Eat Your Vegetables

This book is untitled and was spawned from an ongoing Space Paste and Spring Leaf Press collaboration beginning in 2012. This exercise is from March to August of 2014 and the parameters included a miniature book constructed in a day using materials immediately available in the studio. I managed to successfully adhere to two out of the three and I’m good with that.

The book depicts the contents of my csa share  from GroundWork Farms for August 6, 2014. I used watercolor for the vegetable images. A piece of my favorite (but broken) hat, a hemp shoe string and a paste cloth spine became the cover. Other materials included Rives BFK (so predictable- who doesn’t have this in their studio?), archival ink and linen thread.

It was a fun exercise. I had a chance to play around with a material I don’t normally use- hat- and it was successful in creating a farmy feel. I also had an opportunity to incorporate my vegetable images into another venue. They are being used this September as a marketing tool for the  Duveneck Dinner, a fundraising event held by Hidden Villa, a nonprofit educational farm that provides a structure for learning about the environment and social justice in Los Altos Hills, California. Cool, yeah?




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.



Christmas with Cthulhu

Every Yule, I have visions of distributing thoughtful handmade gifts and edibles to my loved ones. On time.

Each holiday I fall short of that goal. This past December, like always, my intentions were good. The  Kitchenaid made an appearance and I concocted crumpets, caramel marshmallows and baklava. They were beautiful. After a quick sample, they were unceremoniously covered in saran wrap, thrown into ziplocs and shipped around the country. January is really close to Christmas. Receiving your presents after the fact is like a post-holiday bonus. Right?

I had three non-edibles that took longer than I expected; a stocking, an ornament and a pinata. I was determined to make a Cthulhu stocking for a tentacle-loving friend. I borrowed a pattern from a fellow sewer and adapted it. I used purple silk velvet and green upholstery velvet for the exterior and hot pink silk for the lining. I was able to present the stocking on the agreed upon exchange day, but I snatched it back to finish twenty minutes of hand sewing (that took another week).

Cthulhu stocking

Cthulhu stocking

The second gift was an ornament meant for my friend and her husband. In the past few years they have married, moved and had a baby. They are in the process of creating traditions unique to their family. When they moved in together, they took Janus as their house god after an apropos parking incident. He is the Roman god of transition and change. I wanted to honor that and I began a doorway ornament. Each side was different, representing the two heads of Janus. I used fishing line through the piece, so that it could spin. It was made from bookboard, paper and a little bit of mylar. Why did it take so long!

Janus green

Door from side

Janus moon

Door from side

The final project wasn’t a holiday present. I just wanted to do something kind for someone who was experiencing some tragedy. She was angry and grieving. I thought the best way to address both was to make a pinata- she could hit it and get goodies. I collected objects for months- candy, alcohol, candles, magnets… I bet you’re picking up on the time issue. My mother had recently retired and offered to start the paper mache body. Halfway through she lost interest, but forgot to tell me. There went another two months. Time continued to pass and the guilt of not completing this project weighed on me. I had to get this thing done! I finally took a week, finished the paper mache, filled that sucker with booty and got out my trusty glue gun. I’m convinced a pinata might be the gift for any occasion.

pinata front

pinata back

This year, I’ll start early. All projects will be completed by mid October. I’ll have a whole month to wrap and ribbon. Items will be sent and received the week of Solstice to open, or put under the tree. Baked goods will be Pinterest worthy. Maybe, I’ll even decorate. Or maybe, I’ll be hiding in my studio, working late into the morning in order to finish my sister’s book trio by July. Time will tell.