Archive for March, 2011

I realize that I never gave an update on the products of the printmaking workshop I took a couple of weeks ago.  In truth, I actually left the class feeling a little overwhelmed/frustrated/wanting for more.  I didn’t end the weekend with anything that I felt qualified as a ‘finished piece’, which was disappointing – the beauty of printmaking is that patterns/images/fields of color can be applied relatively quickly, and so I figured I’d be cranking display-worthy art out of the presses after just a couple hours of instruction.  What I failed to take into account was the importance of walking into the studio with a prepared plan.  Sometimes experimentation and studio play-time can lead to really stunning works, but I have found that I need to come to the presses with a concept and supporting materials in order to walk away with something I’m happy with.  All of that said, once I quit beating myself up for not truly finishing anything, I was excited by the fact that I learned a couple of new techniques and made a couple of new discoveries that can definitely be incorporated into the work I’ve been doing recently.  And I can’t wait to get back into the studio – I’m full of all kinds of new ideas that are just waiting to be run through the presses.  I’m playing a lot with thread as a mask, and stitching onto the paper as a way to create really ‘taut’ linework.  I’m also really, really stoked by the discovery of Pronto Plates – images can be copied onto these sheets of thin polyester, then inked and run through the presses.  Waaaay faster and less finicky than paper lithography, and a very cool way to incorporate some of my photos into my prints.  I see some good art-ing on the horizon…

We spent this weekend in Portland, hangin’ with the family and getting caught up on any growing/changing that the girls have done over the past six weeks.  My parents were also in town Friday night, so we had a chance to share a meal with them and dote on Elise as an entire family, as she just turned three last week and has come to understand the joy of opening birthday presents.  She is indeed three years old – after a quick but relatively un-enthused ‘wow!’, any boxes of clothes were tossed aside, and it was the little percussion set from Mitch and Kathryn that stole the show as the most attention-worthy gift.  She banged on that drum for several minutes, then passed out her collection of other instruments, with yours truly on the tambourine, my mom on the harmonica, and my dad on the ocarina.  I can tell you that we do not have a future as the next Partridge Family, but we sure do know how to laugh together – I nearly fell off my chair as we all made our terrible racket and Elise danced in the middle of the kitchen as if we were actually playing something with any discernible beat.

Saturday was a quiet day around the house, with a couple of small outings to enjoy ice cream and park time with the birthday girl.  Elise is as playful and energetic as ever.  She loves showing us how high she can jump, playing school, wearing her awesome pink cowboy boots, and sitting on her Uncle Shane’s lap (yes, I begrudgingly admit that he is still the favorite).  Her laugh is absolutely infectious.

Morgan, on the other hand, is still tiny and precious and content just to be held and cuddled and rocked.  Although I can’t wait to see what kind of a little girl she will become, I also never want her to grow out of this always-too-short baby phase.  Shane and I offered to watch the kids and put them to bed last night, so that Mitch and Kathryn could enjoy an over-due evening out on the town.  As I rocked Morgan to sleep, I was overwhelmed by the realization of how much I already love this little girl, at only three months old.

A quick stop at Barista in the Pearl District this morning for the latte to top all lattes, and then our Portland weekend of family fun was over. The house right next door to Mitch and Kathryn’s is currently for sale – if Seattle weren’t feeling so very much like home these days, I’d be asking Shane if we could make an offer  and allow unlimited Auntie and Uncle access to the girlies…

You know those funny little segments on Jay Leno where they prove just how uninformed the American public is by asking random strangers on the street if they know the name of the Speaker of the House, or who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?  My worst nightmare is that I would be one of those unfortunate interviewees, that I would stumble over answers to embarrassingly simple questions about our nation or current events, and then people would cringe as the facade I maintain of being well-rounded, well-informed, ‘in the know’ is shattered.  I am married to a man that checks the New York Times headlines on his iPhone before he even gets out of bed in the morning, and although I know he loves me unconditionally, I’m sure he shakes his head a little when he sees that I don’t catch the simplest of political jokes on 30 Rock, or that I scan the headlines of Us Weekly rather than Time when in line at the grocery store.  Yes, it’s true.  And so, in an attempt to stop being the person at the dinner table that is constantly steering the conversation away from anything to do with government or war or late-breaking news, I’ve been making a solid effort at enlightenment. I’m checking news websites, I’m asking questions, I’m scanning the Seattle Times rather than the pretty design magazines while getting my morning coffee in the kitchen at work.

I spent quite awhile last night going through the past month’s posts on Boston Globe’s Big Picture, scanning the amazing collections of photos that depict what is going on in the world at large.  And when I was done, rather than wanting to pin a gold star on my chest for being up-to-speed on the world’s latest happenings, I instead wanted to cry.  Had I known the pain that would shake my soul by seeing image after image of suffering, destruction, loss, and unrest, I probably would have chosen to go to bed early, saying a short-but-sweet prayer for Japan before I drifted off to sleep, thinking to myself that really, that was the best I had to offer.  I wouldn’t have been faced with the truth that I should also be pouring out prayers for Libya, as missiles fly overhead, and people tremble with fear as they flee their homes and hope their lives will be spared.  I wouldn’t have even known to pray for residents of Ivory Coast, where people are looting and killing wreaking havoc on the country over opposition to its leadership.  I wouldn’t have been shaken by the image of a father in Miyagi Prefecture weeping over his lost son as he kneels in the debris that was once his home.  So…now I know.  I know that I should be praying with fervor.  I know that I should be angry and saddened, full of compassion and desperation.  I know that I am undeservedly fortunate, with my warm home and my stable government, and my life full of so many comforts.  But I wish I knew how to bring peace to Libya, how to reunite a missing child with her grief-stricken parents, how to rebuild a city from absolute ruin.  There is so much more that I wish I knew.

