Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Moving + Consolidating

I've been blogging in two places for nearly two years now, but from now on I'll just be posting at amyhoodarts.com. When I began blogging here it felt very important to have a separate place to talk about my own creative pursuits, and I'm glad I created that for myself. But lately there is so much overlap in what inspires me and how I hope to inspire others that splitting focus is getting difficult. I also want the flexibility of a self-hosted site. So I took the plunge, and I hope you'll follow me there. This blog will remain here for now; I'm pretty sure trying to import two separate blogs into one site is more techy stuff than I can handle. However, I will slowly be moving over the tutorials.

I know not everybody who visits here, though, is interested in the creative interests I pursue with my kids, so I've set it up (in a hacked way, I'm sure, but the best I could do) so you can subscribe to just what interests you. If you only want to read about what I'm up to with my own artistic projects, type the following into your feed reader: http://amyhoodarts.com/tag/mamablog/feed

Either way, I do hope I see you over there. And thank you so much for visiting my space here over the past two years.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Making And Listening (And Thinking And Planning)

Dawn at Simple Things Notebook has started a new weekly post, Make & Listen Along. I made a note to myself that I wanted to join in, but somehow Thursday got here before I knew it. However, I snapped this photo today.

I carved the stamp one night this past week, while listening (more than watching) an episode of Merlin on Netflix. Definitely more listening than watching, because I take my glasses off to carve stamps because my close vision is much better that way. Today I stamped it on a piece of linen using screenprinting ink. I have plans for that linen--last week I also cut out several fabric pieces for some prototypes of ideas I have, using the materials I have on hand.

As for music, I usually have Pandora playing over the TV, often a mix of stations, but in the morning I keep it on the 80s alternative station. It helps get me moving, especially on days (like today) when I've been awake since 4:30--not by choice. Darn body and mind, they don't always cooperate with sleep. It's still (always) one thing after another here...small things, most of them, but cumulatively wearying. The latest is my 8yo's diagnosis of asthma, which truly isn't surprising, but is still a little overwhelming at this moment. (It'll get less so.) My 11yo is scheduled to get his adenoids out tomorrow. My husband leaves again in two weeks. No wonder I have trouble sleeping. And it always seems nearly impossible to get out from under all of it and make any sort of plans for myself. But I am. I've already made a tangible start. I'll tell you about it soon, I hope.

Also, I think I need to get a CD player for the studio area, or at least play Pandora over my phone. There's no music down there! And I do love to listen to music while I work.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Walking the Path

My husband left last Friday and doesn't return until Monday. He'll be home for less than three weeks, during which time my oldest is scheduled to get his adenoids out, unless he catches the germ his younger siblings have right now, in which case we'll have to reschedule, except having already taken him directly to the ER with younger siblings in tow after a so-called simple tooth extraction while my husband was away last summer, I don't want to have this surgery done unless both parents are actually in the country. This year is looking remarkably like last year in a lot of ways: kid surgery (which was, indeed, rescheduled last year because of illness), husband travel...I am working on walking the path with grace, however. And I really do mean working on it.

I have, shall we say, tangled feelings regarding all this travel. I would not choose to carry so much of the home-life responsibilities by myself, but I wasn't given a choice. I wasn't consulted at all; I may have elected to do things differently, way back when, had I known the travel would grow and grow and grow, no end in sight. It's not that I'm not capable; I'm extremely capable. And it's not that I shy away from difficult things; I have always been a hard worker, willing to do what needs to be done. It's that I feel powerless. I think that in any difficult circumstance, the difficulty is compounded when we feel helpless or powerless. I didn't choose this. I don't want this. It doesn't matter.

I'm working on it.

Meanwhile, I wrote myself a colorful list of things I want to make/do/research while he's away. I'm chipping away at that list slowly. Here is some of what I've accomplished--and all photos are dimly lit photos taken by my phone, so I can tweet them. But you get the idea, well-lit or not.

