the beginning of a new series of writings I’ll be sharing at least weekly. But also, look what I made.

mother creative

Project sharing

I’ve been slowly and intentionally moving and shifting through a ton of physical possessions throughout our household in order to cleanse our space. Through this process though, I’m cleansing my mind and spirit.

Amongst my goals for 2019 is to finish all the unfinished projects before I buy materials for anything new. This also goes for (and I hope I can keep this promise to myself but I can’t control my creative mind) thinking up new projects.

In doing so, this involves unearthing old projects that are finished & that I want to shine a light on for the sake of memories and warmth and accomplishments I’ve made in my lifetime.

Here are two; a knitted dress I made for my youngest:

I just loved knitting this Harriet dress from Blue Sky Alpacas. I used my Xanthoria lichen dyed Irish Texel handspun wool. Such a quick & easy knit & I’m so glad I blocked it because that bottom hem was so flippy.

And the 2nd elaborate cross stitch I ever made, in 1996;

Circa 1996. I remember this time well as I carried this project along with me each time I drove 2 hours north to my high school boy friend’s summer house on the Kennebec River. Then as I started my first year of college, two hours from his college. And then it helping me mend my broken heart even though I ended what was a beautiful & loving relationship (for 18 anyway). I can’t look at this piece without gratitude for the person this sweet boy was, how we grew up together, how his family welcomed me so warmly, & how I fell into that cold & exhilarating river on one of our rafting trips. Still remains one of the best summers of my life because of the sweetness, respect, & love we found in ourselves & each other.

Story telling around objects I make has been something soothing and primitive for me. I look forward to delving into this form of writing further down the road.

For now, I have more pairing down to do in the studio.

mother creative

What next?

I’m constantly asking myself this. The world is in the a holding pattern. At times I do lament how things were. But then I’m quickly reminded of all that is still intact AND sacred in my life. And I’m then reminded that change is fine. It’s good even. It’s ok.

The kids haven’t been in school since mid March. They love it. They love being home and having access to me 24/7. And I love having them close. I’ve had to continually adjust my expectations of how our days can look and operate. Sometimes it feels good like I’m growing into a better parent. Other times I feel so burnt out that I’m not sure how much more I can do. I’ll spare you the details of why I feel this way. But I’ll just leave one word here; tantrums.

It’s been 3 months and our way of life has only shifted a little but it’s brought our family much closer.

As for my fiber work though, it’s just taken a back burner that I’ve been resigned to for a while. My Etsy stock is dwindling and I start to panic just a little on realizing I can’t actually make a plan to replenish it. So instead I do things like clean my studio and set the stage for one tiny task at a time. Work towards a little goal and not let a date enter my mind.

I wish I had more to offer in the shop at this time. I’m still trying to figure out how to be creative with littles at my feet who also want to join in the work. Or who want to be pushed on the swing instead.

Also, I’m growing a ton of random flowers, dye plants, veggies from seed that I’ve had for years with little and lots of hope. They also take up some space in the fiber studio, aka other half of my bedroom. To water them each day and to slowly pick away at assembling more fabric face masks, gives me a bit of strength.

mother creative

Mothering and Mask Making

That’s all I do.

The end.

Ok, that’s not the end.

My mask creations have all been donated to medical workers, nursing homes, my island neighbors.

My favorite part about making these is using up scraps of fabric I’ve had for ages. And I get to release the tension of the day of not feeling like I’m doing enough for my kids.

There will be a need for them for a long while and as long as my hands don’t give out on me and my son doesn’t ruin my sewing machine by taking it apart while I’m not looking, I’ll keep sewing into the wee hours after he conks out in the middle of Stuart Little.

Boston Museums, Glass Flower Exhibit, Harvard Square, mother creative, self care

A Day with Glass Flowers

I recently saw an article about botanical artists being a dyeing breed. I say “saw” because I skimmed it. It made me both sad, ache, & wonder all at once. But especially wonder because I’ve been so d drawn to botanicals for most of my life. I paint them and I practice the ancient art of coaxing the colors they keep inside in order to color fibers.

