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Midland, Texas, United States
I write. I make stuff.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

On the Road Again

Heading out to Phoenix this morning--well, heading to Tucson today, then on to Phoenix tomorrow. I'm testing this blogging app (from the iPhone) because my Facebook account was hacked last night (my fault--don't even trust the FB links of people you know personally; they get hacked, too, and then you get hacked, and then people you know get hacked, and then. . . .), so this morning I'm sitting cross-legged in the front seat, trying to re-link Tweetdeck and Twitterific and Birdhouse via Twitter with Facebook. And, yeah, I know how stupid that sounds. It sounds stupid to me, too. I should be stitching. Or singing along with Pandora radio. But, no. Alas.

The good news: we got away only 2 1/2 hours late! Yay, us.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Uncle! Uncle!

OK, I give up. For days now--for weeks--I've been trying to figure out how to talk about what obsesses me. No, I don't mean "obsesses me" in any OCD sort of way, although who knows? That might have something to do with ALL my serial obsessions.

No, this is "obsesses me" in the very best kind of way. But I can't talk about it because I don't even know how to describe it. So I thought, hey, I'll just do the best I can and then ask y'all to join in and discuss the idea.

I do stuff with clothes, right? I love clothes. And bags. And jewelry. You might call it Personal Adornment. Tattoos. I love it. It's like the biggest thing, interest-wise, right up there next to writing. But here's the deal: I have no interest in fashion. In fact, I loathe fashion, because fashion--what's in style right now, what's hip, what everyone wants--is the opposite of what interests me about clothes and bags and stuff. What fascinates me, what I find endlessly intriguing, is personal style, and, specifically, Personally Meaningful Clothing/Bags/Jewelry.

One-of-a-kind handmade stuff, heavily embellished by the person who wears it, is like crack to me. But wait--I'm guessing that someone who loves crack can find it pretty much anywhere. I cannot find PMPA (Personally Meaningful Personal Adornment--and here's some more help I need:  we need a name for this. It's not artwear, it's not wearable art (I don't like that term; I like artwear better (and wanted it for the title of Book #2 but was overruled), but I need a more descriptive term, because I'm not talking about shibori or hand-quilted jackets, although those could be PMPA. See?) everywhere. I hardly ever find it at all. When I do find it, it's crazy:  my heart beats faster, ideas start zipping around in my head, I want a really close-up view, I want to talk to the person who's wearing it (but since it's usually in a book or online, and since, for some reason, these people are really hard to get hold of, I hardly ever get to).

Need some examples? Well, pretty much everything in Native Funk & Flash, of course, which explains a lot: this book came out in 1974, and that's when I got a copy and began this obsession. Up until then, my mother had made almost all my clothes, stuff we designed together. But I was a senior in high school, and my mother was having a miserable life by then, and I'd never been interested in learning to sew regular clothes from a pattern. These things, though--this opened up a whole new world. While I wasn't allowed to do much to my own clothes--we'd just left California, where we'd lived in 1968 and 1969, and my parents were absolutely terrified their only child was going to Become a Hippie. Terrified. They watched me like hawks. Well, when they weren't making each other miserable, they did. I was once grounded for 6 weeks for wearing a pair of my best friend's jeans, jeans that had--OMG!--the hems ripped out. Rampant Hippie-Becomingness!

So--you might glean from this that 1) my high school years living in our house were not happy ones and 2) I've been in the grips of this same clothing obsession since 1974 but was, at the beginning, frustrated by both lack of skill in the whole clothing-altering area and parental restrictions.

OK. So enough history. I turn 55 next month, and for me, it's always seemed The Magic Age, the one where I'll drop any few remaining constraints (I can't think of any, but I'm sure there are things I do that, if I were on a desert island all by myself, I wouldn't do. Like what? I have no clue) and do exactly what I want to do, particularly when it comes to how I look.

Quit snorting! I'm serious here~~

So you want some examples of what intrigues me? Sigh. They are so few and far between, but let me see what I can find for your viewing pleasure.

Here's Natalie Gibson, a textile designer, for one:

You can see more about her here, at StyleLikeU. Go there and do the slide show, which I do over and over, wishing I could spend a couple hours in her closet, pulling things out and asking, her, "Where did you get this? Why do you like it? What's your favorite thing about it? Where did you wear it last? How do you feel when you wear it?"

 So you're thinking, "Ah, it's about women with weird-colored hair and bright clothes." Nope, that's not it. There's also this:
which you can't see but is the only photo I can find of Minerva, the voodoo woman from the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I LOVE her. I want to study everything she's wearing. I watch the movie just to see her (and, of course, Lady Chablis). Here's a clip, but it's so dark you can't see much there, either. I like the scene where she's in the park, because then you can see her in the daylight. She was supposed to be based on Valerie Boles; I can't find images of her, either, possibly because she was "the reclusive voodoo priestess." That would explain that.

And there's this:
Rafiki, from The Lion King. I'm sorry, but I don't know where that photo came from. This one:

came from here, where it says it's Buyi Sama as Rafiki at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
I could study this costume for DAYS. Sure, it's just a costume, but if it's well done, it's surely fabulous.

OK--so that kind of gives a broad overview of what I'm talking about. Not costume, although you could call those garments costumes. But "costume" to me implies something you wear for performances or special events, rather than your everyday garments. I'm thinking Costumes for Real Life.

Some more notes--

~~meaningful doesn't mean it has to have specific significance, like a shirt that protects you from evil or a bag that makes you stronger. It can just be that it's important to you for whatever reason, something vague and amorphous but nevertheless important.

