Friday, September 26, 2014

Priceless or Worthless?

Recently, I reconnected with a group of artists with whom I collaborated several years ago.  They are theatre artists/performers (mainly) and our collaboration involved writers, other performers as well as a handful of visual artists.  We had ongoing conversations over the course of several months via a yahoo group (that's how long ago it was - it seemed like cutting edge stuff then!).  Based on these conversations, each visual artist created an installation inside of an abandoned refrigerator.  The installation became the starting point for the writers and performers to create a piece using the fridge.  We called it FridgeFest and it was presented in Philadelphia as part of their FingeFest (get it?  Fridge?  Fringe?).

The time has come to revive FridgeFest and we are starting a new conversation, this time with a group of artists from Georgia.  No, not peach-loving peanut farmers but artists from the former Soviet state.  This time the conversation is happening on Facebook.  Well, some of the conversation is happening there.  Some of it is happening in Brooklyn too.

There we are!  Gaby bravely takes the forefront position.
It's heady stuff.  Nick (back row, third from left) and Gaby (front and center) love to dig into ideas and they are the driving force behind it all.  Although I have ideas that I am working with in my current projects, I don't have these kinds of conversations very often so it is quite fun and inspiring to be having them now.  

One of the ideas that we talked about and continue to play with is the notion of ownership and value with regard to art.  In the last collaboration some of the writers were less than happy when their work was manipulated and changed.  They were the author!  What right did a visual artist or performer have to mess with their words?  We also talked about the layers of value that get added to art as it goes from the artist's hands to a collector/new owner.  For lack of a better term (although I think it is a great term), we named that "love".  We talked about rotating the resulting artworks among the collaborators homes, adding stories to the piece with each new place.  Would that process increase the value of the work?  What actually was the value?  The stories/love?  The idea?  The materials?  

For some reason (and I am almost embarrassed to admit it), I thought about turning my fridge into a wardrobe and making a collection of clothes.  This is a little shocking to me because it feels like exactly the opposite direction that I am heading with my (other, non-collaborative) work.  Yet somehow this idea came to mind as we talked and I began liking it more and more.  Perhaps the word "clothes" is too confining to what describe what I have in mind, but we'll see.  The conversation is just beginning.


Monday, September 22, 2014

A Mixed Message

A group of us left the Monastery early (my stay there ended with a three-day, silent retreat) to drive down to the city so we could attend the People's Climate March.  Was it a bit bizarre to go from silence and a monastic setting to the streets of New York, crowded with 400,000 other people?  I will just say that I may have had a moment where I collapsed on someone slightly saying, "why must Zen training be so hard?!"  Beyond that moment of doubt that I could enter the fray on so little sleep, I would suggest that it might actually be just the right way to do it.  It certainly helped with any overly ernest notions or ideals that I have had about the whole thing.  Because, let's face it, if you can't have a sense of humor after three days of listening only to your own thoughts rolling through your mind, over and over and over, well...it's a hard life, indeed.

My own attempts at smartphone photography were, as one of my fellow marchers put it, sucky.  So I am borrowing one from the Associate Press.



It was big.  It was peaceful (no arrests!).  It felt...good.  What will happen today and tomorrow and the next day?  I guess that remains up to us.  For me, it was a boost to not give up on a direction that often feels like a wearying swim against the tide.  Maybe the best message of the day was: you are not alone. People care.  Lots of people care, a lot.

Meanwhile, shifting gears (non-combustable gears, of course), I bought some stuff!



Yes, I am a proud subscriber.
Some week's ago, the wonderful Alabama Chanin was having a sample sale.  Her DIY kits are normally priced way out of my range (we won't even talk about her ready-to-wear), but she does have big sales now and then when the price creeps just barely into range.  I do love everything about Alabama Chanin - the goal of sustainability, the way she respects her workers' talents and skills, and the fact that she creates beautiful things and then shares how to make said beautiful things with anyone willing to take the time and energy to make them.  Ok, you have to have the time, energy and a little cash in your bank account, but like I said, she has good sales a couple of times/year.



My kit has arrived.  Now to muster up the time and energy part of the equation.

So there you have it - marching for the planet with a dash of consumerism.  It's a mixed up world we live in!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Hosan

This space has been extra quiet because I am in residence at Zen Mountain Monastery for two weeks.  It isn't a special retreat or sesshin but just regular monastic life.  I am here specifically to sew two sets of cloths for the main altar.  They change them four times/year according to the season.  Last September, I came here and sewed the winter and spring altar cloths.  This year, I am making summer and fall.  Last year, it took me exactly the two weeks to make both sets.  This year, I am almost finished after one week.  I don't understand why it is going so much faster.  Maybe my sewing skills have improved? Maybe I am better after making the first two (this isn't quite convincing since I redesigned the pattern so it is new to me).  But whatever the case, they are lining up new sewing projects for me as quickly as you can say "My Precious Bernina".  I will not be idle during Week #2.

