in the home stretch . . . well actually, sliding into third base is more like it

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as i stitch, i wonder what nancy’s thinking as she draws.
what she’s trying to say.

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i marvel at how most of her drawings are one stroke.
she puts the pen to the paper
and doesn’t pick it up till she’s finished
with that particular drawing.
the “x” tells me which side is the top.

i have 37 of the 271 drawings left to stitch
on In Our Own Language 3.
if i stitch 4 drawings a day, i’ll be starting on the border before the end of the month.
join me in a squeal of excited anticipation?

Bigassmoth

miss luna moth came to visit my studio last week.
thank goodness she stayed on the other side of the glass
cause you know: moths and cloths don’t exactly go together like a horse and carriage.
but then i guess that depends on whether you’re asking me or the moth.

///

susan lenz, one of the most prolific artists i know,
tagged me in her blog post today. go here
to read more about her process and what she’s currently up to
(she really does turn the proverbial sow’s ear into a silk purse.)
and stop back by next monday when i’ll answer the questions
about process and productivity.

getting organized and taking stock

Stackofnancysdrawings04july2014

where other girls wore pretty necklaces and lanyards they braided at summer camp, i wore the cutest little brownie camera you ever saw. you know, the kind you had to lick the base of the flash bulbs to ensure they’d go off when you snapped a picture. i guess i’ve always been the family historian, and once upon a decade, i earned my living as a personal historian, recording stories about a person, then sifting through their photos and documents, eventually pulling everything together into a book.

at the suggestion of several people i met at that workshop a few weeks ago, i’ve started writing a book about nancy. one day last week i took stock of her drawings. turns out i have 11 sets (remember, a set = the drawings i bring home from a visit with her), and the numbers look like this:

set 1 – 6/2012 – 167 drawings
set 2 – 8/2012 – 454 drawings
set 3 – 10/2012 – 271 drawings
set 4 – 11/2012 – 94 drawings (we were with her only one day that time)
set 5 – 3/2013 – 162 drawings
set 6 – 3/13/2013 to 7/13/2013 – 366 drawings (these are drawings she made at her day program
set 7 – 7/2013 – 35 drawings
set 8 – 7/2013 to 11/2013 – 279 drawings
set 9 – 11/2013 – 102 drawings
set 10 – 12/2013 to 6/2014 – 889 drawings (yes, really)
set 11 – 6/2014 – 257 drawings

i ordered binders and page protectors to store them in instead of the rubber band method currently in use. next week, i’ll get them in the binders, and i’ll scan the sets i haven’t yet scanned. i’m kinda’ excited to be able to look at the drawings while slipping through a book. every time i look at them through a different lens, i see different things.

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meanwhile, i continue working on In Our Own Language 3. last week i figured i could have it completed by the end of july. now that’s funny and proof that i live in a fantasy world.

Happy Fourth of July

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It was a night of firsts for me:

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First time I sat so close to the fireworks that I needed to take cover a couple of times.

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First time I got a crick in my neck from watching the fireworks.

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First time I’ve worn a sweatsuit on the Fourth of July . . . and still been chilly.

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Today I declare my independence from
writer’s block;
from worrying my pretty little head about other people’s opinion of me;
and from sharing any part of my life with people who behave more like ticks than humans.

And you – who or what do you declare your independence from?
You don’t have to make your answer public, just do it
cause it’s time.

the mantle museum in my studio

MyManleMuseum

“When we are sad, it can be comforting to cling to old, familiar things that don’t change.”
a line from The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Sometimes it’s just comforting, even without the sadness.

A Barn Dance, Kinda’

Barn2

Barn1

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Iool1complete2

Today The Engineer took me out behind the barn -
Okay, he took me over TO the barn,
where we hung In Our Own Language #1

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and In Our Own Language #2.

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It is the first time I’ve seen
all three panels of
In Our Own Language #1 hung together,
and it is the first time I’ve seen
In Our Own Language #2 at all
because our ceilings are quite low
and we don’t even have enough floor space
for me to spread it out on the floor and
climb in a chair for a look.