I have been asked to do another art show at Q cafe in June, and so I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what my next ‘collection’ will look like. The latest sketches I’ve developed are leading me in a direction that is a bit cleaner/simpler/more hard-edged than the encaustics, utilizing much more perspectival hand drawing and architectural subject matter. I’m liking the few things I’ve rough-drafted so far, but with each piece, I’m left scratching my head, feeling like something is missing. I’m missing the depth and the richness that painting or printmaking lends itself to. In a stroke of sheer artistic fortuitous-ness, I checked Pratt’s Spring course offerings a few days ago and saw that they were offering a weekend workshop on ‘Layering in Your Prints’. I cleared my schedule, pulled my ratty, paint-spattered sweatshirt out from the back of the closet, and signed right up. I’m leaving for the studio in just a few minutes and am really excited to get back in there, after several months of being away from the printing presses and the cans of paint and the drying racks full of so much other inspring work. The class has no supply list – the only instructions I’ve been given are ‘dress for mess’. I really like the sound of that.

Sometime toward the end of last year (the day after my day-after-Thanksgiving shopping spree, maybe?), my clothes stopped fitting in my closet.  For the past 3 months, I’ve had a nice little stack of folded sweaters sitting on my dresser, unable to squeeze anything else inside my over-stuffed closet.  I did pick my prettiest sweaters to sit out, and folded them extra-neatly, and told myself they were just part of the room’s decor, but really, who was I kidding?  I just had too many clothes.  And so yesterday, unable to stand it any longer, I sprung into action and pulled every single thing out of my closet – shoes, handbags, clothes, all of it, and told myself that the only things that could be put back in there were the items that 1) fit well;  2) have been worn in the last 3-4 months (summer wear exempted).  I got an ironically-timed email from La Verne yesterday morning as I had just tossed the last pair of pants onto the bed, asking if anyone wanted to take advantage of her one-day-only 50% discount at Banana Republic.  I wavered for a moment, being someone who hates to turn down a good deal, but self-restraint won out in the end, and I decided to fore-go an afternoon of acquiring for an afternoon of de-cluttering.  I abided by a strict “When in doubt, throw it out” policy, and ended up with a pretty hefty stack of give-aways.  Eight pairs of shoes, four handbags, two coats, five skirts, a couple of pairs of pants, and roughly 15 tops will be coming soon to South Seattle’s Goodwill (with a few special things set aside for my next quarterly ladies’ clothing exchange).  Feels good to strip out some of the excess.

Closet before:

Closet after (ok, so it looks almost the same, but I promise you, there is less in there!):

The trick now will be in keeping it pared down, and so I’m going to be much more intentional about my purchases from now on – no more incidents of  “Holy Cow!  This sweater doesn’t really fit, but it’s only $13, marked down from $75!  Must get it!”.  A couple of ground rules:

1) No more black turtlenecks.  I know that black sweater/black pants is the unofficial architect’s uniform, but I really don’t need more than the four black turtlenecks I already own.

2) No more than three new items of clothing per month.  I shared this new rule with Shane and he guffawed – he hardly buys more than three new items of clothing per year.  But whatever – I like to shop, and am keeping my goals realistic.

3) Make a list of things I’d like to have, and stick to the list.  Yes, the occasional too-good-to-resist deal will pop up, and then I’ll stray from the list, but as a general rule, if I decide I have plenty of jeans, I should not shop for jeans.

Next weekend, I tackle the abyss that is my sock drawer.  And I can hardly wait.

I landed back in Seattle on Thursday night, and though it was hard to bid farewell to my temporary life of leisure, it felt good be greeted at the airport with a giant bear-hug from Shane (I needed his body heat almost as much as his affection – brrrrrr!).  And I’m extremely grateful for my suitcase full of goodies from the Coffee Mill, and my head full of memories of blazing sunsets, sandy beaches, and long chats with my lovely lady relatives.

My time in Florida was every bit the vacation I had hoped it would be.  I fell into an easy routine of a morning jog or walk with my mom; then a visit to the Coffee Mill for a caffeine fix; lunch somewhere outdoors, whether at a restaurant patio or a nearby park; an afternoon full of shopping or pool-side sitting or sipping iced lattes back at the Mill; then dinner with various extended family, followed by a sunset walk on the beach; and finally, a mellow evening at my grandma’s house, spent talking or reading or watching TV.  The weather was perfect while I was there – plenty warm to sport tank tops and sip cold Sangria with my lunch, but not the sticky, humid kind of hot that I remember from my mid-summer visits to Florida as a kid.  It felt so, so good to wake up in the morning, throw on my running clothes, and head outdoors into the fresh, sun-laden air for a jog on palm tree-lined paths.  I hadn’t realized just how much I’ve missed being outdoors until I had the chance to feel the sun on my shoulders, hear the rustle of leaves, see the multitude of greens that make up grass and plants and trees.  I also got a good dose of wildlife, as Florida is rich with all kinds of birds and lizards and turtles and snakes (ok, so seeing a snake shimmy across the path right in front of me inspired more fear than reverence, but still…).

