The Odyssey

The Odyssey, for anyone who doesn’t remember, or didn’t get around to reading it, is the story of Odysseus and his long return home after the Trojan war. Over the course of a decade Odysseus and his crew face monsters, deities and narcotics until they finally reach Ithaca, where O arrives just in time to slaughter a bunch of suitors, housemaids and goatherds, and reunite with his family.

This was the theme of the mobile my darling friend asked if I would make for her soon to be born son. It fit her requirements of educational, included her husband’s love of Greek mythology and fulfilled my deep set desire to make monsters.

I don’t usually take on the classic works of other artists. I don’t like to make master copies when I paint. When I make books, I rarely use text that isn’t mine. I have trouble following textile patterns to the letter. So, how was I going to make the characters in this story mine? And more importantly, how was I going to baby proof it?

I narrowed down the pieces to ten; one for each year O was gone. I used batik fabric as the ground and kept the shapes squishy and amorphous. I painted the figures in black- a nod to black-figure style and the developmental considerations of baby. Keeping child friendly in mind helped to direct the imagery.

In no particular order:

The ship. Odysseus’ ship has no name. Just like his horse.

(pic soon)

Odysseus. Our hero. He’s holding a bag of winds, a gift from Aeolus to blow him home. Unfortunately his crew members open it and they are blown back to start.

The Lotus Eaters. O and his crew get blown off course and end up in a land where the inhabitants eat lotus fruits which have a pleasant, yet addictive narcotic effect (I always imagined a cross between the fruitarian Eloi in The Time Machine and the Bar-ba-loot bears in The Lorax). This is the kid’s favorite.

The Sirens. These ladies are monsters/mermaids/divas who lure men to their death through their song. In order to survive, the crew close their ears with wax and tie O to the mast because of his incurable curiosity and inability to say no to a pretty face.

Scylla. She is a six headed monster with a triple row of razor teeth and twelve legs. She accessorizes with a belt of barking dog heads. She is a voracious eater. And super hard to make child friendly. My favorite.

Charbydis. Charbydis is Scylla’s BFF and neighbor. Her head is a giant whirlpool.


Calypso. She is a sexy nymph and Odysseus spends seven years with her until he remembers he has a wife. She is often portrayed riding with dolphins. Also into weaving.

The Laestrygonians. A race of giant cannibals who in addition to eating the crew wrecked havoc on the ships. Also not easy to child proof.


You might have noticed there are only eight pieces here. Unfortunately, I never completed the last two. I had them sketched out, but couldn’t craft an image I was pleased with. Although the mobile is functioning, it’s not truly complete.

The final two:

Polyphemus. A cyclops and sheep herder who holds O and his crew captive after they steal and eat his sheep. He kills O’s men and O pokes his eye out with a sharp stick. My version is a farmer in overalls with an oversized head mostly filled by an eye. Sheep abound.

Circe. Another beautiful woman. Her hobbies are sorcery and turning men into pigs. O accepts an invitation into her bed and it takes him a year to get back out of it. I envision her as a chemist holding up a sparkling test tube with a porcine creature under her arm.

I used an embroidery hoop as the base of the mobile and sewn loops of fabric to secure the pieces to it. When I find my video of the mobile in action, I will post it.

Stay tuned for the plushies!





This Dream Intentionally Left Blank

In June to August of 2015 I participated in the Ideation Experience exhibit at The Abecedarian Gallery. The project was based on the Ideation Deck by Barbara Tetenbaum and Julie Chen. Within the deck are Category and Adjective cards representing aspects of design and bookmaking structure. The deck acts as a catalyst in the creative process. The player of this game picks twelve cards-seven in Category and five in Adjective- and that determines the technical attitude of the book. It does not however, create the theme.

In the category deck I blindly drew abstract (image), hand drawn/painted (technique), stream of consciousness/free write/rant (text), pre-treated (paper), grid (layout), highly colorful (color) and innovative (structure). Adjectives included poetic, soft, textured, whimsical and impressionistic.

