Saturday, December 29, 2012

The past two weeks have seemed more like a month. My feelings about the Newtown shooting have been constantly shifting between anger, sadness, frustration, thankfulness, etc.. I was having trouble sleeping and decided that I needed to just worry about being kind to myself during the week before Christmas rather than worry about doing all the things that it seems necessary to do at that time. I was able to remember what really mattered and prioritize. It is amazing the things that I put on my 'must do' list that are really just 'should dos' or even 'wanna dos'. I did have to clean up the studio/dining room so we could have Christmas dinner there, but the rest of it was really just things that I wanted to do. I was happy that I was able to get myself to make cookies and do a bit of decorating. The holiday turned out much better than I had hoped and I was able to forget the bad things in life for most of the day. We did spend sometime during the dinner grace praying for peace to all that were hurt by the tragedy on the 14th. We also thought of the children of Sandy Hook when we spent some time Christmas night creating some snowflakes to decorate the school that they would be going to in January. The Connecticut PTSA came up with this idea and they have received a blizzard of snowflakes from across the globe. Here are the contributions from our family.

I wanted to include some hearts and angels in some of them. It took a bit but I was finally successful at making one with angels. 

This made me think of my mother who used to make strings of paper angels to bring to people who were sick or grieving. Thoughts of my mother come more often during this time since she died on Dec. 19th 2005. Holidays also always make me think of the past and of loved ones who are no longer here.

I don't usually do much felting between Thanksgiving and Christmas in an effort to keep the dining room clean. I sometimes take that time to paint or just do crafty stuff down in my basement space. Although, last year I was working down there on a raw wool rug. This year I was working with the Icelandic fleece, sorting and carding it so I could start on a pair of shoes. 

I had been wanting to make a cat cave for my daughter's cats. Her cat, Georgia loves to hide under one of the rugs that I made.

I wanted to use some of the Icelandic that was too yucky for other use; the stuff I would have otherwise thrown out. Vicki says the cats like the stinky wool best. The idea of making a cat cave came from Monika Pioch who makes such beautiful forms for cats to hide, sleep, and play in. I didn't even try to make one like hers since I knew I could not do as well. This is what it looked like...

and I thought it was felted fairly hard. Georgia loved going in it.

However, Emma thought it made a better cat bed. Turns out it was not as hard as it seemed when it was wet, but they still love it, and the wool went to good use.

Even though I was working on this project in my sorrow on the anniversary of my mother's death I felt compelled to render an image that I have had on my inspiration board for years. In the process I totally trashed the dining room.

I was wondering why I felt such a need to make this image (based on a Tiffany stained glass window) at this inconvenient time. I thought perhaps I just really needed to work with color. But as I was working I had the thought that maybe I was drawn to this particular image because stained glass always reminds me of being in church when I was young. I was always entranced by how the light that shone through the colored glass created an otherworldly and peaceful space. I now feel closer to the creator when I am out in nature, and there are times when the light shines through the leaves of the trees or breaks through the clouds of a sunset that reminds me of that stained glass light.
I started this piece by laying out wool in much the same way that I would do one of my usual landscapes.

I wanted to do this as a nuno collage so that It would have a bit of sheen from the silk. I 'fussy cut' bits of my dyed silk that had the colors I wanted. I even took the time to dye some silk because I did not have a particular blue that I wanted. This is what the layout looked like before I wet it.

I am not going to show yet what happened to this piece. That will be my next post....if I am able to 'fix' it. Suffice it to say that things did not go well from that point on.

Rather than end on a negative note, I will show a hat that I finished early in December. It was a custom order from a woman who came to one of my shows; a Red Hat Society hat. Not colors I like to work with but I was pleased with the results.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Grieving for others...