And iced coffee after breakfast – ohhhh…I’d forgotten that coffee could be served cold.  I passed several hours at the Coffee Mill while on vacation, sipping my lattes, browsing their stock of various goodies, reading on the porch out front.  My grandma started this business when she was in her late forties, on her own, and realizing that she needed to find a way to support herself.  Thirty-five years later, through the commitment and hard work of her and my aunt, the Coffee Mill is still going strong.  I remember visiting this place as a kid, standing in front the shelves filled with candy jars, asking Grandma what I could by with the 75 cents in my pocket.  She must have given me an extra-special family discount, because I remember leaving with a good supply of gummy bears, jelly beans, and lemon drops.  This time, I was filling my basket with coffee beans and tins of tea (and maybe a little bag or two of mint chocolates and cinnamon candies).  And it turns out that Grandma still cuts me a pretty good deal.  Score!

Being so close to the water was also an extra-special treat, and I made sure that I experienced the feeling of sand between my toes whenever given the opportunity.  Everything seems more colorful when you’re at the beach, from the paint on the buildings to the color of the sunsets.  And those Gulf sunsets are really somethin’ else.  Every night was different, but they were all equally lovely.  And just when I thought the view couldn’t be more incredible, we looked out one evening and saw a group of dolphins jumping out of the water not far from the shore!  It was like a scene out of a movie.

Sunday night:

Monday night:

Tuesday night:

We spent one perfectly beachy afternoon having lunch with my aunt at John’s Pass, a cute little fishing village with restaurants and a boardwalk.  The seafood was delicious, our table in the sun was ideal for Sangria-sipping, and the pelicans were especially lively as they swooped down each time a fishing boat came in.  After lunch, we drove over to Pass-a-Grille Beach in St Pete for drinks and dessert – more sun, more beach, more mmmmm…

As much as I adored the sun and the water and the coffee, the quality time I was able to spend with family was the thing that made this whole trip worth it.  My mom and I really, really enjoyed the chance to spend so much time together just doing ‘girl stuff’ – talking, shopping, even just sitting together and reading by the pool.  And goodness, if I’d known we be spending so many hours sitting with my grandma in her living room, listening to her memories and stories and ups and downs, I would have brought a tape recorder.  Those late-night talks confirmed what I already suspected – my grandmother is indeed one of the kindest, most faithful people I have ever met.  It was so meaningful to hear her talk about how she found peace after my grandpa left after over 20 years of marriage, to hear her childhood memories of Sunday afternoon dinners shared with dozens of cousins, to see how she has been able to take every sorrow and every joy in her life and lift it up for the glory of God.  It was also nice to catch up with my aunt and my cousins – I hadn’t seen some of these family members for nearly ten years, so a reunion was long overdue.

And so, my Floridian vacation is officially over.  As I type, I am wearing my coziest pajamas and am wrapped up in my warmest blanket – Shane scolded me today for cranking the heat in our house up way too high, but I was just trying to slowly ease back into this chilly Seattle weather.  At least I now have a solid stash of gourmet teas to help keep me toasty.  And plenty of memories of sunny beaches.

I have quickly switched into vay-cay mode, and it. is. lovely. Started the day with a leisurely jog, then sipped a latte at the Coffee Mill, shopped with my mom, sat by the pool with a book, drank happy hour margaritas, watched the sun set at the beach, and am wrapping up the day with a late-night, soul-bonding chat with my mom and grandma… If the Mister weren’t back home, I might consider canceling my flight to Seattle.

After a particularly dreary week in Seattle, my mom and I boarded our plane yesterday morning and landed in tropical Florida last night. Although I love the Pacific Northwest, with its distinct seasons and chilly Winter evenings that can be spent snuggled up on the couch with my favorite blankie and a cup of tea, I was feelin’ due for some Vitamin D, ready to trade in my puffy down jacket for the cute sleeveless tops buried at the back of my closet. Looking forward to:
– Soaking up some sun, and giving even just the slightest tint to my disturbingly pale skin.
– Painting my toenails hot pink. Then actually being able to wear toe-revealing shoes.
– Catching up with my grandma, who happens to be the sweetest, kindest woman I’ve ever met.
– Ordering iced lattes from the Coffee Mill (this is the coffee/gift shop that my grandma and aunt have owned for years, and I have loads of fond memories of visiting this place as a kid).
– Staking out a perfect patch of sand on the beach, spending hours there reading, relaxing, listening to the waves wash all my worries away (how’s that for idealistic?!).

Peace out, Seattle. Try to get all that rain out of your system while I’m gone.