• art,  writing

    Camp Nanowrimo

    I have been head down and busy in preparing for Camp Nanowrimo, which begins on Monday. I have an aggressive goal and hope to complete the first draft of the novel-length piece of fiction that I’ve been working on by May first, or at least get it close enough that I’m filling in pieces, not missing major scenes. I have about 40,000 usable words already written, with a total word count of about 110,000 as a goal. Camp Nanowrimo should get me a lot closer, but is going to be demanding all of my attention in April.

    I’m looking forward to it. I’ve successfully completed two Nanowrimos in the past, but this is the first time I’ve gone into it with such a mature project.  I didn’t do Nanowrimo in November, since we had no electricity because of Hurricane Sandy, and trying to write it by hand in a freezing house was just too much to deal with at the time.  I am thrilled at getting an opportunity to try again without having to wait for November. The setup of Camp Nanowrimo is a little different too, as you’re paired with a small group of writers, so I’m interested to see how that’s going to play out.

    I’ve been considering whether or not to give up the photography while I’m focused on writing, but my inclination is to keep the challenge going.  I’m now nearly ninety photos into it and the challenge of putting a photo out into the world every single day has been an inspiring one.  I can’t say that I think of the majority of my photos as necessarily very successful, but every once in a while, I manage to catch one that really pops and makes it all worth it.  It does take a certain amount of time, but I’m learning how to take better pictures, and how to visit the world with a photographic eye.  I am worried about being able to manage with the writing and my music going on, but it might provide a nice mental break.  Trying to write without any other activities to fill the brain often leads to uninspired writing.

    Art, art, art, art.  There’s a few other things going on that normally I’d be obsessed with worrying about, but thinking about making art and creating it is helping to mitigate the anxiety that’s associated with it.  It’s such a healing force in my life. I really don’t know how I manage to get through the days that don’t incorporate it in some way.

  • art,  writing

    Death and the Sculptor

    Lately I have been having trouble with my knitting, in a way that’s a bigger metaphor. Normally I am a focused knitter, with one project on the needles at a time. I mark my next project with delight, but don’t pick it up until I’ve finished with the one I’m on. Sometimes I’ll have two projects going; one mindless, the other something that requires concentration, but never three.  Discipline is something I’ve always been good at.

    But lately I have been floating, unable to concentrate on any one project. I haven’t actually been doing much knitting outside of my knitting circle, which meets once a week for a few hours. I have a few things on the needles; a short row scarf in mohair, knee-high color work socks, swatches for the vest I’ve been saying I was going to make this winter. (Notice, it’s March.)  I finished a pair of fingerless mitts, but can’t find the motivation to even look up the pattern for a matching hat. I’ve started Level 2 of the Masters Knitting Program from TKGA, but after knitting the first few swatches and blocking them, I’ve put them down in the same distracted manner. I have no ambition beyond the current projects and every time I go to look at patterns, I feel very little other than stress at the idea of taking on another project.

    I did some weaving and spinning in February, but like my knitting needles, the loom and wheel have also stood idle since then. Can I blame the traumatic end of the Season Three of Downton Abbey? Did all things die with —– ——-?

    I admit that some of this has come about because I’ve been overwhelmed enough artistically that I’m feeling the need to justify the time expenditure of various hobbies. Outside of work, I spin, knit, and weave. There’s always something with string for my hands to be doing. What began as a hobby to keep me busy while other people watch TV near me has turned into something that demands regular thought and attention. On top of that, I take piano lessons, which means fitting in half an hour of practice as often as I can. I enjoy making music and I enjoy having the knowledge that I’m acquiring there.  Music is worth doing. But then there is The Writing Project, which is taking up so much of my consciousness that everything else feels like an infringement on the time I can spend there. The end result seems to be that my brain is always on, with very little downtime.  Well.  It’s no small wonder that I’m having trouble focusing.

    Daniel Chester French has a sculpture that I love called Death and the Sculptor. The narrative of this sculpture is that a beautifully rendered marble angel visits an artist in his studio, as he works on a carving of the Sphinx, and stops his hand mid-strike, before the chisel can fall once more on the work. The sculptor looks up in surprise, clearly interrupted from that zen place of artistic absorption and focus. He is out of time and the work will never be completed.  There will be no more sculptures. I talk about this all the time as a terror of mine, but it wasn’t until I was showing it to an artistic friend that I realized why I’ve been so drawn to this sculpture for so many years.

    It’s a particularly touching piece because the sculptor is young. There is nothing but potential in the smooth and neat lines of his body. The angel is beautiful – you don’t want to stop the angel from its work, but to watch the sculptor stop with his chisel in the air, not being allowed to let it fall against the marble one last time – it is a mournful, sad thing. I feel it intensely, because it is my biggest fear, beautifully memorialized.