~~heavily embellished. A shirt might be important because it was a gift, but it's not really interesting to me unless something has been done to it. The sign of the human hand: stitching, beading, the use of thread to attach something to the garment.

~~it needs to be worn, not something that hangs on the wall. So it should be constructed for wearability--sturdy, something you don't have to worry about and treat preciously

~~old is much better than new

~~it seems that it's important that there's the sense that the garment is still being added to, that it's never finished.

~~hidden meaning is good--like symbols or names or text sewn into the lining or the inside of pockets. I've never done this, but since I'm just now refining my interest and honing the obsession, I'm sure this will happen.

~~When I think of the Perfect Garment, I think of something so heavily embellished, so thoroughly worn and worked, that you could look at it for an hour and not see everything. It would be passed on to someone else, or even, perhaps, donated to a museum of some kind.

In my daydreams about this kind of garment, I'd have one of each: a jacket, a pair of jeans, a jeans skirt, a dress, a long coat, a shirt. Each one would be so intricate, so intense, so *me* that it would be the only one I'd need. On the other hand, I can't stop collecting multiples of things, like the dozens of tank tops (I don't think a tank top could ever be The Perfect Garment, but who knows--several of mine are beaded by hand). I'm always looking and looking. I imagine that the perfect things will someday appear, worn and broken in by their previous owner and then, somehow, passed on. I imagine a long, worn-soft denim coat, one that flares out in a peplum style--a denim frock coat, sort of, with leather trim and deep pockets, just slightly large. I could work on it for years, adding to it. I've never seen one like this and can't imagine making one--because where would I find worn-smooth denim? And a pattern--I'd need a pattern to make a coat. I want one to just turn up somehow.

A chambray tunic, soft, with pockets. A heavier chambray--not too thin, but not TOO heavy.

The perfect leather bag--handmade, perhaps. Sturdy, quirky. I have one that I bought on ebay that I'm loving a lot right now. I find these things that other people don't seem to see as the marvels they are, and I get them for really cheap. And then I can do things to them (although working with leather is proving to be tough, literally, and my fingers are not singing in happiness). I'm trying to figure out some leather-working skills that will allow me to do cool stuff.

This refining of what I'm doing here has sort of kicked into a higher gear. Now I can see which things are never going to be The Perfect Garment (or one of many Perfect Garments (and yes, I know that sounds a little like I've been to Utah and have drunk the water), and I can donate those back to the thrift store. I like to imagine that, when I die, there will be a little closet with a selection of Perfect Clothes, just amazing things that somebody will find totally delightful.

So I'd better get busy, huh? Now I just need to find other people who have this same obsession, who love their clothes and are creating an idiosyncratic wardrobe of their very own. They're out there, surely. If you come across anything--photos, books, garments in your closet that cry out "I'm Ricë's Perfect Garment!" let me know--if you hear of an exhibit of clothes or costumes or know of books that shows great stuff, I can't wait to hear about it.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My New iPhone Case

I've been wanting to make a leather iPhone case forEVER, but it wasn't at the top of the list, you know? I mean, I had this one I made last year:

And it was OK--nicely padded, with some beads. But the re-felted wool was starting to get fuzz balls on it, which always creeps me out. Plus wool + West Texas Summer = icky AND depressingly hot.

So I realized that the way to make myself make time to do this was to make a tutorial out of it for my blog over at So that's what I did. Here's the finished case,
and here's where you can read more about the process--the first part is here, and the second part is here.

In case you don't want to go there (although I can't imagine why), here are some more shots:

I cannot WAIT to make another one. Not just like this, of course. But using what I learned about the leather and the tin heart and stuff. I can't even tell you how satisfying this was. I'm going to try to write a post about the process, about why I loved it so much. Keep your fingers crossed for me, please, that the project I'm working on today works out smoothly and that I get the videos done for CMM and that I then have time to write about it. And I'll keep mine crossed for you that your day goes super smoothly, too~~XO

Monday, July 25, 2011

Open Letter to the People Who Pay Us

Dear Gallery Owners, Shopkeepers, Editors, Retreat Organizers, Workshop Hosts, Publishers, Website Owners, and Anyone Else Who Hires Freelance Artists, Writers, Musicians, Etc:

We love you. We really do! You make it possible for us to do what we love, whether that's painting or teaching or writing or playing backup bass. Thank you for that. Without you and the gigs you provide, we'd all have to go out and get another job to pay the bills.

Oh, wait! Most of us do that already, because of course it's almost impossible to make a living as a freelancer, not unless you're very, very good and work very, very hard and are really, really lucky, as in being able to find and secure the handful of jobs that pay really well. Most of us are barely scraping by.

We have talked amongst ourselves, and we have realized there are some things that maybe you don't know. If you've never done this kind of work, where you patch together two or three or half a dozen jobs into a self-made career that allows you to keep the lights turned on and put enough gas in the car to get to the grocery store, maybe you don't realize what it's like for us when it comes to getting paid.

We know, we know:  talking about money is even more taboo than talking about sex. *Everybody* talks about sex; you can eavesdrop on people talking on their cells about the most amazing varieties of adventures. But nobody talks about money, and we think that's too bad. Everyone is afraid to talk about it--afraid they'll look greedy or afraid they'll find out they're woefully underpaid or afraid that if they mention money they'll be "let go" or told that they're no longer needed or that the work they're doing isn't going to be done any more.

