Thursday, May 31, 2007

the poison path

I've lately become enamored of Dale Pendell, chemist, ethnobotanist, and poet, author of the PHARMAKO trilogy. Pharmako/Poeia is the first volume of the series and I can't seem to keep my nose out of it. It's a poetic masterpiece, dedicated to the Power Plants, the herbs and flowers who are both Allies and Poisons. This is an adventure into history, culture, religion, psychology, literature, horticulture and chemistry. He sets the tone in the opening sonnet; here's an excerpt:

Come on, O rueful Syrians,
and all you thick-smelling
solanaceous plants;
You cultivated-in-rows tobacco and coca plants;
You maligned poppy plants and worshipped
grapevine plants --
All forgotten plants, and fad plants:
Come forth, you motley troop --
not a gentleman among you --
Not one that wo't lie, cheat, or swindle
a ride --
Come, all ye ruffians:
Be fruitful, we have need of poison.

I discovered this book while listening to a podcast of David Presti's neurobiology class from UC Berkeley. As a former hippie who dabbled in plant poisons during the 60s and 70s the class is a fascinating description of the molecular changes that occur in the brain when various things are ingested into the body. As a student of cultural anthropology it's even more fascinating to learn about humanity's long-running relationship with plants in general, and poison plants in particular. According to Presti, everything is a poison; whether it cures you or kills you is all a matter of the dosage.

I wanted to depict the flavor of Pendell's poetry, but there's so much good stuff on every page, I'm hard-pressed to choose. I will leave you with his description of addiction; in which he admonishes the user to beware the ally-poison:

An ally is like a half-broken horse, a horse with spirit. A horse that will carry you many days, only to suddenly knock you off on a low branch. Some allies are the subtle type. Maybe you have an ayahuasca ally. She is friendly. She gives you things. She doesn't seem at all malevolent. Or maybe you have an opium ally. She is more than friendly. She'll call you up and invite you over. And she is voluptuous, so you go. She is so good to you it seems like heaven.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Gears of the Grind

a journal page for "A Day in the Life of Me" for "Inspire Me Thursday." I was thinking my daily routine is pretty much just that: routine; and then this morning I've been disrupted by more thunderstorms traveling through North Texas. The ground is so saturated already that flooding has become a real concern. McKinney seems to have much less of a problem than Dallas does, which I'm thankful for. It got dark about 9:00 am, and the thunder and lightning was so intense it seemed wise to disconnect the computer and modem for a while, so I've fallen behind on my morning e-mail chores. The rain came down at a two inch-per-hour rate so I didn't go for a walk. I've been reduced to reading the comics and doing my crossword puzzle, the treats I usually save for my after work, before bedtime, time.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


The bathroom project has reach a new stage: I need to pull out all the layers of old flooring so a new floor can be laid. In some ways demolition is one of my favorite parts of home improvement because it's an archeological dig. You never know what you'll find. The scary part in this old house is that I never know what I'll find. Termite damage? Rotted wood? Bare wires? I've found all of that so far and so far have been able to deal with it. I didn't have time to rip out the floor before my mom got back from her trip and now I'm enduring her constant worrying about it. She says she's always afraid when I start tearing things up. Well, it has to be done, and I'd rather not pay someone else to do it. Besides, I would lose out on all the archeological excitement!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Doll Face

The prompt this week on Inspire Me Thursday is "Copycat", exploring repetition in your art.

I shot this photo of a doll's head I'm going to use for another piece, and then I experimented with filters in Photoshop. It's really more of a reference page than it is a piece of art. I really liked some of the combined effects of the filters, and I'm hoping this exercise will inspire some future projects. Then I'll be doing another copycat piece!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Studio Friday: May's Studio Treat

Treat yourself to something your heart desires, maybe some chocolate or flowers or new art supplies... a nice little something (no spending of a fortune involved). Celebrate yourself !!

I decided to treat myself to a subscription to Somerset Studio magazine. It's such an awesome combination of eye candy and tips that I still thumb through the one issue I have that I bought almost two years ago. It's a little expensive at $7.95 a pop (anyone remember when magazines were cheap?) but hey, I'm worth it! I got a better price by ordering online from Stampington. I missed the deadline for the July-August issue, so it will be a bit of delayed gratification and a wonderful surprise in the mailbox when I finally get my first issue.