    Terror is not a conducive way to produce art.  I am feeling the stress, as I’ve side-lined everything in favor of The Writing Project, but also the disconnect. It’s not a creative block, but a difficulty in sitting down to do the writing, pick up the camera, work the needles, because I feel like there is so little time that there’s not much point in it.  I write in quick blasts – half an hour here, half an hour there.  I long for that sculptor’s penultimate day, where the work has been flowing and he has gone to bed satisfied, knowing that tomorrow will bring another day.

  • art,  books

    Neil Gaiman’s Calendar of Tales

    Neil Gaiman has another cool project, where he asked for writing prompts based on the calendar months to his Twitter feed.  In response to an answer from each month, he wrote a flash fiction.  Some of them are very wonderful and they’ll only take you about half an hour to read.

    Download them (for free) from here. You’ll be glad you did.

    I love his sparing use of wonderful and extraordinarily creative details. What’s your favorite part?

  • art,  culture,  music

    Team Beyonce

    I admit that I did not watch the Superbowl and the only part of that that I regret was not seeing Beyonce’s performance at the halftime show. I watched it the next day on Youtube, because I watched Facebook turn into a big furor about her. There was a rough division between Team Beyonce and Team What-Is-Beyonce-Doing-To-Our-Children?

    It brings up an interesting question. When I see Beyonce in this clip, I see a strong and powerful woman who could probably stand to put on a longer skirt. But it’s not the pornography I would have been expecting to see based on the reaction. (And it is not, say, singing about taking your clothes off, then having a “wardrobe malfunction”, oh, other superbowl performers…) I think she’s pretty amazing – to have the fitness to be able to move like that on a stage and also sing like Beyonce is the result of a lot of damn hard work. When I look at her, I don’t see an object – I see a triumphant woman who has worked extraordinarily hard at doing what she loves and is enjoying her success. I see a role model.

    I also can’t help but notice that she was wearing more clothes than the cheerleaders, so Beyonce probably isn’t the first place to start criticizing if you’re looking to discuss the objectification of women in football culture. Beyonce was there in her own right, with a fit and strong body in a dance costume and enormous musical talent on top of it.

    Team Beyonce, all the way. And if you’re worried your children are getting the wrong message, do me a favor and shield their eyes from the cheerleaders too, hey?

  • art,  film

    Movie Review: Beasts of the Southern Wilds

    We watched The Beasts of the Southern Wilds this weekend, which is the tale of a six year old girl coming to terms with her father’s death. Hushpuppy, the narrator, lives with her father in the Bathtub, an area of land that is below the levee of an unspecified metropolis that closely translates into a post-Katrina New Orleans. The people of the Bathtub are the displaced and homeless and they’ve moved into the marshland and formed their own community. The culture is wild and joyful, with huge community parties and people of all races looking out for each other and sharing foods and resources. The message is clear; the Bathtub is utopia. The metropolis is not.

    Aside from the unspecified danger of the metropolis, the biggest problem to Hushpuppy is her father’s health. This is where things get dire. Hushpuppy’s mother disappeared before the story began, leaving behind a trailer filled with clothes. Hushpuppy lives there on her own, while her imperfect father lives in another trailer in spitting distance. But her father disappears for a week and comes home in a hospital gown, which is the first time the viewer and Hushpuppy realize there’s something seriously wrong. He has periods of weakness and seems to be a man with a terminal heart condition. Angry at his own fate, he knows that he must leave her soon and he begins teaching Hushpuppy how to be self-sufficient. Hushpuppy burns down her trailer, fights with him and goes on a hunt for her mother.

    Arching through the story is a metaphor that begins in the classroom, where Hushpuppy learns about the aurochs and misunderstands them to be large and dangerous beasts that died in the Ice Age. They become her metaphor for her father’s illness. They narrate her feelings and add to the fantastical quality of the world, but the world is already fantastical enough that they fit well within it.

    Beasts of the Southern Wilds is what I like best in a movie; creative and well written. It also has some beautiful lines, excellent performances and stunning landscapes. There are moments of brilliant comedy and more than one line spoken from the mouth of a babe that rings so true that it made me shiver. It was originally a play called “Juicy and Delicious” by Lucy Alibar. I came away wanting more – I wanted to see the play. Definitely recommended.

    An interview with Lucy Alibar

  • sewing

    Vogue Vintage Sewing Patterns Sale

    Just a quick note, for those of you that are obsessed with vintage dresses and have an idea that you might sew them one day. Vogue has their vintage patterns on sale for under $4. Well worth checking out, since they’re normally more along the lines of $20 apiece.