Me and flora, particularly wild flowers have had a growing romance since I was 4. The heady crab apple blossoms, vibrant clovers, smooshy mosses I’d wait to experience all winter long in my beloved Bowdoinham yard gave me life by way of singing to me through the needle stabbing wind of March, hopeful thawing breezes of April & finally giving way to warm earth in May. My parents planted black/purple tulips, and daffodils with tufts of grape Hyacinth all along our ancient stone wall that boarded our yard from Rt 136. And in front of these stone walls that I’d quietly dismantle just at the edge for my cook stove, would be carpets of bluets. The tiniest of flowers that were so white with a whisper of blue & a smidge of sunshine yellow in the center. When they were in bloom, I’d collect handfuls in my tiny grasp and deliver to my mother in a pixie paper cup knowing it would make her day the happiest.

I spent so much of my early childhood outside seriously hoping a bird would swoop down and start talking to me. Or a deer would come out of the woods and want to lay down for a nap with me in the grass. I’d stare at a leaf or blade of grass until I could see rainbows dance across its structure. I didn’t know it yet but I’d grow up to be so fascinated with studying nature with paint while also figuring out how to extract color from nature.

Now at 41, I’m married with 2 little kids and most of days consist of chasing my son to change him out of wet pants, again. Or staying home with my daughter with the 2nd ear infection in a month. Negotiating with my husband on who will pack lunches and who will do bed time. Our floor never feels clean no matter how much I vacuum and I wake up with a thousand versions of “wheels on the bus” in my head. I card my out of control collection of washed wool fleeces in 5 minute increments. I write on the go. I stay up late to bake a treat. I go into town once a week to learn some new dancing (hello salsa and bachata). I carry my cross stitch in my purse and I’m reading one of the most boring but equally fascinating books about New England Textiles and I’m eating way too much chocolate lately.

But today I took a day for just me to check out this Glass Flower Exhibit that I’ve been hearing about for years. It immediately gave me a kind of “this is so stunning and inspiring that I think I might be sick” kind of feeling. Does that happen to you? It happens to me when I see paintings that use color, line, shape, in a way that reaches through the painting down into my soul and kind of squeezes it until I’m breathless.

These are all hand blown GLASS. You can read more about it at the above link.

This was my first visit to the Harvard Museum of Natural History. I went for the flower exhibit but spent hours in awe. The mineral collection is stunning and a bit overwhelming. I know knowing of minerals. I just love looking at all the shiny things. It’s incredible. I also became fascinated with the bugs.

As much as I enjoyed these hours to myself, I was also thinking of when I thought my kids would be ready to experience this.

I ended my day absorbing this contrast at South Station:

braided rug, braided rug workshops, diy rug, mother creative, recycled fabric projects, rug making, textiles

Braided Rag Rug

Dear lord, the role and faces this rug has taken on. For a few years I’ve been searching for just the right rug. But that was actually before children. And now that I’ve got two, I understand why I need to walk away from the most gorgeous wool yellow and peach oriental area rug I’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s been pretty painful on occasion remembering this glowing rug knowing full well that as soon as child meets rug, it’s game over.

So I kept searching. Turning my hopes to braided rugs. But then never finding just the right color combo that makes my heart sing enough to spend the money.

Then it dawned on me while I was taking a basket weaving class. Not just any basket weaving class, but a PINE NEEDLE basket weaving class last spring at Portfiber with Zack from Rewild Maine.

As I worked on this basket, visions of all my fabric scraps where forming a rug in my mind.

Then I started researching how to make one myself. You see, I had always assumed it needed to be braided wool. But no, no it does not. I saw a few tutorials on YouTube and came across a technique that I thought I could get behind.

It’s still not perfect but I sure do love it. It lives in my fiber studio of course.

 I ended up remaking this about 4 times. I’d find a spot where the tension wasn’t just right. Or it was curving upwards. So I’d redo it all. Or I’d change the color direction.

I’m pretty happy with it though. And it’s certainly a mindless project that doesn’t need a ton of focusing on like lace knitting.

I’m currently working up a few sample rug pads for a workshop I’ll be doing this summer. To see my full list updated of workshops, head over to my workshops page.

counted cross stitch, mother creative, textiles, Uncategorized

27 Years of Cross Stitch

My mom taught me cross stitch when I was 12. I no longer have that first little bunny sampler I did. But I do have every one I did after.

I was 15 & started it while visiting my sister one summer in New Jersey. I was obsessed with tropical fish at that time in my life. I think doing this now at 41, on black fabric though, might do me in.