I've been working on several home improve- ment projects which include such glamorous things as sheet rock repair, texturing walls, and removing old curtain brackets. One of the fun projects was making these curtains to hang over the kitchen sink. They're made from an old broomstick skirt that I bought at a thrift store several years ago simply because I couldn't resist colors in the fabric. It was really too small for me but I couldn't part with it. I didn't want to use the sewing machine on this fabric, as the loosely-woven cotton is a bit stretchy, so I stitched the curtains by hand while listening to "Grey's Anatomy" on tv last night. I hardly ever watch that show, but I know who the main characters are, so I could get what was going on, at least for the duration of the episode.

have a great weekend; after two or more inches of rain yesterday we're gearing up for yet another line of thunderstorms today.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

dark skies

Phoebe's been waking me up early this week while it's still dark outside. I'm used to getting off work when it's dark, but not used to getting up before it's light out. It's been overcast as well, so I can't get any sense of the time of day by looking at the sky. My internal clock is out of sync with the world. It's hard to get going first thing in the morning. Most places don't open until 10 and outdoors the mosquitoes eat me up when I venture out this early. It's nice to have your routine shaken up a bit but I'll be glad to get back to my old schedule. I am not a morning person.

Here's a shot of the old pharmacy in downtown McKinney with its rotating mortar and pestle. Not as nice as the old Raven pharmacy in Oak Cliff (Dallas), but a cool sign just the same. Can you tell what time of day it was? It was shot about 10am on a sunny day, but this side of the street was still in shade. It's pretty similar to what the sky looks like right now.

I switched from art to home repair the last few days. That protestant work ethic just won't leave me be.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Big excitement after a long morning. I thought the HVAC man would be here early today to check the air conditioner. I don't know how old the thing is or when it was last serviced, and I wanted to be sure it would get us through a hot Texas summer. He didn't show up until noon but it was worth the wait. He had to check something under the house and as he was replacing the panel on the outside of the foundation perimeter he nearly jumped out of his shoes when he saw this little critter hanging on the top edge of the panel.

I can't remember the last time I saw a tarantula in an urban setting. This one was about 3 inches long and seemed interested only in sitting on the panel where we found him. I had to go get the camera, of course. I wasn't sure how close I wanted to get but the spider wasn't aggressive in the least. They really aren't. People just tend to freak out when they see them. Well, I got the lens about an inch away from the spider, hit him with the flash a few times, and generally pestered him to pose for about ten minutes.
Only once did he rear up into a defensive position, and that was when I tapped him with a stick to get him to climb around to the light side of the panel.

Finally I got him into a jar and released him out near the back fence where there is a lot of ground cover and plenty of insects for food. My dog accidentally stepped on him and he went running for cover, which shows they're more scared of us than we are of them.

It wasn't til I got out my spider book that I found out tarantulas are nocturnal. No wonder he wasn't interested in posing. He was trying to sleep! I hope he or she sticks around. Maybe we'll have a tarantula family come July.

Monday, May 21, 2007

shrine assemblage

This week's prompt on Inspire Me Thursday was "Circles". This assemblage, made of recycled parts, is my submission.

I had a few square wooden rosettes we removed from some of the doorframes as we're remodeling (someone tried to give the illusion of an update) and thought to do something with the circles on the block. I've been wanting to experiment with assemblage, so this was a great opportunity. The collage elements are clipped from catalogs and an old book. The spikes are roofing nails, and the spire is from an old birdhouse that couldn't stand the weather. The buttons are from my longtime button box. I'm very happy with the results and look forward to doing more. Maybe this is my little niche!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Studio Friday: 3 Wishes

If you had a magic wand what 3 creative issues would you solve? Maybe they are space issues that you are experiencing in your studio or issues about creating itself?

Only Three Wishes? well, I'll try to whittle down the list.

Number One Wish would be for a more ergonomic work space at home. I seem to end up doing most of my work at the kitchen table since moving to this house. I used to stand up and work at a glass-topped light table, but my back doesn't like doing that anymore. My mom is out of town for a week so I'm making the kitchen table my studio for a week - getting stuff laid out as you can see.

Number Two Wish: more time for art. I was going to say to get organized to to be more focused, but I think if I had more time those two things would naturally follow.

Number Three: Some hands-on learning with like-minded artists. I get tips and tricks from books, experiments or online, but it would be really nice to attend a class and connect with local artists with some similar interests.

As a postscript to this - as I was thinking about my wishes and what to say about them I realized I was simultaneously thinking about how to get the things I wanted. I'm thinking about some workspace solutions that will work temporarily until my office space is remodeled. I'm thinking about how to make better use of the time I have now so I'll be able to do better with any future extra time I may get. I have a week off from work and have been a busy little bee as I continue to throw out old stuff and arrange my supplies more neatly. Finally, I began searching for any craft classes nearby that I might attend. I may have to wait until September, but at least I know there are a few options out there. As for community, I've begun to better appreciate all of you at Studio Friday and Inspire Me Thursday. This online network is teaching me a lot about how similar many of our emotional and creative experiences are, even though we are working in many different areas. Thanks for sharing your experiences!!