Here at the Monastery, there is no internet access during the weekly schedule, although I can take a quick look at email on the communal computer after supper if I hustle.  Remarkably, I realized that I can attend to any pressing emails in about ten minutes.  It begs the question of what I am doing exactly when I fritter away hours on the computer at home.  Oh, I do wish that I can make some real changes in this department.  There are, indeed, so many other things to do!

The exception to this no-internet rule is hosan - the off-schedule training period, as they call it here.  From Sunday afternoon to early Tuesday afternoon, there is no set schedule.  Sleep as late as you want!  Eat whenever and whatever you want!  Drive away and don't look back!  Until Tuesday, of course.  Last year, hosan loomed large.  Would I feel left-out and unloved as the other, long-term residents tottered off to various social events?  In response, I packed my time with visits and meals out, talking, talking, talking.  It was a mistake, as if I even have to say that out loud.  So, this year, I am being a little more cautious with my time.  A little visiting, a little laundry, a long yoga practice, reading, and some knitting in the lovely fall sunshine.

It's ok if no one loves me.  I feel like I am wanting for nothing.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Circles + Squares at bkbx

The new season has begun at bkbx!  Opening with a group exhibition of gallery artists, bkbx will kick off its new season and second year as project-in-residence at Proteus Gowanus.  You can see some images of the exhibition here.  I have three small pieces in it, which I am very pleased and honored to present along side the work of the other artists.  It is a short run - only up until September 26th, so hustle your wee self over there and see it!

That's me over there in the upper righthand corner...a piece that is still in progress and getting its first public viewing, Beaded Panties for a Lumberjack.  Someday I might even finish it.


The next exhibition will feature work by an artist new to bkbx, Jeremiah Dine.  It is sure to be excellent.  My show will happen in March and already I am pretty excited about it.  No rotating crochet in space but lots of surprises nonetheless.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Without Neglecting A Single Fragment




Practice Instructions: 
With Total Trust Roam and Play in Samadhi 
 Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091-1157)

Empty and desireless, cold and thin, simple and genuine, this is how to strike down and fold up the remaining habits of many lives.  When the stains from old habits are exhausted, the original light appears, blazing through your skull, not admitting any other matters.  Vast and spacious, like sky and water merging during autumn, like snow and moon having the same color, this field is without boundary, beyond direction, magnificently one entity without edge or seam.   Further, when you turn within and drop off everything completely, realization occurs.  Right at the time of entirely dropping off, deliberation and discussion are one thousand or ten thousand miles away.  Still no principle is discernible, so what could there be to point to or explain? 

People with the bottom of the bucket fallen out immediately find total trust.  So we are told simply to realize mutual response and explore mutual response, then turn around and enter the world.  Roam and play in samadhi.  Every detail appears before you.  Sound and form, echo and shadow, happen instantly without leaving traces.  The outside and myself do not dominate each other, only because no perceiving of objects comes between us. Only this non-perceiving encloses the empty space of the dharma realm’s majestic ten thousand forms.  People with the original face should enact and fully investigate the field without neglecting a single fragment.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Multiple Intelligences

It is a closed book exam.  This photograph was not taken while I actually completed the test, I swear!

We are in the midst of completing our first exam for the yoga therapy program that I am enrolled in - a three year program that began with nine-days of training in Nashville this past June.  The exam covers information that we learned in Nashville.  It was a lot - from nuts and bolts anatomy to yoga philosophy (lots of Sanskrit!) to hands-on therapeutic practice.  Each of the three teachers has given us a test to complete based on their own areas of strength and interest.  I have completed one and have two to go, with one more week to get it all done.

How strange it is to be a real, live serious student again.  So much of how I have learned as an adult has been through doing - physically doing something, making mistakes and trying again.  Sitting in a classroom with people tapping away on their computers, taking notes (did you know that this is how people take notes these days?  I was shocked!) is not something that I have done in years and years.  It was a little alarming to notice how my mind took in the hours and hours of lecture.  I found myself writing sentences where I wrote words and letters out of order - filling them in piecemeal as I went.  Like, I often could not write a straight sentence but filled in the words out of order.  Isn't that weird?  I am not dyslexic...it was just more non-linear I guess.  And I realized that I have this intuitive way of learning that kind of soaks stuff in and cooks it for awhile.  It isn't such a great method when one needs to memorize things but it works over a longer period of time.  The end result might be just fine but it is not so useful when it comes to written exams.  I don't think I was like this in school but somehow, over the years, I have evolved (devolved?) to this state.