It's not that we want to question you and make a big fuss. You're doing what you're doing well enough to make it work, and we appreciate that. You're giving lots of people lots of really amazing opportunities. But there are some things we wish you knew and are kind of thinking maybe you don't. And *we* here refers to the freelancers who are trying to make a living at this. While we fully support those who are doing it for fun and who have an alternate source of fabulous income, like, you know, someone supporting them, *we* do not, and it's different for us. So here goes~~

~~If we are reliable and do the work you assign us and get it in on time and in the form you need, if we show up at the gallery openings and smile and help sell our work, and if we promote you and your shop/publication/retreat/website, it's fair that you would treat us accordingly when it's time to pay us for what we do. If we're on time, we deserve to be paid on time and in the form and amount agreed upon. If you already do that, thank you. And you might be surprised at how many others do not.

~~We count on payment from you to make payments to others, whether that's the pediatrician or our studio assistant or some random and very hateful bill collector named "Harold B." from Paducah. If you don't pay us, we can't pay them. If we can't pay them, we're going to have to find work that allows us to pay them. That cuts into the time we have to paint or plan workshops or write how-to articles or song lyrics. If we can't count on getting paid, we won't be able to continue doing the things you're willing to pay us to do. If we're working the night shift at Burger World, we're not going to be in the studio at the crack of dawn, working on series you hoped to hang in your gallery at the end of the year.

~~An agreement is an agreement. If you hire us to do something for $350, and we do that thing, and then you tell us you can't pay us but will allow us to pick out $350 worth of merchandise or take $350 worth of classes, that's a violation of the agreement. We counted on that $350 to pay the vet bill and to buy more paint. We can't buy paint with free classes, and the vet doesn't take payment in rubber stamps.  Here's how it works for us: we figure out what work we've been given and how much we'll be paid for that work and when we can expect that money, and we figure that into our budget. We've all had people say, "Well, you can't plan your budget around money unless it's a salary." Why not? If you're hired to do a job, you expect to get paid. You're working = you get paid. This isn't a lark for us, nor a hobby, nor something we do just for fun. Sure, we love what we do, but so does your dentist. Nobody expects him to do root canals for free just because he loves doing root canals.

~~Please don't make us ask for our money. If we do the work, please pay us without making us call you up and ask for it or send an invoice or show up at the gallery and ask for a check. Please don't reduce us to having to explain that our rent is overdue. It makes us feel like children asking for an allowance. We're pretty sure you don't have to ask your boss to pay you every month. We're guessing a check shows up on your desk or a deposit appears in your account, regular as clockwork. If you value what we do for you, paying us without our having to ask is a most excellent way of demonstrating that. It will make us happy, and we will respect and appreciate you even more.

~~When we *do* have to ask, please do not make us feel like we're out of line, or as if we're imposing on you. Please don't make us feel as if we're trying to take something that belongs to you. We're not. We want you to prosper. But if you hired us and we did the work, that money belongs to us; we're not trying to take anything that's yours.

~~We understand that money is often tight, and that things happen, and that sometimes you'd like to hang onto that little bit of money as long as possible before you write that check. Please don't. Most of us have waited quite a while already. We did the work months ago. The gallery show has been down for six weeks. We taught those workshops for you last quarter. We know you pay on publication, rather than on acceptance. Whatever it is, we've waited patiently all this time, but now we really, really need to get paid. We don't want to have to nag and get pushy, but the fact is that we're pretty sure you need that $350 a lot less than we do. Hardly anyone is going to make a big fuss about that $350 because, if we kick up a fuss, we probably won't get to work for you again. But if we don't keep pushing, we won't get the money. And if we don't get the money, the vet/mechanic/doctor/utility company isn't going to give us a pass.

What we're asking is that you see if from our point of view. If you've always worked on salary, it's hard to understand the lives of people who don't. If you're a tenured professor, you maybe don't have a lot of sympathy for the adjuncts: maybe you tend to think of them as slackers, as people who don't want to work full time and so don't deserve to whine about not getting their checks until the end of the semester. In truth, many adjuncts are adjuncts because they have one or two or five other jobs they love and don't want to give up. That doesn't mean they don't work hard at teaching or that they don't need the money; it could very well mean they're also working hard at other things, and that they need the money maybe even more that you do, as a full-time instructor. There are all kinds of people, both full- and part-time, who are slackers and are lazy and are under-performers. There are also all kinds of people who work really, really hard, and many of them are free-lancers and part-time workers who depend on the money you pay them just as you depend on the money you're paid. We're all in this together, trying to do the amazing things we do together and make life richer for our customers and collectors, clients and buyers, readers and listeners. With your help and understanding, we can spend less time worrying about when--and if--the checks are going to arrive and more time thinking of creative ways to amaze you with what we do for a living.

 Creative Freelancers Everywhere

Friday, July 22, 2011

Because I Love You

I will spare you the photos I took of my toe. No matter how you like your toes and take care of them and put sparkly green polish on the nails, let's face it: toes are not so very photogenic. They are, sometimes, just ugly.

Now, I *do* love my toes--I made a conscious effort years ago to make Best Friends with My Toes because my mother hated her own feet so much, and I had these size 9 1/2 feet in the 6th grade (along with this weight and height, and probably this same level of maturity and intelligence, which is not to say that I was a precocious 6th grader but that I haven't done a whole hell of a lot in the intervening years). and so had lots of snarky comments about my feet. Not the least of which was The EGE's comment that they resembled canoes. He swears this is not actually what he said, but it's what I *remember* him saying, and isn't that all that really matters? Of course it is!

