Nature and Transition

I’m not keen on soft bodied critters. When I was a kid living near the Scioto River it was not uncommon for snakes to take up residence around our house. Alligator lizards often live in my gardens. The first sighting gives me a fright, until I know to expect them. There is a great fact sheet that I plan to read for future lizard encounters.

alligator lizard

This image is from the San Diego Zoo website.

When I found tadpoles in a concrete drainage ditch that was very nearly dry, I debated about taking on the responsibility of their care. Before I could decide, my husband had scooped them up and put them a large plastic tray in the courtyard.


Tadpole in New Digs

The green goop was scooped up with them from the drainage ditch.

Frog and Tadpole


When some of the tadpoles evolved to having legs and shortened tails we placed a couple of rocks in their container. Eventually they were moved to a different container with less water.


Legs and Shortened Tails

This is the first little one to leave the container. Notice the color change.

First to Leave


I didn’t want to touch or scare him, so I moved my to-be-planted 6-pack of alyssum to within hopping distance. He hopped right in and eventually was followed by several other little guys.

First to Leave

First to Leave

What I Learned–

Before you take on the responsibility for other living creatures find out everything you can. Your good intentions should not cause harm.

A few sites I visited–
Virus Which Causes Sudden Death and Deformities

Tadpole problems

How to Raise Tadpoles


Identifying California Frogs and Toads

What Do Tadpoles Eat

Raising Tadpoles through Adulthood


I recently acquired this cup and bowl set.

Cup and Bowl

Curious–is the duck nervous about where the guns are pointed?

Duck and Guns

A duck wearing a bow tie that is being rode by a dog dressed as a cowboy, guns drawn.
Who would have come up with this imagery?


Research Today-Birch

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

Neil Gaiman–Make Good Art

Today I received an email with a link to Zen Pencils. There are some illustrations based on comments made by Neil Gaiman in a commencement address given to the University of the Arts. Thank you Neil for reminding me to not forget “the journey to my destination.” Sometimes I allow life stuff to consume my studio time.

Neil stated that he learned to write by writing. That brought to mind Art & Fear, a book that I read during my first year of college teaching. There is a story about a ceramics class and their project for the term. The class was divided into two groups–the “quantity” group and the “perfection” group. The quantity group would be evaluated on the weight of their work at the end of the term and the perfection group would be evaluated on their one perfect pot.

Most folks know that the more work you make, the better work you make. Mistakes and pieces that don’t quite work can offer loads of important information, perhaps even new techniques added to your bag of tricks. I feel that making lots of work allows me to be more creative and not too fussy with a single piece.

If a piece doesn’t quite work, why? Perhaps something does–the combination of materials, a technique that I might want to develop, or maybe the work is so ugly a hammer is in order.

In undergrad there was the Ugly Wall and in grad school Bisque Ware Bowling.

“the journey to my destination”

I had the pleasure of taking a film class when I was an undergrad. Much has stuck with me. We viewed François Truffaut’s film, Day for Night, a film within a film. Truffaut is the director of the film and plays Ferrand, the director in the film. There is a quote about process that often comes to mind when I am working on a piece and something isn’t going quite right.

“Shooting a movie is like a stagecoach trip. At first you hope for a nice ride. Then you just hope to reach your destination.”

The titles of my Avian Headboxes are the result of my love of literature and film.

A few of the titles are Ferrand  from Day for Night, Adele  from The Story of Adele H., and Victor  from The Wild Child.


South Carolina Highlights–Art-o-mat

When I visited the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art I had the pleasure of seeing my first Art-o-mat.


During my undergrad years I started making pocket art. I continue to make small scale pieces so the idea of dispensing art via the Art-o-mat is interesting. I read through the guidelines on the Art-o-mat website a few years back, even downloading the box template.

Art-o-mat Detail Random

Visit the Art-o-mat website for the guidelines and to download the official box template.

South Carolina Highlights–Motoi Yamamoto

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.

South Carolina Highlights–The Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden

I recently spent three weeks in South Carolina and had the pleasure of visiting
The Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden.

Garden View 1

While there I heard Pearl speaking to a group. He is a lovely man and a great story teller.

Pearl Talking to Group

Pearl makes a wonderfully welcoming environment for all who visit his garden. He talked about the importance of encouraging students. My niece who is in third grade, went to meet Pearl as part of a presentation she is to give on a person she admires.

Garden View 2

Garden View 3

Pearl was kind and generous with his time, even giving her a packet of materials to use. The packet was put together by Pearl’s wife. When my sister called to try to set up a meeting with Pearl, she spoke with Pearl’s wife who was kind and welcoming.

Garden View 4

Garden View 6

There is a great documentary about Pearl that I rented a few years back, A Man Named Pearl. After viewing the video I added visiting Pearl’s garden to my wish list of very cool things to do.

I had an opportunity to talk with him a bit about his metal sculptures constructed from recycled materials. Very Cool.

The garden is amazing in so many ways– the scale of it, the aesthetic and organization of it, the collaboration with nature, and the enormous amount of work to develop and maintain it.

Garden View 5

A few details of some of Pearl’s work–

Topiary Detail

Cool Knobs

Sculpture Detail

If you are ever near Bishopville, SC spend a couple of hours or more taking in Pearl’s garden.