And trying not to personalize. The tragedy of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School have struck a chord in me. When awful things happen we are touched to varying degrees depending on how 'close to home' they are. As a parent, I can thankfully only imagine what every parent in Newtown is feeling but that imagining is horrible enough. I cannot think about it too much or I feel sick to my stomach. It feels self-centered to write about how this event has hit ME but I started this blog to help ME to remember what I did and when I did it. I would not normally write about something that was global news. One of the 'tools' in my mental health tool box is to compartmentalize things. I have a tendency to string together all of the awful times in my life. When anything goes wrong my mind wants to reach back and bring all the other things that went wrong in the past, that might be remotely related, and add them to the present problem. I have to use the logical side of my brain to tease apart what is and is not relevant in the here and now. Sometimes it IS helpful to look at similar events from the past but I tend to overdo it and forget all the good that has happened in between or even the good that has come out of the difficult times.
But this event has been poking at many sore spots. I know that having it happen here in my state, in a town similar to mine has made a difference in how it affects me. This became obvious when the news coverage switched from just our usual local folks (reporters, politicians, state officials, etc) to the more well known people. I have seen our state police spokes man; Lt. Paul Vance, speaking to local news reporters on TV many times. But never with so many national and international folks. Somehow, when bad things happen that are physically further away it is easier to keep it emotionally further away as well.
Besides these connections, I feel a connection because my daughter and niece are school teachers. Even prior to this my daughter had been asked by a student if she would try to shield the students with her body in such an event. It makes it hard not to imagine that those adults who did just that could have easily been one of these girls that I love and cherish. Just hearing them speak about the protocols and drills that is now part of being a teacher makes it easier to imagine what those people went through.
But the part of this event that causes me the most conflicting emotions; the part that I understand on the most personal level are the issues of mental health, learning disabilities, and gun control. I will not go into these issues in detail here. But I really wish I knew of an appropriate place to speak AND BE HEARD about the ways in which I know from experience that many of the ideas and opinions run counter to my experiences.
I am trying to distance myself from these comments but it is difficult. We are all looking for answers, a way of understanding this horror and a way of releasing some of the emotions that have been stirred up by it. I know that what I should do is some felting therapy since it is a bit too cold for me to do my dirt therapy out in the garden. But then again maybe I need to just allow myself to grieve. When you suffer from depression it can be hard to know when it is time to fight the sadness and when it is time to give in for a bit. I do know that it IS time to send wishes or prayers for peace for the entire world and for ourselves. Maybe if we find peace inside we can spread it to others.

 Post script. A phone call while I was writing this of a break in at a neighbors house has really not helped my emotions. I had to go down when her alarm when off to bring the key and talk with the police since we are the alternate contact. So much for the illusion of safety in bucolic little towns. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

In Production Mode.

The past two weeks were spent getting more products ready for the Shopping Holiday Season. This business of selling is so counter to the way I live, and want to be, that I find it a source of unease in my felt making. In my own life I am trying to reject consumerism, constantly questioning do I really NEED this THING.  My journey through some difficult life events made me really look at what truly matters. I came to clearly see the ways that all the messages we are fed through advertising, of needing and wanting MORE, just leads to a viscous cycle and a constant feeling of discontent. It is much of the reason that I no longer watch TV or listen to the radio. Instead of the WANT I am now trying to see the ENOUGH. I often think about survival training; we NEED adequate food, water, and protection from the elements, everything else is really a WANT. Learning how to live with very limited funds reinforces these lessons. Because at this point in my life I do live in this consumerist society I am feeling the NEED to sell my felt. I think I NEED to sell for many reasons beside providing those essentials for life: mainly to pay for more wool and to feel that there is a good reason to spend my time creating. I could go on and on about this subject when the simple point is to express that I have been feeling a bit at war with myself.
So now time for some shameful self promotion by showing the THINGS I have finished.
(Side note: when I went to add photos to this post about consumerism and money matters I found out that I had used all my free space in Google's Picassa so I HAVE to purchase more space if I want to continue adding photos to my blog. How ironic.)

 I made a few scarves, and some Christmas ornaments...well, Vicki my daughter made the ornaments, but I felted the little white balls and designed the snowmen.

I also finished another NoBody. This one is a puppet like  Betty the Burlesque Beauty but without the arms and legs. I am really determined to be able to make a good puppet, but figuring out the shape of the resists has been the challenge. I am getting closer but still have a long ways to go. Here is this guy (I think his name is Mortimer) making a few faces for the camera.

 One of the things I need to fix is the placement of the hole in the back.

But best of all I finished some things that were started a long time ago and have been in my UFO box.
I am especially happy to say that I finished felting the hat that I started last year. I had to stop felting it because my hands and arms were hurting me...a lot. I could do the softer felting but not something like this that requires so much strength to press down and rub and to stretch.

It is a very large Men's hat. I bought the large size hat block because we have a lot of big domed men in the family....too many brains I guess. I am proud of it for a few reasons. One is that I worked on a project that has been kicking around so long; that is always a triumph for me. I am also proud of the way the felt came out since I picked out the fleece, washed the fleece, and carded the fleece.
I am also proud of this hat for a strange reason. For many people, an art piece is not considered good unless it looks like the real thing. I used to buy into this notion...and I guess I still do to some extent. I did not feel like I was a good artist until I could do those realistic drawings that I did for work. Drawings like this...

So, I was happy that my hat looked like it might have been manufactured, not hand made by some lady in Connecticut who bought a fleece to felt something with. It is a very strange way of thinking and really shows the conservative influence of my upbringing. I am trying to remember that it is the maker's mark that is often what makes a piece really special and that perfection mainly demonstrates technical skill not creativity. Besides, I don't believe that perfection is attainable by humans. I have to remind myself that doing the best I can at the time is really what I should strive for and that does not mean always doing my best work.
There has been little work of the felting nature being done this week. Many hours have been spent doing new listings for my Etsy shop. Is that more shameless self promotion? Yes, I will admit it.