mother creative

Creating Space

I don’t know about you, but I find myself still wondering when we can get back to normal. And it doesn’t matter how much I hear and read that there never will be a going back to normal, not all of me can adjust to that reality. I don’t want to. I mean, who DOES want to accept this new truth that is engulfing our entire planet? No one does I think.

But you know what, as inconvenient, confusing, even sad as all the closures, cancellations, mask wearing, wondering if I’ve washed my hands enough in a day, accessing the risk versus the need to ride the ferry, go to town for any kind of outing, and easing into play dates, extended family visits, and choices to partake or not to partake…. through it all I know I’ve been gifted with time with my littles.

In the process of all this time, I’ve come a little closer to knowing what kind of life I want to provide for them because I’ve had this opportunity to be so immersed in their needs instead of sharing that responsibility with other care givers outside the home. I’ve also learned R and I have a deeper connection to how we operate and thrive and how and why we set each other off. Something that has always puzzled me and even worried me. But now that I have a better understanding of this, I can better help us both. Which I can say, it’s been a bit rough to get through this process of discovering. In turn, noticing how much R & V’s relationship is flourishing and how they learn from each other and how they care for each other, and resolve conflicts has been stunning. It’s driven home even more the need to keep them a bit closer to home. Though the need and creativity does arise for giving them space from each other. But now I know exactly why.

At the start of the pandemic outbreak, I moved a certain book to the front of my book cue because something told me I’d need it. Home Grown by Ben Hewitt . I am so glad I did. I still have about 30 pages left, but let me tell you. It has been a balm to this anxious mom’s soul.

Our older, who is still freshly 5 has a….. different way of operating in the world around him. He is as stubborn as they come. Personal agenda driven, thinker, tinkerer, high speed mover, high impact seeker, rolling high emotions that seep out of him in a way that can bring me to my knees. And adverse to others’ ideas…. which is f****ing HARD to live with. And his negotiation skills are something to be envied.

I bought Ben’s book in 2013 while teaching at Squam Art Workshops, a Taproot gathering. He gave a talk on his book and I was intrigued. Having studied the Reggio Emilia approach to learning while getting my degree in art ed, his words and his endeavors with how him and his wife chose to rise their family spoke to me. So just now, 7 years later I’ve cracked it open and it has been giving me so much reassurance that just letting R be really is ok. It also speaks to me about my own schooling experiences and how it was social torture for me most of the time. While reading it I have had many feelings. Some of which include feeling not alone in those schooling experiences. How I hated sitting still in a class room. And the anxiety that riddled through my body on a daily basis was enough to probably power the entire school.

I remember once having a passionate conversation with my husband as we walked home from the ferry about what our future children should do with their schooling after high school. He was pointing out the positives of getting an education (college experiences). I cringed inside only being able to imagine frat parties, crazy debt on all of our parts, and mountains of pressure to “succeed” on our children. I countered with trade schools, taking time in between for them to really think for themselves and to decide. I felt and still so, if they are happy, self sufficient, responsible, and kind humans, I don’t care what they do or who they pair up with, if anyone, in their adult future. A “college” degree was not the answer for me. It still isn’t. And though, I have more positive than negative experiences of my own from a college degree, I wish I had been comfortable to just think about other options when I was in high school.

There was a time that I would have absolutely panicked over not knowing how I was going to get help for our oldest- whose energy and need for change is enough to give me both indigestion, and heart palpitations at one time. But I’ve learned to ease into his flow as I ALSO strive to ease him into the idea of what is expected of him. Honestly, this process, if I can call it that, goes against all the grain that was instilled in me as a child that you simply JUST DO AS YOU ARE TOLD. NO MATTER WHAT. OR ELSE. I never knew what that or else was. But I was terrified of it.

Nothing of the sort works like that for R. In fact, if anything, the times I’ve tried this line of parenting, I’m just left with rage boiling over and out of me from his non compliance. It’s not pretty. I’ll spare you the aftermath that follows. But my husband who is ever supportive, empathic, and kind, and who loves me to the end of this earth, encourages me to go off somewhere for a few days to get a break. So that’s what I do and that’s where I am now. And that’s why I’m able to get any writing or painting done for that matter.

And speaking of painting; these watercolor sketches/ studies are from photos of the kiddos. Their ears and curls and many shades of pink make for good subjects as I contemplate how best to be there for them when I am there and even when I’m not. As I told my son before I left that I was going away for a few days for some “mommy alone time”, he said he didn’t want me to go and that he wanted to snuggle me ALLLLLLL DAAAAAY! As I tried to pick up my melting heart off the kitchen floor, I response with, “Well, honestly, going away sometimes helps me be a much better Mommy to you and V.”

The thing is, this Mommy alone time is also needed so I can plan the next phase for our life. Even if it’s just scribbling a few ideas out. I’m looking forward to creating a Reggio inspired, unschooled exploration, OT rich, island community sharing flow for our littles. This space here will continue to see change after change from sharing my work, my process, my mothering experiences and all that that can encompass.

I’m now going to go make a list of social stories to write, and ponder how to teach them (let them explore really) the carding machine, indigo vats, and foraging safely. This will not be about accomplishing anything tangible but rather just share and open up new experiences to them and see what they both do with it. And what we can all learn from each other.

If I don’t loose my mind in the process, I’ll share our experiences here.

Rónán age 1
Rónán age 3
Rónán age 5
Violet age 2.75
mother creative

What next?

I’m constantly asking myself this. The world is in 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 it 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 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 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 nothing 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.