This stamp was inspired by Egyptian faience, specifically this hippo. This second stamp is also thanks to the hippo:

I have a couple more stamps I want to carve, too. And I have some turquoise fabric. And I have some ideas of combining them...

And just as I painted rocks for the kids for Valentine's Day, I decided to paint wooden eggs for them for their Easter baskets. This is my daughter's, in progress.

I just...you know, some of the lines aren't perfect--I probably should have used a Sharpie rather than paint for the black outlines--but I just get a kick out of this every time I look at it. I plan to use the same shiny-making acrylic varnish on the eggs that I use on the rocks to seal it all up. I think she is going to LOVE it. I'm hoping to paint Yoda and Darth Vader for my boys' Easter baskets.

I also have "knit two sleeves" on that to-do list, and I haven't started them. I have six more days on this trip. Think I can do it??

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Green Postcards

Karen's latest monochromatic postcard swap is focusing on the color green. Last night, I carved a stamp inspired by the painted silk scarf at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. (I talk about the scarf in the last post.) I decided I wanted the print to be the outlines of the drawing, to most closely resemble the print on the scarf. This, or course, was the most laborious decision I could have made as far as carving the stamp goes. Whatever. That's what I wanted.

It took about two hours to carve the stamp, and towards the end I was getting a little lost...I just kept my eyes on the pencil lines on the carving block and trusted those to be my guide. I am utterly delighted with the finished stamp.

Here's a finished postcard--I made four in the series. (I even numbered them.)

On the back, I explained the inspiration for the print. These are, as my 8yo pointed out, much simpler than my previous postcards (blue and yellow). The background is green watercolor, left to dry with some plastic wrap on top to create some texture. The stamp is printed in dark green acrylic, and I painted the border.

It's not just the finished cards that please me, or the stamp, although I really do love it all. It's that this is a direct result of getting to visit an art museum on Monday. I was inspired, and that is such a good feeling.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Day in Boston

My husband is gone 25% of the time from February through mid-May. Shortly after he returned home from February's trip, I learned the Embroidery + Embellishment class I'd registered for at the RI School of Design was cancelled. I was feeling sort of...desperate is a good word, desperate for something of my own in the midst of all this hard work of keeping everything running smoothly with no help during all this travel of his, and I asked for a day before the next trip arrived. I wanted a day during which I was responsible for nobody's needs or wants save my own--no school work, no home work, no lunches or dinner. He checked his calendar and came up with some options and yesterday, I took the commuter train to Boston to visit the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum, my objective being to sit somewhere beautiful for a while with no responsibilities.

Absolutely no photography is allowed within the confines of the museum, not even without flash, not even in the gift shop, so I have no pictures of the museum itself to share with you. It's an interesting place, though, because its items are from the collection of Mrs. Gardner; she also had the museum built and arranged her collections the way she saw fit, and then stipulated that nothing could ever be changed. It is a collection frozen in time--and this is why, after the shocking (still unsolved) theft in 1990 of several works, the empty frames remain hanging on the wall. The rooms can seem overwhelming; on the other hand, small delights are found everywhere. And in the center of it all is a courtyard, the place I remember most from my last visit to the Gardner, in my early 20s. It's warm, even in winter. Fountains trickle, green things grow, there are places to sit upon and just be somewhere beautiful, with no responsibilities at all.

I sat on a ledge and sketched. (I increased contrast on this photo since my pencil lines were so light; only pencils are allowed in the museum.)

I took my time wandering the rooms, looking at what I wanted to, not having to deal with anybody else's hunger or need for a bathroom or boredom. In the tapestry room I was drawn to this small silk scarf. The room is enormous, with huge tapestries everywhere, but I ended up kneeling before this small bit of silk, trying to sketch the tree motif.

(Even with increasing the contrast, that sketch is still hard to see.)