A neighbor came by to see what we were doing
and declared the cloths “pretty”.
It was obvious he was eager
to get back to playing on
his new toy: the cutest little backhoe you ever saw.

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In Our Own Language #1 is Nancy’s first set of drawings.

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She drew them in June 2012.

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There are 167 drawings in set 1.

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In Our Own Language #2 is her second set of drawings

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created in August 2012.

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There are 454 drawings in set 2.

It was quite thrilling, really.

From Cover to Cover (Which is Not to be Confused with From Sea to Shining Sea)

My souvenir from The Grassroots Art Gallery in Lucas, Kansas (I’ll tell you more about that another day) was this altered book created by Luanne Howell.

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Alteredbook1

Alteredbook4

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I have long loved altered books . . . and never given myself time, space, or permission to create one.

Until now.

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This morning was the annual library used book sale where you fill boxes, bags, buckets with books then just make a donation on your way out. I caught myself reading book flaps to see what I thought about the book, then I wondered why it mattered, given that it’s all donation-based.

Oh, all these aren’t mine, silly. There were four of us, and this is our collective loot.

These are the jewels I adopted:

Librarybooksaleloot2

Some I’ll read; others I’ll alter while The Engineer (who filled three boxes) is busy reading. My selection criteria for books to alter was (1) hardback and (2) fetching book covers. I only picked up hardback books with fetching covers, and the kinda’ amazing thing? The books with the interesting covers were all fiction books about Southern women. Ha.

It feels rather sacrilegious to alter books. And I also hear the stern voice on my committee scoffing at how I can’t stick to one thing and how I should be stitching and asking what I’m going to do with them anyway. You know the kind of stuff he barks at me. I think it’s time to stop that nonsense voice, so I choose to follow the soft whisper of my wise woman who says simply “Do it.”

And I’ll no doubt be inspired by Susan Lenz’s altered books.

I even have an idea for a way to alter the perennially popular Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Hint: The title will become “Gift from Nancy.” Gift from the Sea . . . Gift from Nancy . . . Get it? Maybe you have to say it aloud. Or just stay tuned cause you know I’ll keep you posted.

communion 10

Andytiesknots

today, while the engineer tied knots
(i’m always impressed with all the things he learned
while under the tutelage of the Boy Scouts and his dad)
so our daughter and her friend could do this:

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and i could ride around and feast on this:

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and, this,

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(which is an art installation, if you ask me
’cause i just have a thing for fabric
fluttering in the breeze)
i tied my own knot.
well, knots, actually
several of them,
taking Communion 10 from this:

Communion10before2

to this:

Communion10after2

when lisa call saw the “before”,
she said she kept wanting to
pull the blue swath down.
rather than remove all those french knots,
i decided to add a piece of blue,
and now it feels more balanced.
anchored.
complete.

~~~~~~~

the Communion series
is a selection of
non-representational representations
of conversations with my
developmentally disabled
sister-in-law, nancy.

It’s Not That They’re Not Cute, but . . .

Iool3a

I’d just never make a good hamster, running around on that same wheel day in and day out. Living in that well-lit but tiny little castle. No lists of things to mark through to make me feel productive, like I’ve accomplished something. I’d be cranky, real, real cranky.

So when I’m stitching one of the In Our Own Language pieces – the series in which I stitch every single one of Nancy’s drawings* – I create a system or risk shopping for sales of bales of cedar shavings to stuff in my pillowcase and socks.

There were 167 drawings in In Our Own Language 1; 454 in In Our Own Language 2; and 271 in In Our Own Language 3 (I’m currently working on IOOL 3). Now it’s true that 271 sounds like not so much after stitching 454, but I get discouraged rather quickly. I need traction, so here’s what I do:

System2

I divided the drawings into groups of 50, putting each group into a separate envelope. Manageable milestones, you know. Markers. Attainable bites of the elephant. Then I set a goal of stitching a minimum of 25 drawings each week**, and I track my progress by logging the date and the numbers on the envelope. I also note the time spent stitching so I can estimate how long it takes me to stitch each drawing – that’s just for my own interest. And to maybe offer as bonus points on any pop quiz I toss out. I’m bad to do pop quizzes.

So now you have it: Jeanne’s Anti-Hamster System. Maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you a bedtime story about the actual stitching. Or maybe I’ll just bring you a glass of warm milk. We’ll see.