Friday, May 18, 2007

this morning's catch

I picked up a couple of more pounds of junk from the back yard. Usually I have to dig down an inch or so, but all the rain we've been getting lately seems to bring stuff right up to the surface. Maybe it's washing away the dirt I already loosened. Anyway, this is typical of what I pick up when I'm puttering around out there. Usually it's rusty nails, broken glass, and bits of old roof shingles.

This morning I found some pieces of broken pottery, including one with a scalloped surface and one with some nice blue edging. Also two plastic beads, a plastic flower-shaped bead, a pearl-like round thing, a piece of glass with an "R" showing, and a heavy rusted metal plate about 5x5 inches. I think the elongated green and blue things are plastic pieces from some kind of game or maybe from old Christmas lights? I'm keeping most of this stuff now in order to possibly incorporate it into some kind of future art. I've been getting inspired by some of the recycled junk turned into art around the neighborhood.

Originally I hoped to find historically significant items, but I think it's mostly what was left of an old tool shed that was torn down. The historical preservation officer told me to try to find evidence of our house's original color (it's now white) so I'm hopeful I'll find something with original paint on it. We've found evidence of green or turquoise paint on the old cypress fence and red and green paint in places on a door. Today I found two pieces of some strange material with green and turquoise paint on it. I don't know what the material is yet. Maybe it's wood and maybe it's some kind of plaster or stucco. I found a piece of caulking with evidence of red paint and it also had newspaper print embedded in or transferred to it.

No cans of money yet.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

retro fun

We've had a brief respite from the hot muggy hazy days of early summer and this morning I walked to downtown for the first time to shoot some photos. Usually I have Phoebe with me and we skirt the business area but today I left her at home. I've been in McKinney for almost six months and this was the first time I really took the time to just lollygag about the place on foot. Some of the shops were open and others were setting their wares out on the sidewalk in preparation for the day's tourists. My camera battery died so most of my gawking was caught only in my brain's memory.

I liked this retro mannequin in front of a soda shop. I'll post her face later. I've got to get to work early today.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

chunky book - travel

"Lulu was always ready at a moment's notice to take off anywhere!"

I got this beautiful little collage in the mail yesterday from Tyn at pookieville. It's part of another chunky book swap I'm doing at Flickr. The theme is "travel" and I love the way Tyn interpreted it. She is much more generous with her stamps than I am!

It was the kick in the pants I needed to finish the five pages I started on Saturday. They are drying as I type this. I'm still trying to get the hang of this chunky book thing, but I learn a lot from the pages I get from other artists, just as I did when I was trading ATCs.

Here are my pages recalling a trip to Vermont several years ago.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Invention of Dreams

I got a request to trade an ATC I accidentally left in a swap group two years ago. I thought the group had disintegrated but apparently it has been recently revived. I couldn't find the original ATC so I made this one as a substitute. I had forgotten how much I used to enjoy making these little art pieces. They were my real introduction to collage.

I hope the recipient likes it. It's always so hard to let go of the pieces because I know I'll never be able to replicate them. (one of those clinging desires Buddhism tries to free you of)

I've been discouraged and/or uninspired of late, and had been thinking all the time I was spending organizing my clippings and tossing out extraneous papers was just a useless exercise in busy-ness. It had begun to feel like an excuse to not do art. Making this ATC showed me how nice it is to have things in a place where you can find them. I think I'll feel better about continuing the spring collage cleaning now.

Now I have to get to work on some pages for a chunky book swap due this week.

Monday, May 14, 2007

after the silence

This week's prompt for "inspire me thursday" was "Silence." I'm one of those people who doesn't mind silence. My offbeat work schedule, which includes Sundays and evenings, means I'm often the only person occupying my side of the office building. Sometimes I listen to podcasts, but often I just revel in the quiet as I do my work. I'm inspired by silence so often I couldn't think what to do for the thursday prompt.

I decided my take on "silence" would be to abstain from posting on my blog or on Flickr; in other words, I would silence my web voice for a week. I realized I had become a bit obsessive about posting. The break did me good, as I was feeling uninspired anyway, and I spent my blogtime taking my dog Phoebe for an extra walk. I didn't worry about whether or not to photograph or write about what we saw or did, and the payoff was seeing and smelling the changing season. We're moving from spring into very late spring or early summer and the magnolias are blooming. The flowers smell so sweet!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

altered postcard

ok, I have been lazy, sort of. Partly I have been uninspired. I felt like a slug last week. Maybe the hot muggy weather and a case of poison ivy had something to do with it. (Yes, I stumbled into that lovely venomous vine with three leaves. It's clearing up now and I'm sick of the subject.)