Many of the other students in the group, which ranges in age from about 30 to mid 60s, are more exacting students.  By this I mean they write their sentences in order and create outlines and format their notes and generally keep things in specific order.  I am exacting too, just not in that way.  I guess you could say there was a spectrum of intelligences on display.  I remember one morning speaking with a couple of people who were pretty far to the other end of the spectrum from me.  One was saying how she hadn't got some detail quite exactly right from the previous day and was hoping to double check it with the instructor.  I closed my eyes and kind of waved my hands in the air, saying something like, "Oh, it's ok...you know, just soak it in and feel it.  It will all come out when you need it."  When I opened my eyes, I saw her face, stricken with a look of horror.  The other person patted her arm and said, "don't worry honey, you can just the notes from the teacher after breakfast."

I wonder how they are doing with the exam?


Thursday, August 21, 2014

We Hardly Knew Ye

This evening we will start our journey southward.  Heading south just never sounds as good or interesting as heading north but we will do it nonetheless.  For us, it has been a quick visit.  And that's the thing - it feels like a visit and that feels not quite right.  These next few years will be full of changes with F&L beginning to make their way out in the world.  I am trying to just go with flow and not get too fixed in my ideas about how it is supposed to be or how it will be.  But then there is how it really feels, which is quite different from typing words onto a computer screen.  I suppose the thing of it is - we still will be getting on the ferry tonight and landing in Nova Scotia in the morning, getting a cup of Tim Hortons coffee just outside of North Sydney and driving 12 hours to Brewer, ME, staying at the Colony Motel ("Sleepy People Wanted") and having dinner at that place down the road before collapsing into bed and watching whatever trashy TV flickers before our eyes.  If we are lucky, that is.  How I feel about it really doesn't come into play.

Meanwhile, instead of packing and cleaning, I decided that I had to spin up one of my newly dyed rovings for a friend who, I was sure, would be desperately in need of some new yarn.  In fact, I had dyed the roving with her in mind.  She likes dark colours.


It was this one - one of the Merino/silk blends.  The silk took up the dye differently from the wool - much more blue.  As I spun it, the blue really became more prominent.  So much so that the resulting two-ply yarn looks almost like denim.  Not at all what I expected!


But lovely.  As my mother would say, Oh Robbie, that's so different.  (Different, from what??  She never clarifies that part.)  Not sure of the yardage but if I had to venture a guess, I would say around 300-350 yds.



Further meanwhile, this is a picture of the mink that Eleanor caught and killed the other evening.  I was cooking supper when she deposited it on the kitchen floor.  Quite an impressive gift, really.  Wild mink are not very nice creatures - they tend to be vicious - so hats off to Eleanor for actually killing it.  Still...it was a little alarming.  Possibly less alarming than the live bird she carried in or the live voles that she has brought in, one of which is still at large.  I am fairly certain that it is not a good idea to leave a live vole alone in the house for the winter.  

So, here's hoping that Eleanor finishes her work and that the Cabot Strait has calm waters tonight!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Can You Feel It? Or, Relax, It's Just A Blueberry


According to the calendar, we only have a couple more days here in Gillams.  Late to arrive and early to leave this year - a situation that can only be explained by saying that my life is an embarrassment of riches at the moment...as the above picture illustrates.  Blueberries?  I got 'em!

This year has been a very good year for berries - less good for cherries and apples.  Our trees are barren of fruit, which I have been told is because the coordination of flowers and bees and weather was off.  Last year was rich in fruit and hardly a berry to be seen.  It goes like that.

On Friday, I went with a friend to Harry's Harbour on Green Bay.  It's a beautiful place with some excellent hiking trails and you are almost guaranteed to see whales in the bay.  We didn't this time, so that's why I say "almost".  One thing we did see were lots of blueberries and we made a plan to go picking the next day.  My friend knows the best spots deep in the woods, although how she can see that we need to stop here and not there in a landscape that all looks the same is beyond me.  I'll chalk it up to the fact that she has been picking berries in these woods since she was a child.  Whatever the reason, we drove deep, deep back and stopped at the mysterious place and, lo, there were blueberries.  Lots of them.  There also were lots of raspberries, although they were coming to an end, and squashberries.  It was berry heaven.