OK. I'm rambling. The point of this post is that, if you see me somewhere, like, oh, Art Unraveled in a little over a week (oboy! oboy!), please keep a safe distance from me. Apparently I am a magnet for accidents, illness, disaster. Dog bites. Because today I stubbed my toe, and I think it may be broken. It hurt enough to be broken, and I heard something pop, but that happens when you stub your toe and jam it, too, so I just yelled and said Some Very Bad Words and kind of sank to the floor and wallowed around in self pity for a while. And then I hobbled out into the yard to get some Husband Sympathy, which WAY outranks "self" and "pity." It's a testament to his good sense and kindness that he didn't make any cracks about, oh, clumsiness, or big feet, or A Walking Disaster.

So stay safely away from me. We can talk in loud-ish voices across rooms, or perhaps you can stand in one room and I can stand in another, and we will have paper cups to put up to the wall, like spies.

Yeah, I've come to a point in the Netflix queue of 2,153 movies (or whatever the limit is) where there's a string of spy movies. I'm all into Spy Mode around here.

So I'll blame the toe on the Russians, because, really, all the really great spy movies were made during the Cold War, when we had an enemy that made it worthwhile to invent cool Maxwell Smart Gadgets. Unlike now, when we just worry incessantly and don't even have Outer Space Travel to keep us entertained.

So I've got my toes taped together, and I think this calls for an extra glass of wine, don't you? Yes, that's what I thought. Join me, won't you? You can celebrate the lack of photos in this post, although I gotta tell you: the colors of my toe are quite fabulous! The purple and fuchsia go so well with the sparkly green polish that The EGE thought is was quite amazing.

[P.S. I have gritted my teeth and added another label to the collection: "whining." It was only a matter of time, wasn't it?]

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Podcast with Ellen & Sallianne of Art Is. . .You

In September, The Ever-Gorgeous Earl and I get to go to Petaluma, California, to Art Is. . .You, a much-loved art retreat making its debut on the West Coast after five very popular years on the East Coast. I wanted to know more about the event and about the organizers who'll be our hosts, so I called up Ellen and Sallianne, with her fabulous Australian accent, and asked them about their labor of love.
You can find out more about all their retreats, including the one next year in Australia, by going to their website, here.

Then settle back and listen to Ellen and Sallianne:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Making Me Happy This Afternoon

I love these straws, even though they tickle your nose.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Little End-of-the-Day Stitching

Huh. This is amazing. I'm sitting here stitching on that tunic I showed you Friday,

and I take some photos of it to show you what I'm doing:

 The red is the pocket. The yellow and the green stitching is what I'm doing now. The green will eventually be pointy arrows like the ones at the hem.

I'm adding pockets and replicating, sort of, the stitching that's already on the tunic so it will all blend and look as if it belongs. And I SWEAR that the thread I'm using matches EXACTLY the thread used in the triangles at the top of this photo (which is the hem; it's upside down because I'm holding it in my lap). But in these photos, it has a blue tint--a teal tint.

Isn't that weird? So apparently the camera is picking up some blue-ish tones in there that I can't see. I wish I hadn't taken these photos because now I'll know the threads are not an exact match. I wonder if this will be the straw that pushes me over the bridge~~

(And what's that called, which you mix up idioms? "Phrasal malapropism," suggests Geoffrey K. Pullum. Eh. That's not what I was looking for, but never mind.)

Book Notes: "Artist's Journal Workshop"

I do Book Notes videos for, which means--lucky me!--I get to read all these really cool books. I usually don't post about them here because these aren't reviews--they're just peeks inside the books. But this one is so cool I wanted to show you so you could go check it out for yourself. I love it and think you might, too.
I heard about this book from my friend Roz, who's one of the contributors; and that tells you pretty much all you need to know: it's a book about visual journals, and Roz is in it. What else is there?

Cathy Johnson is the author, the blog is here, and you can buy the book here or here.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Oh, good grief. I haven't gotten ANYTHING done from the pile o' stuff I meant to tackle today. I made the mistake of going by the new-to-me-thrift, which, by the way, is called BJ's and has, as a part of the sign, these lips, making both of us here at The Voodoo Cafe wonder: Did they giggle happily when they thought of this, or do they just not realize?

Anyway, so I stopped in there on my way to get tiny buttons to make into eyes (not nearly as tacky as it sounds), and I found a TON of stuff. Now, the last time I went in, I found very little. You know? One time you'll go in and find nothing, and then a week later, there'll be a ton of stuff, and you'll go, "Oh, you got a bunch of new stuff in," and she'll go, "No, not really. We're not getting any more summer stuff." And so you figure either it was hiding from you the other time or she rearranged all 10 tons of stuff every week. Which I doubt. 

OK, confession time: one reason I went was that I had to get out of the house. If you tend to worry, which we've discussed here before, sometimes one worry sets off a whole chain of worrying, and you find yourself in a sort of endless loop of worrying, and you really can't focus on anything. You can try to hard shift your brain back into a more comfortable and productive place, or you can meditate or do a whole bunch of other things, some of which probably include Big Drugs I can't even imagine. For me, sometimes I just have to get out and run an errand. In this case, it was getting tiny coverable buttons. Figuring out exactly how I was going to make them work was the hard shift--the thing that would jolt my brain from Worrying Mode into something more useful. That was the plan. Then there was the detour.

And there was this. Made out of t-shirt fabric, very cool, a brand--Double D Ranch--I don't buy new, no way. They carry it here at The Boutique, and I go in and look at it and imagine what I could do with it, but it's way too expensive to buy new and then bring home and start cutting up. Yikes.