I love these kits so much & having one to work on has always felt like a luxury. Lately as I’ve had knitting burn out, I’ve been embracing my inner cross stitch love. I’ve kept them over the years rolled up & waiting to be framed. I’ve finally bought frames but now I need to iron or steam or something before I frame them.

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This next one I worked on endlessly between 1996 & 1997. I have fond memories of bringing it to weekends to stay with my boyfriend’s family in the Maine North woods on the Kennebec River. I loved being with this family so much. They worked on building a beautiful Inn for hunters & rafters & a home for themselves & they included me in so much. My boyfriend’s step dad was especially curious about this piece I was working on & we tried to hatch a plan for me to make one of their Inn but I had to admit to him I wasn’t really skilled at all in designing these things. When I look at this piece though, I think of my happy youth at this time. A time where I was loved so unconditionally by a wonderful young man & how welcoming his family was to me. There were so many french knots involved. And for some reason, it’s a little slanted too and well worn. It also brings sweet memories of cool breezes and relaxed days in summer.

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This kit was purchased at Footprints in Dublin, Ireland in 1999. I look at this piece and I remember warm friendships forged, museum visits of confusing art, long walks down a winding Irish road to buy my weeks worth of groceries; apples, potatoes, milk, cheese, salami. Perfumed streets in Dublin of cologne, Supermacs, and cigarettes all mixed together. I was spending 5.5 months in Ireland from July thru December. It was one of the best trips of my life. Volunteering with Scripture Union Ireland for the 2nd summer in a row and then I headed west to the The Burren College of Art for the fall semester of my senior year. The summer was all about people and the fall was all about my art.

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I picked this up at my local craft store such a long time ago. It began my love of song birds. I started it with just a few stitches and left it for about 12 years. I had an issue for a while with starting so many projects and then not finish them. I love how plump this little blue bird is.

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These cardinals took over a decade to complete. A real start & stop project. Again. I started it during the ending of one relationship just to finish it at the beginning of reconciliation of the same. As I’d work through this piece towards the ending of it, I’d feel the tediousness of it, but it brought me peace to work through it.

*************************************************************************************This may be my favorite of them all. Though it’s a toss up with the cardinals. It sings September to me.

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Now, I’ve got a few more, of course, in my line up. Of song birds of course. But first I’ve been working on a pretty different one. I found it at Camp Wool in Kennebunk, Maine. And though I had to gather all the colors, myself, I couldn’t resist this design. Of an Old New England Whaling Ship. It spoke to me in a way that I thought would help me mediate on one of life’s great mysteries to me; my own heart.

 

 

 

 

artwork, Mexican textiles, mexico, momcations, mother creative, mothering littles, natural dyeing, Oaxaca, self care, Spinning, Sheep Breeds, travel, Zapotec

Home Coming

I knew this would be the sweetest feeling. To see my babies, hold them & smell them & notice how they’d changed in 2 weeks. I decided while I was away, 2 weeks was too long. And painful. But seriously, mom’s need an f-ing break. A break from making decisions, care taking, and putting herself last every single day. Some say that is exactly what mothering is suppose to be- complete selflessness. But I say- naw-ah. It’s not natural and it’s not sustainable for even keeping a balanced happy or even content house hold. However, it doesn’t seem to matter the amount of emotional support I may have from my partner- those two little powerful beings are with me wherever I go. Mom’s don’t have an off switch. No matter how far they may roam.

And any time I started to feel guilty about my choice to do this trip- without them (not that doing it with them was a choice) I instead tried to focus on how I wanted them to see me and remember me and be influenced by me. I want them to see me making my own creative and self care taking decisions. To see that while of course I love them to the ends of the earth. I’m not only a mother or just a mother. I’m an artist. I’m independent. I know how to travel to far away places and put myself in situations where I don’t know the language even though it unnerves me. Exploring the unknown is essential to me in order to feel alive- I mean, obviously, I had children 😂

It was extremely gratifying to have some separation for a time so I could process all my relationships within our small family unit. I made promises and goals with myself for them all. I put things behind me. Thought about my part in making life hard (stubbornness is one that comes to mind).

My children are little. 2.25 & 4.5. While there is plenty they don’t understand yet, there is also plenty they do. They understand when I am happy and when I am not. For them to see me with my hands in wool, a dye pot, paint every where or knee deep in fabric cuttings- I don’t want to keep it separate from them. I don’t want to make them just like me either but rather give them the space and support in a balanced way to help them develop in the most supportive way I can. In order to do this- I need to go sometimes to something completely different to help me remember why I create what I do.

