Monday, January 18, 2010

Contemplations and Marks


Have you launched into 2010 and the new decade  with a triple somersault Olympic high dive? Not me,  I am easing into these new waters.

These stones from my collection remind me of times spent walking creeks and streams, gathering the most special ones to bring home.  Rearranging them and appreciating their unique marks and colorations is a pleasant activity on a gray, mid-January day.

Artistically, I’ve been considering hand stitched marks this past week. I’m trying to finish this piece that I began before the holiday season.


At first it seemed to me that it might benefit from something reflective on the surface. So I tested out silver foils and silver metallic paint accents –they were too heavy or opaque. Neither passed the testing stage. Then I experimented with different stitched accents on the surface testing a variety of rayon, metallic and cotton embroidery threads in both color and grayscale ranges from black to white.


I’ve settled on adding some long, straight varying length stitches in black and white as accents.  At least today I think they will complete this piece (tomorrow you might find me ripping them all out!). Then the work only needs the facings hand stitched down after completing the hand embroidery, so completing the first new piece in 2010 is nearly accomplished.

While slowing down is allowing more time for contemplation in my design choices, it  also sometimes feels panicky.  A part of me has thrived for many years on constant motion and  variety.  Slowing the pace creates time to ask questions that are not easy to answer. 

Without goals and ambitions and deadlines and images of large accomplishments to motivate productivity, what desires and dreams remain?  Life filled with activities and appointments and schedules feels purposeful and engaged –although sometimes too much activity can also be a smokescreen that keeps deeper questions of meaning and purpose at bay.

Perhaps my January contemplations will lead to balancing and transitioning from a mindset of apprentice to journeyman. Can it be that I actually know what I am doing and do it well?!?!?

The first stages of learning about art feel much like the labor-intensive work of digging a foundation and erecting a house from raw materials; the materials, techniques and how-to’s dominate. The later stages involve honing and refining one’s vision and process with each original design and then completing them with carefully chosen details. 

I have spent many years doing the heavy, rough construction and carpentry work of  building one skill after another. Perhaps the desires and dreams that will propel me forward at this stage will be more subtle and less dramatic, but hopefully will be as stimulating and satisfying in their own right.


  1. sounds like you are in a transition phase. January is a great month for quiet and contemplation for sure. I really like your work, and the idea of the stitched marks is unique I think in the way you have done it. Thank you for your thoughtful post.

  2. Hi Suki, do you realize that we are both Libras as well as hermits with a mystic bent?! So balance is always a theme coursing like an underground stream through my life as well. Yes this definitely is a transition phase and while at first it felt unfamiliar and uncomfortable, like I was losing my creative identity, now I'm recognizing there is something very strong and positive building beneath the surface.

  3. I am right there with you Jeanne. I know that there are people who seem to pop out as babies full of self realization but I am not one of those. The hardest times are when the work slows...for whatever reason. But the rhythm of work always puts me back in step with myself and it will you as well.

  4. I really relate to this post Jeanne. For years I worked alone at a very fast pace and now I'm having to learn to work slower with a lot of interruptions. My inner hermit is rebelling!
    "Slowing the pace creates time to ask questions that are not easy to answer" .... you hit the nail on the head.
    I've really enjoyed browsing through your website and love what you do. Chat later!

  5. Hi Terry, it IS hard when work slows to trust that the familiar exhilaration and enthusiasm in working will return. Definitely an insightful and encouraging observation about the "rhythm of work".

    Robyn, I profess that I thrive on change and stimulation but that's usually after I've come through one of these "throw it all up in the air" times and the pieces land and I start working busily and happily again. Change -- even when self-generated -- really can challenge us to the core.