This one had this elastic waist just way too high that just ruined it. Plus the color isn't my favorite, plus the plastic jewels. But seeing the faulty design--the high waist that made even me look puffy and fat--and realizing I Can Fix That, well. I had to buy it. She tried to talk me out of it, but I knew it would haunt me, thinking about how I could take something that was almost cool and make it Cool For Real. I can't dye it--not unless I remove the fake jewels, and I'm not loving it that much.  
You can see here that I've already removed the elastic. Now I have to re-stitch a couple of loose jewels and then wash it and see how much of the stitching hole stuff vanishes. I'll have to do it on the gentle cycle in a mesh bag. The photo below is not the true color--it's more the neon yellow you see above.
 Sorry for the blurriness, but I'm hurrying--
Then I have this idea for POCKETS, since it doesn't have any and we've already established here that Pockets Rock. I have scraps left over from my Alabama Chanin Skirt project:
Which was made from t-shirts from Goodwill, over-dyed and reverse appliqued. 
I have enough of the red, which goes perfectly with some of the embellishment red. 

Oh, yeah: Lennie was doing this horridly cute thing where she was being both cute and fierce (she has amazing bat teeth, which is why we sometimes call her Bat-Toothed Lennie, which makes her sound like a hillbilly. She's not, though. She's not as fat as she looks here, either.)

Weekend Projects

I'm trying to learn to better manage my time (here I actually snorted out loud) so that I can work on projects on the weekend. This means I do more during the week and then try to step away from the computer. Not in the turning-it-off-and-leaving-the-room kind of way, no. I can't do that. Since I avoid phone calls like the plague, it's the primary way people get in touch with me, and vice versa.

But I do make a real effort to get all the deadlines for the week met before the weekend. I don't schedule interviews or podcasts on the weekends. And then, to really push myself, I pick out a bunch of stuff that, in my imaginary ideal life, I would tackle and finish in the space of 48 hours, never mind that the hand stitching I do on stuff takes days and days just by itself. I like to imagine I can do it all. This weekend I'm starting to add silk ribbon borders with beading to the crazy quilt jacket--I'll try to get some photos later. It had better look totally cool because, honeys, the only store in town that sells dyed silk ribbon is very, very proud of their stuff. As in, "Sure, we have hand-dyed silk ribbon. Bring us the title to your SUV, your diamond tiara, and the deed to your ranch, and we'll let you have a couple yards."

It had better look FABULOUS when I'm done, is what I'm saying.

Here are some other projects I want to tackle, along with a few more of the fabric stitching pieces that I'm preparing this morning. Please pardon my grouchy look. Since all the walls in our house are really brightly colored, it's tough to get accurate colors when we take photos inside. We usually take them on the porch--good light, no glare. But when it's 105, playing dress-up, esp. with jackets, is way less than fun. I was all like, "Hurryhurryhurry, I'm melting here!"
I like this, but it's a little dumpy. It's Eileen Fisher, size small,
 but it's baggy, mostly because of the way the pockets are built in. I got this dress for cheap; it was wrinkled heavily across the back, as if someone had sat in it for a while, and I suspect someone bought it, wore it, and then returned it. Fine by me--I wash everything as soon as I get it home. It's linen, and a great tomato red. I didn't have to dye it, even!
It's kind of funky because it has these pockets like a kangaroo pocket, so if you're not careful, you look marsupial. I can't resist pockets; if I have them, my hands are in them. Plus tissue. Keys. Thread. Yikes.

I think I need to shorten it to just at the bottom of my knees.
Since it has a separate liner inside, that's going to be a pain in the butt. That's Cocoa at my feet.
You remember this Bryn Walker coat-ish thing I got at the new-to-me thrift, right?
Super cheap, less than $20 and apparently brand new, probably because of those dorky-ass sleeves.
I over-dyed it.

I'm so hot and sweaty my shades won't stay on my nose.
This jacket is going to need some work. Top-stitching is first.

These sleeves are way too cutesy for me, but because they're lined to make them hold this shape, I'm not going to alter them; I'll just figure out how to embellish them to cut the twee-ness.

Totally weird collar. Don't know what I'll do with that.

It can be a kind of cape-collar thing if I ignore the buttons on the front.

I paid way, way too much for this Bryn Walker jacket/top thing. So sad, because I had one already, an acid green one (didn't EVEN have to dye it). This one was off-white, almost-white, and I couldn't resist it at
33% off. I should have waited to see if it went down to 75% off, but I had to have it.
I had nothing pink in the jacket-ish category, and the possibilities for this blank canvas are just
too much for me to resist. It grabbed me around the ankles and wouldn't let go as I tried to
Just Walk Away. To save myself the embarrassment of a screaming, crying jacket hanging on my legs,
I had to buy it. Right?

Gah, I look grouchy. By this point, I was roasting big time. I LOVE the cut of this. It's why I had to have it.

Yikes! My butt looks HUGE.

It will have to be top-stitched, too. Fuchsia, maybe? Orange? I'll have to think about it.

Then I've still got the last Jest to make--I have the top (Bryn Walker again, long sleeves, boat neck, I bought it and didn't like the way it fits) and the fabric. All I have to do is suck it up and cut that baby up the front and figure out how to create a new facing for it. Scary, which is why I haven't tackled it yet.