    I didn’t exactly buy one of each, but it came close. If anything inspires me to improve my sewing, it’s the idea of fitted dresses that, well, fit.

  • friends,  knitting,  photography

    Garden Trellis Mitts, More Photography

    Work is continuing apace on the kitchen and we are definitely in the home stretch now.  (That’s going to be it for my sports metaphors.  I know very little about them.)  A window was put in this weekend and now we are waiting for the cabinets, which are set to arrive on Tuesday.  It had been a bit of a down weekend for me for kitchen responsibilities, so I invited the lovely Maya over for a sleepover.  I was determined to have an utterly sterotypical sleepover, so I bought nail polish and spent the evening utterly failing to manage to do my nails properly.  I ended up repainting my left thumbnail no fewer than four times because I kept trying to knit before they had fully dried.  On one occasion, I managed to grab the wrong nail polish and painted it a totally different color from the rest of the my nails.

    As you can see, I am extremely good at this.

    Kindly, Maya agreed to be a model for my 365 photography project, so I spent Saturday morning fussing with lights and playing with props.  Our torn down kitchen is actually a brilliant photography backdrop, since the walls are cream and we now have lots of natural light.  As there’s no cabinetry up, there’s very little in the background to detract from the subject.  I don’t have much experience doing portrait photography, so it was nice to have a willing and patient subject to allow me to fool around with lights and readjust at my leisure.  It was my first time working with a model willing to sit for longer than five minutes and I think that it was a good learning experience.  I haven’t invested in a lot of tools for photography, but taking Franklin Habit’s photography class at Vogue Knitting last year definitely paid off in making me so much more aware of how light affects a photograph.  I am pleased with the way the sitting went.  I also have a few items on my very short list, because hanging drop lights off of temporary ceiling fixtures is likely to result in a house fire.

    Garden Trellis MittsThe rest of the weekend has been extraordinarily lazy.  I watched no fewer than four movies in a 24 hour period, which did result in nearly finishing the Garden Trellis mitts, which is a nice pattern that knits up quickly.  I’ve been working them in a Rowan Tweed, which is one of my favorite yarns of all time, and have enough leftover yardage for a hat and cowl.  Cleverly, I’m working them in a dusky blue, which means that they will not actually match any of my colorful collection of winter coats.  What they will do, however, is work nicely for being able to operate my camera outdoors in a New York winter.


  • art,  house

    Kitchen Remodeling

    I’ve been thinking a lot about space lately, which is a pretty natural offshoot of my house having been taken over for the kitchen remodeling project. Since Hurricane Sandy, my house has been in an almost constant uproar. It began the night of the hurricane, when we saw the water coming near us and quickly moved everything from our basement to our ground floor. Then we had no electricity, but were safe from water damage, so we moved everything back. In the dark, which went about as well as you might expect. Then the house went topsy-turvy as things were moved about as we tried to navigate a dark and cold world for two weeks until the power was restored.  (On the upside, without telly, my beloved will get bored enough to clean the fridge – and I will get bored enough to mop all the floors.  True fact.)

    Not long after power was restored, my beloved began remodeling our kitchen. There was a special reason to do it in December, relating to his work schedule, but I was very wary of the effect not having a kitchen would have on Christmas. It turns out that I was right, but we got by. It’s amazing what you can cook on a barbeque. The immediate result of the kitchen remodeling, other than the way it took over my life in terms of my spare time, was that the kitchen now became scattered all over the house. The cat food is in the guest bedroom, the teas are in the basement, the nice glasses are underneath my fiber arts table. The dishes are sitting in my entrance hall, while the new cooking station, with our microwave and toaster oven, are sitting in the dining room. My stove and dishwasher spent a solid month in the back yard.  We’ve done a fairly good job of keeping things organized, but the kitchen stores a lot of items.  There’s only so much you can do.

    The physical chaos has bothered me a lot.  I’m not the neatest person the planet, but I do like things to be put away when they’re not in use. Clutter disturbs and upsets me. A little untidiness isn’t so bad, but when the task becomes “clear the place where you make art” rather than “make art”, things begin to fall apart.  The first week of kitchen chaos was pretty terrible for me, but then I decided to dig in and do whatever I could to get my kitchen back.  I had dreams of it being back in place by New Years, which didn’t happen, but it’s starting to happen now.  I spent last weekend painting the walls, after which we started moving the appliances back in.  We only have a few things left to do – putting in a window that was removed by the previous owners and installing the cabinets, then ordering the new counter top.  They’re all now in a period of waiting for things to arrive, so at last, we have time to do something other than work on the kitchen.  The cabinets will arrive on Tuesday, the window this Friday.  So we’re nearly there.