~~~~~~~

* Nancy is my 54 year old developmentally disabled sister-in-law. Every time we visit Nancy, she draws, and I bring home those drawings and stitch each drawing in the set, then each set becomes a cloth in the In Our Own Language series. Said another way: she draws, I stitch, we collaborate.

** I can usually stitch more than 25 in a week (even when traveling), but I don’t want to set myself up to fail, so I shoot in the medium range and treat it like I do my walking: my official goal is 10k steps a day, but my actual, unpublished (till now, anyway) goal is 12,500 steps/day. Why don’t I change the goal to 12,500, you might ask. Because I’m a sucker for the “You’re such an overachiever, Jeanne” messages my fitbit sends when I get over 10k steps.

communion #13 takes the stage

Communion13h

according to merriam-webster.com, communion means:

Communion13a

. . . a close relationship with someone or something

. . . an act of sharing

Communion13f

. . . intimate fellowship and rapport

. . . a friendly relationship marked by harmony

this is the 13th in a series i dubbed Communion.
each piece is a visual non-representational representation of what a conversation with nancy is like.

Communion13b

“accord” is a synonym for “communion”, and it means to give to someone or something.
It is a middle english word that found its way into being from the latin word for heart.

Communion13d

this series keeps me sane because i can start and finish in less than one week (i’m the poster girl for accomplishment-oriented folk) and because i get to grapple. trust me when i tell you that every conversation with nancy involves grappling.
grappling is good for the soul.

Coloring My World (Outside the Lines) With Brilliant and Vibrant Goodness for Forty-one Years (And Counting)

ARCHoldingJHCBdayCakeFeb1973

(Andy, less than a month after we met. I asked him to hold my birthday cake so I could take a picture of it.)
(Honestly, it’s a wonder the cake even made it in the photo
cause all I really wanted was a picture of HIM.
I’d known him 18 days at this point in time,
and already I knew I loved him with my whole heart.)
(And then some.)

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(Alison, Andy, and Kipp)

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(Kipp, Andy, and Alison at Sliding Rock in NC.)
(He told them about sliding down the wet boulders, but he kinda’ “forgot” to mention how cold the water is in the pool at the bottom.)

Dear Andy,
For the way you . . .

  • continue to hold my hand after 42 years
  • drive me to workshops
  • never fuss (at least not on the outside) about how much something costs if it makes me smile
  • laugh at things I say
  • sing along with me (this is not a metaphor)
  • walk closest to the street on sidewalks
  • open doors for me as an act of consideration and respect, not from a place of condescension
  • find us the most remarkable places to live
  • continue to rouse and rally the butterflies in my stomach with your kiss
  • see my strengths and abilities when I can’t or don’t
  • sharing my love of quirky and odd. (It makes life so much easier.)
  • encourage and support me towards self-determined life (even though so many times it would undoubtedly be easier not to)
  • love Nancy so openly and tenderly and share her with me so willingly
  • never had a business meeting more important than your child’s soccer game
  • never once were too tired to attend a performance
  • gave piggyback rides till they were tired instead of till you were tired
  • worked two and sometimes three jobs so I could stay home as a full-time mother and find outlets for the kids to explore their varied interests and become their best, most creative selves
  • drove home from the office, picked us up, then drove us back to wherever the kids needed to go just so we could have extra together time in the car
  • use your creativity so brilliantly and profitably, always crafting situations where everybody is satisfied
  • continue to show our children what a real, honorable, good man looks like, sounds like, acts like – not just occasionally or when things are going swell, but every minute of every day through every smile and tear . . .

Thank you.

I couldn’t’ve found a better husband
or a better dad for our children
if I’d had a million years to look.

Happy Father’s Day.

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(Kipp, Andy, Alison)

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(Nancy and Andy, 1999)

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(Andy, Alison, and Kipp)

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(Andy at the Grand Canyon.)
(Let it not escape your notice that I stopped him before he backed out over the edge.)