So that's what I'm going to be doing this weekend, I hope. I've gotten a good start this morning, along with trying out my new recumbent bike, which I'll try to show later. I'll be checking in, maybe with photos. If you're working on something you like, please post a link to photos so we can see, OK? We'll pretend we're all showing up at Starbucks every couple hours for a break and show-and-tell! Go have fun~~XO

Friday, July 15, 2011

A New Creative Spark: Dave Newman

The very coolest thing about blogging over at is that if I get this way-cool idea that I love, I can usually get other people to play along with me. Y'all already know about my tiny little obsessions about where ideas come from and how people capture them and what they do with them. So now I'm doing these blog posts called "The Creative Spark" where people talk about that. The one that went up this morning makes me really happy. Not only is Dave Newman's stuff really cool, and not only does he seems like a guy you'd want to know, but I love it that he's someone I haven't heard about before, someone who's been out there in the world doing this totally cool stuff but who hasn't been interviewed by everyone on the planet already. I love that. Not only is it just fun to introduce people to each other--readers to writers, viewers to artists--but I love knowing that there are more fabulously cool people out there doing amazingly inspiring stuff, people I haven't met yet, people who are going to spark ideas in my head and tell me stuff I hadn't thought of before. That's the secret to an interesting life:  knowing there are people and ideas and things out there that you haven't experienced yet. It's the opposite of thinking you've seen and done and heard it all. That's what makes a life boring. Knowing there's a ton of new-to-you stuff out there? That's what keeps it endlessly exciting.

So go here and read what Dave has to say about the creation of Regular #5. Then go to his website and take a nostalgic trip through one of my favorite parts of the country. We've driven along Route 66 (and I have the coffee mug to prove it!), and his work just makes me happy. Oh, and make sure you click on the links across the top of the page:  they make the coolest sound~~are you old enough to even recognize it? Scary that someday people will hear that sound and go, "Huh? Is that crickets? Or what?"

Thanks to Jeanie Thorn for introducing me to Dave's work~~XO

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Look what showed up on our porch today:
Check the brand-new link over there on the right--ready for pre-order at Yay!

There'll be more--we've got a lot planned in the next couple months, so stay tuned~~

Podcast with Ty & Marcia Schultz

We met Ty and Marcia at our first Art Fiber Fest so long ago I can't remember what year. Well, OK, "so long ago I can't remember" could mean "yesterday," but you know what I mean. We ended up helping them untangle this big snaggle of cording and talking through the evening. Since then, we've caught up with them at various retreats across the country--last year at Art and Soul in Las Vegas and in Virginia Beach. And in just a couple of weeks, we'll see them at Art Unraveled in Phoenix. Here are a couple of photos from their Big Birdz workshop in Virginia--people had the BEST time there.

Listen to Ty and Marcia here:

You can find out more about Ty and Marcia at

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Labels

Yes, indeed: if you look over there on the right, you will see a lovely label cloud.


I don't even want to think about the hours I spent making this happen. See, back when I was using labels, I created tons of them. Dozens. Maybe over 100. I micro-labeled everything, multi-labeled it. Every post had every label I could possibly think of, anything it might eventually need.

Kind of like your kid going off to camp the first time, with two sets of everything, just in case.

The reason I never labeled anything any more was because I didn't even know where to start. I'd look at all the possibilities and just give up. So I went in thinking I could just delete a bunch of the labels in one fell swoop. But no. Oh, no. No, no, no. You can't do that. At least not in any way I've found. So what I had to do was go into each post with labels and remove the ones that occurred only once or twice. Like, oh, "Abingdon," appearing once. "Blood," ditto. Lots more. One. At. A. Time.

It took hours. I groused a LOT. But it's done, and I'm going to try to keep up with it this time. I don't know how--I still want to weed out some more of them. I'd be happy if there were 13. That's a good number. One for "wardrobe," one for "stitching," one for "sewing" (those are three distinct things to me.) Also:

~~road trips
~~art retreats

What else? What are the most useful labels? And the broadest categories that will work and still be useful? Sheesh. This is taking up WAY more space in my head than I want to give it. I hate stuff like this. I have other things to think about--so many, many other things, a whole long list of things. Subdivided, of course.

This post, for instance, isn't going to get any labels. It's not the kind of posts anyone would ever hunt for ever again, so why bother? Lots of posts will probably be like that.

It makes me tired trying to figure it out. I'm way more the micro-label-brained type, and I'd normally have about 5,000 labels and an automatic generator kind of thing.

But, anyway: there they are. Now I'm going to go try to finish this book for which I have to make a video tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Whole Nother Life

I've been pondering why I have this dress in my house. Why? While it's a perfectly OK dress, in a dress qua dress kind of a way, it is just so totally not me.
In trying to articulate why it's so Not Me, I've been thinking about why I bought it and dyed it and shortened it and added cool buttons to it. And then I got to thinking about some of the other clothes I've had over the years, clothes I didn't wear and didn't love but that, for some reason, I felt it necessary to have in my closet.  And then--then!--I thought about how that extends to some of the furniture I've had--couches nobody ever sat on, dining room tables where nobody ever ate. And then: sets of dishes, nice, lovely, matching dishes, that were never used. Matching glasses. Jewelry. Sheets and towels.

My god. I'm almost 55 years old (I mention this often because turning 55 has always seemed like an important milestone for me, more about which later), and it's taken me this long to figure this out, so think how lucky you are that I'm sharing this brilliant insight (snort) with you and saving you DECADES of not-knowing. Whoa.