    The kitchen is looking beautiful.  We’ve replaced the brown theme with creams and silver, torn down a wall and added a window.  Instead of being a little dark cave, we’ve made it into a spacious and light space that’s going to be a beautiful new heart of the home.  Once everything is back, the next spot that’s going to get the treatment is my fiber arts space, which is currently utterly chaotic.  Before we began the kitchen, I asked my beloved if he would build me a custom cabinet that I designed in order to fit all my various spinning, knitting, weaving, sewing, drawing, photography, etc. tools.  Now that I’ve spent a month doing demolition, learning how to use a cordless drill, sawing at tiled floors, painting and project managing, I’ve asked him to teach me how to make it my own damn self.  Because we all know that what I needed was to add in carpentry to my list of hobbies.

  • art,  house,  writing


    December has passed by in a whirl of days, filled with so much activity that I’ve barely been able to breathe. We’ve been in the middle of a little bit of an impulse kitchen remodel and it has gotten fairly out of hand (which is to say, we’ve ended up ripping out and replacing everything). It is starting to move towards completion, minus the cabinets and counter tops that may not arrive for another six weeks, but it certainly made hosting Christmas dinner interesting. This year, I find myself grateful for propane and a barbeque. The rest of Christmas ended up being much of a non-event, as I’ve been busy ripping out sheet rock, helping tile floors, project managing and researching and ordering windows, dish washers and microwaves, caulking and painting rather than getting into the Yuletide spirit. I find I’m in it now, after the holiday has safely passed. Here’s to next year.

    Pictures of the remodel soon, as soon as the after pictures are something to look at.

    I have also been reading Steven King’s The Stand, which is compulsive and over a thousand pages, which has rather killed my productivity. I’ve never read King before, always being shy of horror novels, so I’ve rather had my mind blown so far. He’s a master writer, who draws a character sketch possibly better than anyone else I’ve ever read. I am certain there will be more in the near future. I’m told the Dark Tower series is also compelling. I am a little horrified that I let over thirty years go by before picking up his work – it’s a good lesson on how it’s a good idea to not limit yourself from a reading perspective because of genre.

    My New Years Resolution for 2013? Read, read, read, write, write, write. As with last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. I have actually been successful each year at fitting more writing in, but I’m still struggling with certain elements of technique. I want to fit in some more writing instruction this year than I have in the last few, not having taken a class since I graduated. It’s going to happen…just as soon as I have a stove to cook on.

  • art,  introspection

    The Game of Life

    When I was little, I used to play this board game with my friends called The Game of Life.  For those not familiar with it, there’s a long wiggly track that your car shaped piece has to travel.  Along the way, you go through life’s milestones in a typically linear fashion; you graduate high school, acquire massive debt, get a college degree, find a job, get married, buy a house (more debt), have kids and retire.  (They left death out; a rather massive oversight.)  Whoever retires with the most cash wins.  Not so different from how many people think, is it?

    Of course, being the sort of person who just can’t accept expectations, my strategy for the game generally was to roll the dice (well, a spinner) in such a way that I avoided college debt and getting a job entirely.  Such limitations were just not for me.  I would then careen around the board, making deals where I could, making certain that if I had to get married that it was a same-sex marriage, and avoiding having kids if possible or — if not, making sure that I had so many that they could barely fit in my car.  As a strategy, this worked out well. Unless an opponent managed to become a doctor, I nearly always won.  I was happy (and hilarious) in my Bohemian lifestyle.

    Last summer I played the newest edition of the game and I discovered that they’ve now made it impossible to play with my strategy.  You cannot get out of the first section of the game without acquiring a job.  Harrumph. I lost, despite avoiding college debt and my perfectly respectable salary as a policewoman. 

    I found myself thinking about The Game of Life the other morning as I was climbing out the subway steps at Wall Street, as I do five days out of seven.  This is the moment in my commute where the upcoming work day really becomes inevitable.  Being a train commuter, my brain is my own until then.  On my more motivated days, I fill it was the artistic stuff that I feel like I never have enough time to do.  I write or knit or read.  The days I write are the most satisfying; it’s what every adult in my childhood told me I should do with my life and a big part of me still feels like a failure for not having made a living from it like I was supposed to.  Shouldn’t I be published by now?  Living in a big house in the middle of nowhere with my car overflowing with kids and no nine-to-five?

    And so I sighed and turned the corner, tucking my artistic side inside myself until the commute home.  I put on my business face and walked into that skyscraper, into that office filled almost exclusively with men, and I conquered.  I was good at it.  And yet…and yet, some days I wish I had taken that Bohemian lifestyle, that I had settled for less stuff and less security and insisted on doing more art. Every day feels like a fight to blend the two and some days are just more successful than others.

    Perhaps, some day…