I wasn’t sure how to make it work. The only way I thought I could incorporate all of my cards was to draw from the subconscious (but not my subconscious, ahem) and use the fears, desires, epiphanies and general absurdities that come from dreaming. In the end, I had a box that housed five dice and unfolded into a circle when opened.

I imagine there could be a lot of dialogue over whether or not a folded box is innovative, but there it is. The paper was pre-treated with a water color wash in light colors (soft, impressionistic), illustrated with dream imagery (whimsical, hand painted) and then over painted with a broken grid.

I used an awl to punch holes along the grid lines. I used gold pigment and sandpaper to create pattern and texture.

The dice are numbered. When rolled and put together in numerical order they form a sentence that can hopefully be interpreted as poetic and following a stream of consciousness. There are 7776 possible sentence combinations. The chances of rolling the original sentences are slim to none.

They are as follows (in case you were wondering):

1. Winged nightmare threatens vulnerable eyeballs

2. Pornographic lagomorph enthralls into orgasm

3. Living tree reaches throughout existence

4. Impassioned lover acquiesces individual consciousness

5. Perceived labyrinth confuses existential reality

6. (The wild card and resulting title of this piece) This dream intentionally left blank

I promise, the more you roll, the more ridiculous it gets.


Winged dream acquiesces into reality

Impassioned nightmare confuses existential blank

This labyrinth threatens individual existence

(I think I might be ready for open mic night)

Incidentally, I made a small book with the scraps of this project. The pages are contained in a wrap around cover. There is no text, only abstraction, color and a little bit of thread. I am surprisingly pleased with the results. Perceived dream enthralls throughout existence!



Altared States

I live in the rural lands and I miss the accessibility and sparkle of The City. When I was in my early twenties I moved to Seattle, Washington from central Pennsylvania. The variety of food, men and shoes available were unbelievable. I tried pho for the first time, met an architect at a film festival and bought my first pair of Vogs. Over time, I lost perspective and forgot what was dear to me. I got caught up in the culture and the concrete. I felt alone, depressed and stopped taking advantage of anything Seattle had to offer. Eventually, I returned to Pennsylvania and then moved to Indiana.

I know myself better now. I can walk off my porch and into the woods. I leave the garage unlocked so the neighbor can borrow the chainsaw. I live in a place where someone will stop if I have a flat tire. I do not have to pick up after my dogs.

And I still love cities. Pittsburgh, Phili, Baltimore, D.C. and New York are all within easy reach when I want a little more art, action and limited release movies in my life.

A friend of mine left the green spaces of rural Pennsylvania last year for the grittiness of Pittsburgh. Initially she had trouble seeing the beauty in it and missed the stillness she left behind. I wanted to give her something that would help lend a sense of grounding to her day if she needed it. I was playing around with concepts of ritual and reliquaries at the time and I decided to make her a portable altar.

I used an Altoids tin as the vessel. I removed the color from the outside with a dremel tool, leaving some of the letters behind and applied some new imagery.

When the box is opened, the contents are removed and the altar constructed.


It unfolds to reveal a moonlit forest. The contents include an acorn, a pine cone, a bit of moss, quartz and two miniature deer. All local to central Pennsylvania. And what altar would be complete without incense? Forest flavored.


I don’t know if carrying around a tin full of nature helped her transition. Or if encouraging a ritual around a places you leave is healthy. I remember that spending time in Volunteer Park, or Green Lake wasn’t enough for me to feel whole. I missed where I came from and the grounding effect it had on me. My friend has transitioned beautifully into an urban landscape and is wrapped up in the scene of the city. And I can visit on weekends.


I cannot resist artfully arranged baubles imbued with meaning arranged in vessels. I don’t think anyone can. Canopic jars, medicine bags, reliquaries, hoodoo- all longstanding examples of items blessed with significance.

I usually avoid making art that incorporates this because it’s akin to using the abandoned baby doll in a horror film. It always works. It’s compelling. Every. Single. Time.

I have succumbed.

