Archive for the ‘Rituals and Traditions’ Category

2014 January 1

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Tradition Continued–

First day of the year, first visit to the ocean.


Loads of anemones.


Possible idea for new series???


Searching for holey rocks.

Holey Rock

Holey rock with a pebble inside.

Potentially Dangerous Can Be Beautiful

Friday, March 29th, 2013

I recently snagged some Oleander pods from the parking lot of a neighborhood restaurant. In California it is common to have plantings in parking lots.

Oleander has a reputation for killing people and animals. Some stories have a valid science component, others lean toward myth and urban legend.

The pods I snagged have dried and opened exposing their lovely seeds.

Oleander Pod with Seeds

Why did I snag the seed pods? I use poison plant bits in my work. Some of the bits that I use are from plants banned in a few states. The reason for the ban is reactionary. A couple of kids decide to get high, use too much, have a bad reaction, and the plant is held responsible.

Each of the cups in my Poison Cup series has a small bag of bits from poisonous plants. These are a few of the bags included in the series.

Seed Bags

The title of the series is actually Preservation. While the cups refer to the tea ceremony and poison goblets, the cups have been perforated making them a nice vessel for seedlings.


Treat with Respect contains the seed bag in the upper right corner of the above graphic.
The bag contains 11 Castor Bean seeds.

Additional image of the series can be seen on my website.

Nerium (Oleander)

Fatal Wienie Roast

Oleander Poisoning


The Poison Garden Website

The Merck Veterinary Manual

Happy New Year 2013

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Reflected Back…

Photo Reflected Back

Maryland December 2012

Friday, December 28th, 2012

26 December 2012

snow 1

snow 2

25 December 2012

Tree with Lights and Snow

24 December 2012

Snow Bunny

23 December 2012


22 December 2012

Fence with Barbs

20 December 2012


Memorial Sculptures

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Whenever I travel I visit cemeteries. I am not morbid or do I have a fascination with death. I like stones that look like they are from the earth, have a good bit of lichen growth, and are sculptural.

Lichen Growth

Lichen Growth on Headstone in San Luis Obispo, CA

Yesterday I took some photos of a cemetery that is within walking distance from where I am staying.

Sparks Cemetery

Cemetery in Sparks, MD

Lovely misty and overcast morning with a flock of crows across the road from the cemetery. Or is that a murder of crows? Hitchcock came to mind.

Murder of Crows

I tend to experience the stones like I do sculpture. I want the whole to be addressed and to see the hand of the person who carved the stone. And I am fond of the use of nature–trees, flowers, animals. The best is when the stone is carved to tell the story of the individual.

Stone Tree

It is interesting to see the same or similar imagery in cemeteries around the country. What does the imagery mean? There are numerous sites that contain lists of symbols.

Penn Artifact Lab

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Last night I was thinking about how to age and hang a piece, so I did a google search for combinations of encaustic, wool, cotton, twine, rope, encased in plaster, and hit the Penn Artifact Lab. It is a working conservation space that can be viewed by visitors with a blog component. How cool is that?

While I was in Maryland, I spent part of a day at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. The museum has the FossiLab where you can watch folks working. The access to part of the process of conservation adds another aspect to the exhibitions.

Back to my search. I found this description–

“After prying some of the loose plaster away, I found that luckily, the plaster seen around the outside of the painting is only a thin skim coat layer, and that paper was used as a barrier layer in places between the painting and the plaster.”


I looked around a bit and found so many interesting and amazing images of artifacts. Ran across this bit on a coffin and cedar–

“Cedar is a prized wood because the trees produce chemicals that make them resistant to insect damage and various forms of rot.

I documented the appearance of the board, noting its construction details, such as four wooden pegs and mitered edges. One curious feature was thin metal ribbons running in channels along the long axis of the board.”

coffin detail

Cedar is one of my favorite materials. It is soft, easy to carve, can be yellow or pink in color, stains nicely for my purposes, and it has a great fragrance. I originally started using it when I was making Tools for Rent a series of bronze daggers.

Tools for Rent-Anzen

I was in the hardware store looking for some wood to build boxes when I was hit with the memory of opening my mother’s cedar chest. Got to thinking about the arbitrary value of an individual based on the contents of a box and how that compares to the arbitrary value placed on art. And I really like the fragrance.

Back to my search. I found this image of a bone awl. It is so clean, lovely, and elegant.

bone awl

Folks listed on the Artifact Lab blog–
Project Conservator Molly Gleeson
Senior Conservator Lynn Grant
Conservators Julia Lawson and Nina Owczarek

Penn Museum’s Egyptian Section curators
Curator Dr. David Silverman
Associate Curators Dr. Josef Wegner and Dr. Jennifer Wegner

The Artifact Lab and the Penn Museum blogs have great detailed information. I just subscribed to both.

Memorial Bracelet

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

My Dad died.

It wasn’t unexpected, yet you never know how you will feel until something is reality.

The night before I flew home for his graveside service I made a memorial bracelet.