Thank you Mexico

And

Thank you to my ever supporting partner for being happy for me to take this opportunity.

back strap weaving, Mexican textiles, mexico, momcations, mother creative, Oaxaca, travel, Zapotec

One last adventure: day 13

Just one more back strap weaving community. A famous wood carver. And the largest tree in the world. This is what our last full day was filled with. And speed bumps. All of the speed bumps.

I’m not going to lie. By this day, I was exhausted. In so many ways. I missed my family & I was itching to wrap things up. I get this way every time I’m away from home and it’s the last day of anything. This very last very full day was a good distraction from all the travel anxiety to come. And this last image, was my favorite moment of the day.

Mexican Markets, mexican plant dyes, Mexican textiles, mexico, momcations, mother creative, natural dyeing, Oaxaca, oaxaca city, street food, travel, Zapotec

Oaxaca City : day 12

Wandering in unknown places on my own or with just the right companion is one of my favorite things. Sam and I ventured out on the bus on our own into the city and thank goodness her Spanish is much better than mine. Exploring the market in the middle of the city was so gratifying. We took our time, had items & ideas on our lists. We had no more weaving or obligations of any kind that day. How freeing is that? I realized what I loved so much about this market is that even though it was much bigger than others I’d been to, no one stood over me telling me the price of everything I looked at. I can’t think like that.

I’m home now and it’s been several weeks since that day in Oaxaca City. But I remember it one of the best days of the whole trip. I can imagine going back and staying in the city. But first my Spanish needs to improve greatly.

We also visited the textile museum because of an indigo exhibit. That too was wonderful. I’m glad we made that happen.

lichen dyeing, Mexican Markets, mexican plant dyes, Mexican textiles, mexico, momcations, mother creative, natural dyeing, Oaxaca, rug making, Spinning, Sheep Breeds, street food, travel, Zapotec, zapotec cuisine

Market Day and Finishing My Rug : Day 11

One more time at the market. One last day to finish this rug. One more ride through the village.

My mom used to say I was burning my candle at both ends. Well, I do thrive to feel that fire coming from all directions.

My rug just after it being cut off the loom. I used churro wool yarns that Demetrio and his son Victor had dyed before our arrival;

Pink: cochineal

Yellow: pecan leaves and chamomile flowers

Green: chamomile on grey wool

Orange: Usnea lichen species

I LOVED weaving this rug. The squish of the wool as I beat the reed. Following the design that was inspired from the Zapotec ruins in Mitla and that Demetrio helped me iron out, a few times. Following the pattern it self and never feeling terribly stuck on where I was going with it. Once I had it painted out, I followed the squares. A few times I wasn’t sure if id finished it. So just the fact that I had a final push and did indeed finish it, was just such a satisfying relief.

lichen dyeing, mexican mountains, mexican plant dyes, mexico, momcations, mother creative, natural dyeing, Oaxaca, rug making, travel, Zapotec

Lichen and Indigo : day 10

We’ve been at this dyeing and weaving thing for a while now. I live and breathe at the loom. I’ve never worked at a standing loom before, and my lower back took a toll everyday. I have to admit, as much as a serene, and total gift this whole experience was, there was still some things to get used to. Like not being able to tolerant standing at my loom for longer than an hour at times. And I had hours to weave some days. I thought, “what is happening? I have nothing I need to do except weave & what a glorious situation!” But my body kept saying, NOPE, not now. It was annoying. Somedays I took naps. Some days I’d walk outside the court yard down the side street & just sit on the side walk against the building & stare at this one tree. A dog lay near by sprawled out in the sun, snoozing. We shared the same space without disturbing the other & it made my soul open up & then rest too. The weather was unbelievably sunny and dry every single day. In the afternoons, a soft breeze would pick up, carrying the sent of agave plants, wood burning, the dry earth. This is what I love most about a place. The smell of the earth and the wind and the plants.

It’s also what I love most about lichen dying. Just like at home. When we lowered our collected usnea lichen into the pot and watched it soften and slowly change the the clear water to earthy orange, it felt oh so familiar.

The results we got from this batch of usnea is even darker than the orange I was working with in my rug. I look forward to experimenting with more usnea in my studio at home.