A while back, my friend M.D. gave me a bunch of Pyrex bottles with stoppers. His lab was doing a Spring cleaning and he couldn’t bear to throw them away, so they ended up in his closet with an equally obscene amount of test tubes.  I used one of the bottles to make a gift for a friend; a blessing for her thirtieth birthday. I moved on to other projects, but those bottles kept resurfacing in my thoughts. I decided to make more. I have never spent so much time looking for items of specific symbolic significance in my life. It was really fun.


In the end, I made 10 bottles, all focusing on positive attributes.


For those interested in the specifics:

  1. Good fortune: New Zealand jade, paper crane, gold flakes, silver piece, green parrot feather; wrapped with green linen thread

2. Passion: thorns, match, cinnamon bark, red feather, amber; wrapped in red silk thread and cinnamon bark charm


3. Renewal: snakeskin, robin’s egg, monarch wing; wrapped in white linen thread and a snail shell charm


4. Calm: beach glass, wool roving, dried lavender; wrapped in blue silk thread and a bell charm

5. Strength: Horsehair, porcupine quill, rock, obsidian arrowhead, shark tooth; wrapped in blue linen thread and a rock charm

6. Harmony: feather, quartz, match, fossilized shell; wrapped in salmon colored linen and a bell charm


7. Luck: wishbone, amber, parrot feather; wrapped in green linen thread and a paper crane charm

8. Wisdom: turtle vertebrae, acorn, scarab, black feather; wrapped in black silk thread and an owl charm

9. Protection: sage, salt, silver, circa 1870s evil eye; wrapped with maroon silk thread and a silver circle charm

10. Inspiration: pen nib, clear quartz, peacock feather, turtle bone, dragonfly wing; wrapped with yellow linen thread and a peacock feather charm


Perhaps the next set will focus on darker aspects. Coffin nails, bird bones and grave dirt come to mind.




Feelin’ Fine, Valentine

There are those who love Valentine’s Day and those who loathe it. I find the holiday contrived, but full of potential. Red roses, drug store chocolates and gaudy jewelry do not make my heart flutter. However, the valentine, that little declaration of affection, adoration, like-you-a-lot, gets me all hot and bothered. You know, in a creative energy sort of way.

This February I  participated in an annual activity guided by Jennifer Rosner of the Delaware Valley Chapter Guild of Book Workers– mail art valentines. I got really excited and couldn’t commit to one image, so I made 4 sets of 5 for the 19 other people participating in the project.

Each set of valentines involved some light collage and wonderful messy cutting and pasting. I not only got them done 2 weeks ahead of the due date (because I was that excited), I had the privilege of receiving spectacular valentines from 19 creative people.


Now where’s my chocolate.



Think Fast!

In June the gallery manager and curator of the Bellefonte Art Museum asked if I had a textile piece I would like to install in their Sharon McCarthy Memorial Garden. I said “Yes, I would love to,” knowing that I had nothing appropriate. After all, I had three months. It was an unusual space, outside and under a staircase.

Under the Staircase

I thought about it in an abstract sense for the first two months. In the meantime I took road trips to the Outer Banks and Indiana, started talking to my estranged ex and accepted a full time job as a social worker. At month three I realized belatedly, I didn’t want to make a two dimensional piece. In an unrelated thought process (Oh, but it’s all related) I was reflecting about how difficult it was to place many ocean creatures as flora or fauna. I immediately decided to make something reminiscent of sea tubes and barnacles. Unfortunately, my mock ups were a little too reminiscent of other animal parts. A lot of artists explore sexuality and the duality of the masculine and feminine, but I had just inadvertently mocked up a strap-on and a fleshlight. After an emergency critique from a friend, the tube got tossed and the fleshlight became a sessile suspension feeder once again.


And now with a secure vision and two weeks until the install date I had to manufacture 35 softly structured hexagons of various sizes, complete with lining and batting. That’s 630 pieces of fabric. They needed to be cut, tied, dyed, adorned and sewn. Totally under control.