Picking can be loud and social or it can be quiet and solitary.  I was happy that my friend chooses the quiet and solitary method.  We both went our separate ways and picked in silence, alone with our thoughts and surrounded by abundance.  It never ceases to amaze me, this abundance.  I marvel at how the land offers up so much in such a short period of time after such a long, harsh winter.  The land, the plants, the trees - they are almost vibrating with life.    

It was warm in the sun but there was a cool breeze to temper the heat.  The air moved and the land spoke, Here!  You can have this!  As my bucket began to fill, I thought about what would happen if we hadn't come today and picked these particular berries.  Would a moose or a bear or a bird have eaten them?  Would they have ripened and fallen to the ground, undisturbed by any hand or paw or beak?  All over the island, at that exact moment, all of it was happening: berries were being picked and not picked.  We were picking and snacking and would go home and make our jelly and do what it is that we do with blueberries.  Bears were munching and filling their stomachs and adding layers of fat before  going home to do what bears always do before winter.  And the berries themselves were ripening in a particular order, the older ones dropping to the ground to make room for the next ones to get plump and blue.  The energy of it - the aliveness of it.  I could feel it.  And the thing is - it's always like this. It's always right here. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Looking Beyond the Surface

Yesterday morning, I scuttled back down to the basement to finish dyeing the remaining fleece I had soaking.  I wanted to experiment with a more nuanced palette, what Ani called "watercolour" technique.  Must say that it was touch and go - they looked somewhat lame-ass right up until they were dry but now I am liking them.  Subtle, yes, but lovely.  The top two in the photograph are Shetland and the bottom two are BFL.


I think I have enough wool dyed now to keep me going through the winter.

I haven't posted any photographs of a skein of Louet calls "sock yarn" but I think is a bit thick for sock yarn.  I dyed it in my first go-round and somehow missed a big patch, leaving a blotch of white that looked clearly like a mistake and not like a deliberate patch of white.  The good thing about dyeing yarn (as opposed to fleece) is that you can re-dye it without worrying too much about felting.  So I tried again and I wasn't altogether happy with the second time around either.  It just looked a bit blah...



See?

But I had a sneaking suspicion that its looks might improve when I balled it up, and lo...



I still don't think it is for socks but at least it is pretty.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I'm Dyeing Over Here

During Ani's workshop, I was busy being her assistant, chief photo documentarian and head chef so I wasn't able to lay hands on wool nor dye.  I watched (and photographed) as others did their thing but for myself, nothing.  I also listened carefully to what Ani was saying.

After the dust settled and everyone headed home however, to the dye pots I went.  And what do I now have in my hot, little hands?  

Oh, only this....



Two skeins of machine spun Merino, DK weight.

And this: (it is all Merino/Silk, 85/15%).  






A closer look at how the wool and silk absorb the dye differently, resulting in gorgeousness.


Oh yes, Ani done taught me right.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Product

Even those with short memories might recall this:


Yarn spun from two of the handpainted fleeces from the workshop last weekend.  I chose them and spun them with the intention of making a hat for a friend.


Just 24 hours and 12,000 deft movements later...

Yo, that's some mad skillz, whaaa?

(That was for Bob/Seiyu.  Normally I would never speak nor write in that manner.  He, however, insists.)

(Bob - I am laughing so hard right now!)

Friday, August 08, 2014

Photo Fall-out


Here is the yarn that I spun from one of the dyed fleeces knit up into a swatch.  Yes, I will take one sweater knit in this, please.  Thank you.



Also spun up these two little skeins with the idea to make a hat for a friend who likes bright colours.  I made her a hat from yarn I made when I first started dyeing with Kool-Aid.  It was just as you might imagine in terms of colour but I used very scratchy wool so I always felt a little guilty when I would see her wearing the hat.  For better or worse, she (finally) lost the hat this past winter so I have an excuse to make her a new one.  I am thinking stripes might be the answer.  Results to follow.


Ms. Eleanor has opinions about all this fibre-y stuff.  Occasionally she comes bearing gifts...


When Ani was here she forced me to...well, not forced exactly...she suggested that I feel how soft the little vole's fur is, and she is correct.  He or she is very soft.  Crazy soft.  Soft like you might want to collect these little gifts and figure out a way to use their pelts to make a hat or cape but then some PETA-crazed activist would pour red paint on it because they didn't know that you were actually using, in a practical way, the remains of dead voles killed by your cat, so you set that idea aside and just take pictures instead.


PS.  Eleanor's name isn't really Eleanor.  Her owner calls her L'il Babe.  That's all I am saying about that.