Apparently, I have acquired stuff--lots of stuff, tons of stuff--over the course of my life that wasn't actually intended for the life I actually have. You know, coz I'm guessing there's a good chance you know *exactly* what I'm talking about. You've got the good dishes you never eat off of and don't really like all that much, just in case you have to host a dinner for Important People, never mind that the only people you'd invite to eat at your house are friends who, just like you, prefer to eat off the mismatched pottery you've had since the summer of '97 when you and your girlfriends went to the market in Juarez and picked it out. And so every time you eat off it you remember how much fun you had. The margaritas at the hotel! The tacos al carbon! The Imodium!

Or the couch you bought and put in the living room in case you had to entertain people, only the only time anyone goes in the living room is when the kids forget the rule about not allowing strangers in the house and invite the insurance salesman in, and he perches on the edge and tries not to slide off, or your brother-in-law accidentally sits down on it while he's waiting for your husband to find his wading boots, and he goes, "I didn't know y'all got a new couch," and you go, "Yeah. In 1989. Don't spill your coffee." But you know you don't have to worry because it's covered with that fabric that makes even solvents bead up and sit for months, waiting to be wiped off. It's indestructible and lovely and about as comfortable as a slab of concrete.

So you know what I'm talking about, right? All the stuff that you've brought into your house and your life that really, when you stop and think about it, has nothing to do with your actual life. This is the Just In Case Stuff. The clothes you hate but keep just in case you lose your job and become destitute and can't buy clothes and have to have something nice to wear when you go for an interview for another job, or when you go down to try to get the evil bank manager to give you a loan. You know: when you slip into the narrative of It's a Wonderful Life and need a hat and gloves and Some Decent Shoes.

It's all the stuff you keep in your kitchen/dining room/buffet hutch that you never use and don't like but keep just in case. Like if The Royals come to tea. (Yeah, we just Netflixed The King's Speech. Isn't it fabulous? Yeah, we know everyone else on the planet saw it in the theatre.)

In the last several years, I've been getting rid of everything I don't love. Clothes, dishes, shoes, random things. Now I see that what I was doing was shedding the things that don't fit My Real Life, the one I have and love. But, obviously--see that dress, above--every once in a while I slip. I see something and think, "Oh, yeah, that would be perfect!"

Perfect for what? Well, in the case of that dress, I guess, in the back of my head, I was thinking it would be perfect for something like a late afternoon barbecue with friends, sitting in the backyard, where--in this heat--I'd need something cool. Something Appropriate, as my mother would say.

We don't have friends. We don't eat barbecue. We don't eat in the late afternoon--we eat about 10 pm--and there's no way we're going to be sitting out in someone's backyard, waiting for food, with me wearing a dress like this.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the dress, but it's not me. It doesn't have a place in my life. Like the dishes with the roses. The matching martini glasses. The matching living room furniture--which is now scattered throughout the house in rooms where it actually gets used. For, you know, sitting and stuff.

The trick is, of course, to know your life. Not the life you think you'll have, or the life you expected to have, but the life you actually have. No, I'm not talking about settling, about giving up your dreams of luxury and settling for the scratchy couch from Rent-to-Own. No. I'm talking about figuring out what your life is really like, what you love and how you live and how you spend your time, and having in your house and closet and life only those things that support that. Clothes that make you feel good and that are comfortable and allow you to move freely and do the work you adore. Furniture that embraces you and doesn't require you to put Velcro on your clothes to keep from sliding around on its surface. Plates and cups that make you happy instead of terrified that one will get broken, even though you kind of secretly hope one will so you'll have an excuse not to ever use those hideous wedding-present-plates ever again.

It takes a while for most of us, learning who we are and what our lives are and what we actually love. For years I had clothes I was hanging on to Just In Case, clothes I didn't like and never wore but thought I Might Need Someday. Shoes, ditto. Dishes, oh, yeah.

When you really think about it, it's all about The Myth of Scarcity. Most of us are terrified we're going to need something someday, something we don't have and can't get and that will be vital to our continued happiness. This is hardly ever the case. Almost always, we'll never need it. And if we do, we can almost always get it, or get something close enough to it that we won't feel its lack. If I needed a set of matching dishes for some unimaginable reason--if The Royals decided, "Oh, to hell with nice weather; let's go to Midland, Texas, and find some random person to invite us for tea," and somehow I had embraced the concept of "tea" and of "eating a meal in the middle of the afternoon " and "having guests when I'm working," well, then. I could go to Goodwill and buy a set of serviceable dishes for less than it would cost me, timewise, to store and periodically clean a set here in my own house.  And sure, they would be dishes from the Goodwill, and surely The Royals would know that, but so what? What purpose would be served in having a set of fancy dishes on hand just to impress someone I don't even know and have no intention of, oh, marrying or anything? Why do we keep stuff we don't really like just in case we need to impress someone *we don't really like*? Hmmmmmm?

If I ever need a formal gown, I can find one somewhere. If I really, really need one, there will be one out there. Chances are, though, that since I've lived this long, having a perfectly happy life and plenty of fine adventures, without needing one? Chances are pretty good that that will continue. Because if I went somewhere where I needed a formal gown, The EGE would be required to wear A Tie, and he'd just as soon show up in a straitjacket as A Tie, which he thinks is a torture device invented to make sure no man ever enjoys a formal occasion. So I would have to either go by myself, in my formal gown, or go with someone who was grumbling constantly and tugging at his neck.

Really, it's less about throwing things away and giving things up than it is about figuring out what your life is really all about. What is it you love, and what is it you do? Who are you, anyway? How do you want to spend your days, and what makes you happy? How do you use your time and your rooms, your clothes and your space? In short, it's this: what is your life like, really?