I had originally wanted the barnacles to connect together seamlessly in a smooshy, randomized fabric U shape. I also wanted it to have interactive qualities. To reach that end, I put two to three neodymium magnets in each barnacle so that they could be playfully rearranged. It was only partially successful. The magnets I used were strong enough to attach the pieces, but too difficult to find quickly once embedded in the fabric. I needed larger magnets for the barnacles to have actually supported each other without some sort of secondary attachment. My friend and I, at the last minute, attached the barnacles to a cotton fishing net (authentic ocean smell!) with tiny brass safety pins. The choice made the shapes less abstract and more representational. However, once the installation is down, the barnacles will be abstracted once again and able to be piled and maneuvered with the magnets as the stabilizing factor.

Barnacles on Parade

In Progress

Once I hit the sewing stage, I got a little bit panicky. The project being under control was an illusion. I still had a week, but my new job also started within that time frame. After a few days without sleep, I enlisted my friends and family, shelving the question Is it still my art if someone else fabricates it? I was still sewing the Saturday morning of the install date before I left for my current job. After work, I rushed back home, gathered the almost completely finished barnacles and rushed them and my friend to the museum. We spent three hours installing the piece and finished at the last possible moment.

Full Front

Full Side


Close Up

I received positive feedback from the gallery. Always appreciated. And I was able to return to seven glorious hours of sleep a night.

Mom, Bonnie, Karen, Abby and Ben- THANK YOU for your help.


In January of 2014, Mary and I began our monthly collaborative book projects once again. We were struggling by February. We decided on a two color print (because, somehow, that would take less time than a book). Mary completed hers, a stunning sea slug, that can be found for sale at her Etsy shop, only slightly behind schedule.

I took a little longer. I also picked an underwater creature, an urchin. I made screens, but I couldn’t get a smooth print no matter how much I tweaked it. I got frustrated and put it away.


Two months later, I made a lino-cut. It had been years, but digging into the linoleum was satisfying and renewed my latent love of block printing. Until it was time to print. I don’t have a press, so it was baren, or bust and I busted. The prints were spotty and uneven. I used water based ink and they dried too quickly. I put it away for many more months. In August, I visited Bloomington, Indiana for a few days. Mary and I planned a printing day using her press, but due to unforeseen circumstance, it turned into a printing hour (or two). I managed a few test prints, but nothing solid.



In September, my friend Abby invited my to an informal intaglio class. Determined to finally print The Urchin, I brought a copy with me. We used diamond point scribes to etch our images into plexiglass. Until then I had only etched in copper. I was delighted to discover the possibilities with plexi- it’s affordable, readily available and it is good for four to five prints. The limited run appeals to me, as does the DIY feel. And we had a press!

Etched Plexi

I only managed two prints before I had to be elsewhere. They’re rushed and dirty, but I’ll take ’em.

Hug? Blue

Hug? Pink

Hug? is what a friend of mine would call “bathroom art.” It elicits a smile and limited contemplation; something you find at the tourist shop, not the gallery shop. I never intended to put so much time into such a frivolous picture, yet after rendering it three different ways I chose to love it. It’s not fine art, but it’s got heart.

All Manner of Banners: 2014 Arts Fest Banner Competition

Every year from July 9th through the 13th, State College shuts down its streets and welcomes hundreds of artists into town for the Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. As a kid I remember looking at tent upon tent of beautiful creations, being gastronomically enticed by vendors selling strudels and kabobs, hearing music everywhere and above it all were banners floating in the sky. As an adult, I am, dare I say, a bit more cynical about it all, but I still enjoy perusing the art, sampling the edibles and listening to whatever band is playing at the Festival Shell. And I still dig the banners. They’re everywhere, all colors and themes, reigning over the festival.