I perked up after a day in which it did not rain. Like the roses in my neighborhood I've been weighted down by too much moisture, and I'm just now getting my branches back up towards the sun.

I made this postcard for Michael's Let the Postcards Do the Walking project. I hope it makes it across the Atlantic to Chesire!

Monday, May 07, 2007

old mckinney

I really like living in the historic district of McKinney. When I take Phoebe for a walk I can take a different route every time and almost always see something new. I have been leaving my camera at home, but here's a fairly recent shot of one of the gingerbread gables. Many of these houses have lace curtains hanging behind them, which really make the windows look pretty. I think I may need some for my own windows. Dallas was preoccupied with tearing down old houses in order to build brick McMansions, so it's a wonderful feeling when I see that not every city has that awful mindset.

I took a break from working on the bathroom this weekend to sort through my collage stuff and to think about priorities. These "Studio Friday" essays on the Seven Deadly Sins, coupled with my reading of "Hooked!" has me re-assessing things almost daily. I had a stack of magazines that I had collected for collage and decided I needed to either use'em or lose'em. As I paged through them looking for items to clip, I found many of them were useless. I had been hoarding them for no good reason. I was "attached" to them. So I'm letting them go, now. It feels good. I'm finally getting some space for the stuff I do use AND it's slowly becoming organized as well.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Studio Friday: Seven Deadly Sins (Pride)

Number 7: What feeds your desire to feel that you are more important or attractive or better or more special than others? How does this excessive feeling of pride feed your Ego and distort your reality? How does its shadow become your downfall? Is there a way that you see towards a healthier way of being?

My first thought was that Pride is not a big issue for me. I take pride in my work, so I try to do a good job. I'm proud of my accomplishments, but I try not to brag about them too much.

I think where my pride really injures me is when it comes to asking for help. I've always been proud of my independence. Since I never met "Mr. Right", I learned to do many of the things my friends always had their husbands do, and felt really proud of that. The unfortunate consequence was that when I met with something that was too much for me to do it was nearly impossible for me to humble myself and ask for help from my friends. I thought it would puncture my aura of the-woman-who-can-do-it-all. I've mellowed a bit over the years, and now that I have a tricky back, I have the ideal excuse to ask for help.

I want to thank Tine for coming up with this Deadly Sins series. Even though I came in at the third or fourth one it's been a worthwhile project for me to re-examine my motives for some of the things I do. It coincided nicely with my reading of "Hooked!", the collection of Buddhist writings on greed and desire. I read something yesterday which is worth considering: The Seven Deadly Sins only become deadly when they become indulgences.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

altered altoids

Here's my first mini assemblage made from the Altoids tin I "rusted" with bleach and vinegar. I left the pieces outside for several days, and the slimy goo that covered the metal dried nicely and stuck to the can. It got rained on, too, so some of it may have washed away. If I rubbed the surface the "rust" came off on my hands, so I covered it with a thin layer of gel medium to seal it.

This piece is my submission for Inspire Me Thursday. The theme this week is "Words" and how they fit into your creative process. Melanie poses some interesting ideas to think about: Do you begin a piece with a word or phrase in mind? Or do words emerge as you create? Do you often use words in your work? Are you more inspired by words or images?

I have a particular fondness for words (of course! why else would I be blogging?!). I use words or short phrases in many of my collages. I usually start with an image and that will bring a word to mind. If no words come, I may sort through my collection of clippings until I find something appropriate. I tend to like puns or odd juxtapositions of images to words. I shoot photographs of signs or words with this same attitude. In photography the words will usually inspire the juxtaposition, as I can't pick and choose them.

Here's how this piece came about: Since it was an experiment, I didn't really plan anything; I was more interested in how paint, gel, etc. would work with the surface. I found an old illustration of a peasant girl and glued it down. As I wondered what to do with it, the word "toil" came to me. The girl was "toiling", yet the illustration was remiscent of "toile" fabric. I added a piece of quasi-toile fabric and some buttons; finally a piece of grass representing the girl toiling in the wheat field. To me, it's ironic that luxury-minded folk would indulge themselves with "toil" fabric. I don't know how well my idea is conveyed to others.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

bla bla blah

We're having some dark rainy days after a weekend of hot sunshine and it's wreaking havoc with my arthritic joints and my sleep. I'm getting up early because I don't sleep well, and I am NOT a morning person. Even a pink flamingo sighting failed to perk me up. Art projects are languishing. I have tried doing a bit of cut and paste, or journaling, or reading when I can't sleep but usually my brain is as blank when I put the project away as it was when I took it up. I did make this silly poem.

What to do at night when sleep won't come.

cut & splice
eat some rice
shoo some flies
close your eyes
climb a hill
take a pill
kill some time
make a rhyme.