I was able to take my time in the gift store, too. I was hoping to find some postcards with images of lace from the lace cases--yes, cases of lace collected by Mrs. Gardner. How I wish I could have taken some pictures. The lace was gorgeous. You can get just a glimpse of the cases at this link. But the store is only about a year old and they haven't added any lace images yet--although I hope they do. However, the store is one of those gift shops that feels curated itself, a collection of carefully chosen items. It was lovely to browse for as long as I wanted. I bought a few things, too.

The card shows one of the stolen paintings, Chez Tortoni by Manet. The book, oh my, the book. It's just filled with images like this:

And this:

I want to embroider them. To my eyes--my biology-loving, ocean-loving, art-loving eyes--this is a book of embroidery patterns. This book had to come home with me. Of course!

I had some time before the train home, so I sat in the museum cafe and ordered the only appetizing-sounding gluten-free item I could find, a shockingly expensive bowl of mixed baby greens. But they made up for that by having really good coffee and a flourless gluten-free chocolate cake, and I ate it all, every last bit, except for the raspberries, because I do not like raspberries, but I do like flourless chocolate cake with chocolate sauce and a bit of whipped cream, and I don't mind sitting by myself in a cafe, reading a book and drinking coffee.

When most of your time and head space is given over to thinking and doing for everybody but yourself, a day alone is so, so necessary. I have requested, if possible, a day to myself in between all his business trips. I'll start dreaming about where I'd like to go after he's back from Thailand and before he leaves for Belgium...

Sunday, March 3, 2013


I feel I've been neglecting this space! My ongoing crafty project, though, isn't too interesting to blog about. I'm still working on my sweater--I'm ready to begin the bottom ribbing.

Beyond that, I've been taking Diane's e-book class (highly recommended, if you're interested at all in that sort of thing), planning a map-making/sense of place class for ages 6-9 for our spring session of homeschool co-op, and working on a new series at my other blog, aimed at encouraging and mentoring adults to create a family art habit. It's called Art Together, and I'm pretty excited about it.

Actually, I'm excited about all of those things. I'm less than excited about all the international travel my husband has coming up; he's leaving for Thailand at the end of this week. I managed to schedule a day for myself before he leaves again though. I'll be back later this week to report on it.

Happy March, y'all.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Things Finished, Things Begun

Remember I said I had a Blizzard List? I really wanted to finish my son's sweater.

This is a case of not letting Perfection get in the way of Done. I'm not quite so happy with the center garter stitch at the neck opening. The last time I knit him this sweater, I did seed stitch there. The pattern calls for garter, but I like the seed stitch better. Too late now though, although at some point I am probably going to snag it back from him so I can try to neaten up the bottom of that panel, at least. Otherwise, this is a comfy sweater with room to grow. It's his second Wallaby, as the first was really getting too small. I used the same yarn, Spud and Chloe Sweater, and again, he picked the colors. As he said, the first one (which is two shades of blue) is a cool sweater, and this is a warm, fiery sweater. (This is the kid who identifies strongly with colors.) Details on Ravelry here.

I also wanted to finish my little embroidered trees for hanging. I knew I wanted to incorporate the selvedge, and I decided to stitch it to a backing, ready for hanging, rather than try to frame it somehow. This is what it looks like from the front.

The backing is red wool burel. I sewed on loops on the back for the dowel to slide through:

...and I'd hang it by balancing the dowel on a nail on each side. I'm running out of places to hang my stitching, though, which makes me think maybe it's time to try to start selling it? (I gave the birch trees, by the way, to my sister for her birthday. I'm a pretty awesome sister.)

Finishing my son's sweater means I could finally start mine. This is a dodgy photo I took this morning with my cell phone.

I'm making Tang, from Custom Knits, but without the turtleneck, because post-having-children, turtlenecks make me feel like I can't breathe, even though I used to wear them all the time and am still a very chilly person. The yarn is Dream in Color Classy, a total splurge, but it's so nice.

And finishing the hanging method/backing for the little trees means I can start on the next embroidery project, but all I've done thus far is transfer my drawing to the fabric. Oftentimes the first stitch of an embroidery piece is the absolute hardest for me, because, I think, embroidery is so very important to me.