I’ve always wanted to make one and this was the year. First, I had to come to terms with the banner size- 72″ x 30″- which I’m sure is perfectly normal in bannerland, but it is more fabric than I am used to working with at one time. The banner hangs fifteen to twenty feet above the ground, so I needed imagery with clear color and definition. I adapted a scarf design I made a few years ago to fit the required shape (thank you Dad, for the use of your projector).  I used yellow canvas bought at the local fabric store for the base and the rest of the cotton was donated by a generous friend. The pieces were cut and stabilized with double-sided fusible interfacing. I sat down and had a quiet talk with my sewing machine and proceeded to applique my heart out. At some point I came up for breath and tea. Hours later, covered in thread, I had twelve feet of fabric with two peacocks and four elephants adhered to it. I folded it over, created space for a dowel at the top, sewed in a metal rod at the bottom for weight (the festival site suggests chain, but that is unwieldy and unattractive) and just like that, I had a banner. On time, even.

Trunks and Tails placed third in the professional category of this year’s competition. The awards ceremony is Saturday, July 12, 9 a.m. at the Allen Street Stage if you care to check it out. Next year, I’m taking first place.

Banner, side A Banner, side B

Yellow elephant closeupRed elephant, closeup

Elephant and peacobk closeup

Peacock closeup

P.S. The books arts are represented this year by Kirstin Demer of Green Trike Press and Regina and Daniel St. John of Chena River Marblers. Check the Arts Fest website for their locations and support the arts!

Christmas Quandry

This past Christmas a good friend subtly hinted at what she might like for the holidays by emailing me a template for a handmade Kitchenaid cover. The step-by-step instructions made an already easy project a breeze. Thank you, Debbie!

But let’s back up a minute. Although I received this hint well before December, it wasn’t completed and sent until February. Wait a moment, you say, didn’t you just claim this project was a breeze? Weeelllll, the sewing part was. The picking out the perfect fabric part took me over a month. In the end, I decided to create my own textile design. I cut a small rose stencil from quilter’s template plastic and chose medium weight unbleached cotton to print on. Using a mixture of acrylic and screen printing ink, I sponged paint through my stencil in a somewhat random (yet intentional) pattern. Once it was dry I applied the leaves in the same manner. Then I heat set it with the iron.

Hand stenciled roses

I liked the result, but it still looked too unfinished and country-kitchen for my taste. I decided to outline the flowers in black to make it feel more contemporary. Since the initial goal was quick and easy, I picked up a few fine tipped fabric pens and just to be on the safe side, some Sharpies. I proceeded to outline the stenciled flowers. And do you know what? It looked horrible! As if someone had taken the time to hand stamp a pattern and then just markered the edges. Sigh. That meant I had to outline them using a paintbrush. It took hours. Hours. I had hand, neck and shoulder cramps for days afterward. The results, however, were spectacular.

 Hand stenciled roses with outlines

Once the fabric was painted, the rest came together quickly. I quilted the pieces to encourage structure and stability. Then, a little sewing magic, some piping for purty and bias tape to finish it off. And suddenly, one completed Christmas present.

Kitchenaid cover, front view

Kitchenaid cover, side view

My friend loved it. She couldn’t believe that I found a fabric that fit her tastes so perfectly.

Pull Up a Seat

A few months ago I received an email from one of my local art organizations inviting me to take part in a charity auction. The Bellefonte Library discovered a number of chairs with no historical import in a dusty corner and decided to turn them into an opportunity to raise money for literacy. They invited artists to pick up a chair, work their will on it and return it painted, primped and bedazzled. The chairs will be auctioned off in May to the highest bidders.

The chair I brought home was decorated in black and gold. I’m sure it was a solid choice at the time.

Original chair

I stripped the black paint and was rewarded with another coat- a white monster paint no solvent would touch. So I broke out the hand sander.

Stripped chairAfter a white primer, I started the fun part.

First coatI went with an ocean theme and stopped short of a pirate ship.

Finished chair

There’s an angler fish lurking under the seat for surprise factor.

Angler fish


The Art for Literacy Chair Auction will be held Saturday, May 17 from 2-4 p.m. at the Historical Museum Community Garden at 203 North Allegheny Street, Bellefonte. The admission is $20.00 and it includes a live and silent auction, complimentary wine, hors d’oeuvres and live music.

Tickets can be purchased at and proceeds benefit the Centre County Library and Historical Museum.

Anchors away!I’ll see you there.