For me, I can look at something and know immediately if it's right. It just *feels* right. And yet--and yet!--I still fall into the habit of thinking, "But I might need something like that someday. You know, Just In Case."

So today, when I get through with the stuff on the to-do list, I'll be making another pass at the closets. I do this periodically, once every couple of months. I try on stuff I haven't worn in a while and think about how I feel in it. Does it make me happy? Never mind what it looks like--it may look perfectly fine. But if it doesn't feel right, if it doesn't make me feel happy and comfortable and like I'm ready to tackle whatever shows up, then it's got to go find a new home. I highly recommend this practice of gradually, gradually weeding out the stuff that isn't working for you. in the process, you'll learn things about yourself that you might not have thought about before. About what makes you happy. About what things you love, and why. About how you feel about the stuff with which you share your space. You might be surprised, and in a good way.

Now if I could just learn to tell the difference, before I bring it home, between something that is Absolutely, Positively Perfect for Me and something that's Good to Have, Just in Case.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bought It. Dyed It. Shortened It. Wore It. Hate It.

Gah. What a LOT of trouble I went to for this dress. It's from the Gap, size small--according to the tags. I got it from the thrift. It was a cream-ish color, and I over-dyed it with a deep golden yellow. I cut about 3 inches off the bottom, replaced the ugly brownish buttons. Thought I was going to love it because it has great pockets. And is orange-y!

Yeah, it looks huge, but like I said: it's a small. I can barely get the top over my shoulders.

I put it on yesterday and felt icky in it, like I was wearing a costume of some sort, like it felt when I dressed to sub (long, loose dresses with big pockets, sleeves long enough to cover the tattoos (I had only the top ones on my arms then). Dressed to Blend, pretty much. I never did, of course, but I made the effort. And it wasn't worth the effort. And for some reason, this dress just feels dowdy. Frumpy. I remind myself, as I tweeted yesterday while wearing it, of a Mennonite. Now, before you start whinging at me: I've known some Mennonites--they put on our roof and were here for days and days--and they were nice people and looked normal. But goodlordalmighty, the women I see in the store, what is UP with those clothes? It's like someone who hated them picked out their clothes. I understand about modesty and all, but, honeys, please: you can cover up everything without resorting to dresses with a wasitline right up under your xyphoid process, with fabric that doesn't make you want to cry from its ugliness (I mean, seriously, even a nice brown (and I'm not a fan of Brown Garments, so you know I'm serious here) would be better than these fabrics). They're like what's left after The Dreaded Wal-Mart puts the reject fabric out on the clearance table for $1 a yard. This is the stuff that nobody will buy at that price.

Those horrible white sandals with white ankle socks.

And what pisses me off? You knew there was something, right? What pisses me off is that the men look fairly normal. Jeans, plaid shirts, normal shoes. Nobody makes them belt anything up under their armpits, let me tell you.

So anyway: that's what I felt like. Dumpy and dowdy like a woman forced to dress badly by someone in authority. Only I don't have that excuse. I just have this dress that is not making my heart sing.

I don't know if you know what it's like. Maybe you don't care about what you wear. Maybe you hate clothes. Whatever. When I put on clothes, I expect them to make me happy. I want them to feel like we belong together, and like we'll go out into the world and will not fight with one another. No pinching. No poking. No calling of names! When they can't make even that much effort to get along, forget it.

This dress was well-behaved and did none of those things, but I felt, as I said, as if I were dressed in a costume. And not one designed for having a great deal of fun. I hate to donate it back to Goodwill after all the trouble I went to to "fix" it, but I'm not going to fall in love with it, and my motto about clothes is: If I don't love it, I don't keep it. Lord knows there are enough clothes in this house (and the storage building) that I do not *need* this dress.

Yes, you did hear me just heave a huge, huge sigh.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

People Are Just Really Nice #3: Kim Schlinke

Now, in case some of y'all think I'm getting all Pollyanna on you here and maybe need to be reminded that not everyone is fabulous and that there are some real jerks loose in the world, don't worry. I know as well as anyone else that there are plenty of self-centered, greedy, snarky, hateful, trouble-making jerks out there. Remember: I was a substitute teacher for 16 years. I can vouch that it can start really, really young. I've had other jobs where the people I spent 8 hours a day with weren't exactly what you'd call saints. Or even maybe "humans."

But I can also vouch for the fact that there are wonderful people everywhere. Not just people who love you because they have to, like, you know, because they live in the same house and are related to you by blood and stuff. No! There are also lots of other really nice Random People You Don't Know, like the heavily tattooed kid who was out doing lawn work in the neighborhood the other day, and when we walked by and said, "Hi, how are you doing?" instead of mumbling "[hi]" like you might expect from a teenager having to work out in the broiling sun, he looked up and grinned and said, "I'm doin' great, and how are y'all doing this morning?" It just makes you feel good about the world, you know?

I meet a lot of those people.

Kim, who lives in Austin and makes costumes (and I'm sorry, but I couldn't find any other links to show more; I wish I could, because I'd love to see more of her work), read my post  about The Jacket and asked if I'd like some more silk scraps to use for mending. Of course! My own scraps are kind of boring, seeing as how they come from 1) silk shirts from the thrift and 2) silk ties from the thrift. Nothing very exciting, for sure.

A box from Kim arrived today, and oh, my! These are gorgeous:

Thank you, Kim! You're fabulous! XO