I cut a small piece of bamboo, drilled holes in it with my Dad’s old Black and Decker drill, then made some knots.

The pattern of knots on one side represents his date of birth, the other side the date of his death. Years back I read that bamboo has a cultural myth–mourning the death of a father.

Seemed appropriate, understated, personal.

Memorial Bracelet

The morning of his service I took cuttings from his garden to make a spray for his coffin.

At the service I didn’t feel as much of a loss as I did when I spent time in his shop knowing he would never be back.

When I went through his file cabinet I found the English-French Dictionary he used when he was stationed in France during the Korean War. A newspaper clipping was tucked inside. I believe that my need to keep mementos just might have came from my Dad.


I also found letters I had written to him. He even kept the packet of photos describing an investment casting.

Bronze Process

Dad wasn’t one to say how much he cared, his actions showed it.

Research Today-Birch

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

One of my works in progress is two pieces of 1/2″ hardware cloth, in code the embroidered phrase, “My Past Reflected Back,” and the embroidered companion word, “haunted.” The pieces will be bound together. There will be 45 pieces of mirror bound onto the embroidered pieces. Additionally, some type of plant material will be used to function as a frame and to integrate the two embroidered pieces.

A component of my past work was cultural myths and superstitions. When I was making my Avian Headboxes I read, Cultural Aspects of Trees: Traditions and Myths written by Kim D. Coder. I reread the article today and am leaning toward using Birch, which has a reference to wisdom. The idea of wisdom would be a good option for learning from the past, but not allowing it to control you.

I decided to google “birch cultural myths” to see what else has been written. Here is some of what I found at Trees for Life

“…in early Celtic mythology, the birch came to symbolise renewal and purification.”

“Bundles of birch twigs were used to drive out the spirits of the old year.”

I like the idea of renewal in reference to the past. Again to not allow your past to have power and control over your current and future self.

These sites are consistent in stating that birch is used to prevent evil spirits from entering and also used to drive evil spirits out.

Birch Trees: Myths and Superstitions

Tree Wisdom – Birch

This could be reference to forgiving yourself and to letting go of negativity.

So, I am leaning toward Birch, but have not yet ruled out Apple. I like the reference to knowledge with Apple.

One gains knowledge from the past.

The red color of the bark of both Birch and Apple would be a nice addition with the grey and cream wool used for the embroidery.

Since a component of my work is the illusion of artifact, past life; I will need to find a way to age the piece when completed. Wool is great in many ways, but I cannot wax it or torch it like I do with other fibers. Salt has been an interesting material to use, but I have found that a salted surface can change over time. I have been considering using plaster and concrete.

Birch Knot Image

I briefly mentioned wishing trees in the But is it art? post.

Additional information on sources–

Kim D. Coder, Ph.D.
Community Forestry and Tree Health
University of Georgia
Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources

Trees for Life is the only organisation specifically dedicated to restoring the Caledonian Forest to a target area of 1000 sq miles in the Scottish Highlands.

Additional Reads

Trees in mythology

African Creation Myths

Tree worship

Tree of the knowledge of good and evil

South Carolina Highlights–Motoi Yamamoto

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

South Carolina Highlights–Motoi Yamamoto

I visited the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art to take in the installation Return to the Sea: Saltworks by Motoi Yamamoto.

I was excited to see how Yamamoto used salt in an installation format. The simplicity of the process–a squeeze bottle, a brush, and an idea–wowed me and the work was beautiful.

Yamamoto Salt Demo Set up

When I view work I typically do not like to read or hear much about it. I want to experience the work on my own. Well, can I ever really be on my own considering that all of the stuff that I have seen and experienced comes along with me.

Yamamoto Detail

When I first saw the work I felt an overwhelming calm. Living on the California Central Coast I first thought there was reference to the patterns left on the sand by the tide. I heard a few folks talking about hurricanes and storms. I didn’t see that. The work was too elegant and repetitive for me to think storm and violence.

What was I missing? After I viewed the work from the floor and platform, I watched the two videos connected with the artist and his work. The hurricane reference was there in the form of the satellite images of storms. The exhibition also had several of Yamamoto’s prints that made the storm reference clear.

What does Return to the Sea mean? Actually just that. At the end of the exhibition the folks are invited to help dismantle the piece. The idea is that they will take a bit of the sculpture with them and literally return the salt to the sea. The ritual nature of the process is evocative.

I have used salt in my work for a variety of reasons–reference to preservation, currency, good luck, and as a surface effect to grow crystals on works, and patination. While I was at the exhibition I found out that in Japan salt is used not only to attract good luck but to ward off evil. More reason to continue to use salt in my work with reference to evil.

But is it art?

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Holey Tree

This is a tree in the backyard of where I am staying in South Carolina. When I first saw the tree I thought the depth and regularity of the holes were made by a person. And if they were made by a person, does that make it art?

Holey Tree Detail

The holes were made by a woodpecker.

I think the surface is beautiful. It brought to mind images of coins inserted into the bark of wishing trees and the story of pigs teeth inserted in a tree in the film Howards End.