Well, I knew the time would come.  When I’d be back in my living room in Ohio, attempting to put into words and a few measly pictures, the experience that is The Taos Trip.  I last posted the first few days of our adventure here and now I’ll re-cap on the quickly passing second leg of our trip.  At some point I hope to share some student work on the travel-journaling page of the blog but for now, just a quick re-cap… and some thoughts on it all.

While in Taos, we were fortunate to meet and spend time with folks who are knowledgeable about Taos or who are successfully living and working in Taos as artists, much like last year.  We took a tour of the Mabel Dodge Luhan house, our home for the week, with Judi who works at Mabel’s and has spent years learning about the ghosts of the place and how they fit into Taos history, art history, native and national history.

By the end of our hour with Judi, we felt transported in time and into Mabel’s fascinating life and story.

Last year, we met artists Kate Cartwright (who again paid the class a visit) and Lenny Foster.  This year, we visited artist, quilter and fabric designer Terrie Mangat at her house in downtown Taos.  It was thrilling!  Her home has been lovingly restored in Taos style and we were treated to an up-close and personal showing of some of her quilt work.

Fortunately, Terrie had aprons available for folks to purchase at the end of our visit (much as we would have all liked to buy one of her amazing quilts!!!)   Some of us bought 2.  Thanks to Terrie for a magical glimpse into the life of a Taos artist with greater Cincinnati ties!!!

Last week (was it really last week?) was the Solstice and to celebrate the longest day of the year (in, frankly, one of the sunniest states in the country) we did some sun prints to put into our journals.

This was a fun activity, specifically geared toward those not so keen on drawing in their journals.  I had a range of artistic skill and levels of comfort in this class and it was difficult to meet everyone’s needs.  I am already teeming with ideas for next year to get the newbies drawing more and the practiced artists to lean a little less on the camera image back in the class room.  There is something so immediate about sitting in a particular place and just attempting to make a drawing.  The drawings aren’t always the best, or most accurate, but when made, they can enhance the knowledge of a place one has visited.  But this activity was fun for all and most people made many of these.  It was great to bring home shadows of some of the natural flora to be found around Mabel’s.

Taos, and especially the Mabel Dodge house, has a tapestry of history with the native people of the region, the Taos Pueblo Indians.  Mabel’s backs right up to Pueblo land.

I have always found it tremendously interesting to  consider what life is like in a culture completely different from our own.  We were blessed with a warm, but beautiful morning to explore the historic part of Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Our guide, Cameron Martinez, provided a wonderful, knowledgeable tour of the public portion of the Pueblo and a peek into life there.

The tour guides at the Pueblo are generally college students who are planning to come back to live at the Pueblo and further their cultural heritage there, while bringing a firm knowledge of the outside world back with them which will help them to navigate the future relationship between Native people and the rest of us.  Cameron is a photographer and film maker, and I look forward to seeing his work!!

The week sped on and soon, sadly, it was time to say good bye.

Everyone seemed to have a good time.  Most everyone seemed to try a few new things, and met a few new friends, which will hopefully extend beyond the boundaries of the trip.  I for one am already making plans to make next year even better than this one, though if I learned anything this year, it’s that each year is different, and will have it’s own vibe.

A couple of folks on the trip have blogged about their time in Taos… here are two:

Though the workshop was over for the most part, our adventures were not.  While in class one afternoon, we made the acquaintance of Denise Labadie, who was passing through Taos, on route to Ghost Ranch to teach a quilting workshop.  We became fast friends with connections to Ireland, quilt making, workshop teaching and a love of the Southwest.  She invited a few of us for a visit to Ghost Ranch to her class.  And so we went!!

Denise’s work is award winning at the national and international level.  She hand paints fabric and then creates paintings of sorts, in quilts.  They are breathtaking.  Between her work and Terrie Mangat’s it all makes me want to make another quilt!!

Ghost Ranch is absolutely awesome.  And I don’t use that word lightly.  It’s a different landscape and feel than Taos, but no less beautiful.  I was captivated.  and I could see why Georgia O’Keefe pretty much took up shop there to make her most famous work.

At one point, in the quiet of the desert, I looked over at the iconic mountains in the distance and thought, I could paint here.

When I went to Taos the first time, I knew I wanted to go back.  And so I did.  Last year. That visit was overwhelming and fun and rocked my world.  And Taos felt like a foreign land.  I knew again that I wanted to go back, but I was pretty glad to get back home.  I told people upon my return that ‘Taos is great.  I don’t think I could ever live there.”  This came as a surprise to my closest friends and family who are used to me going places and saying, ‘I love this place!  I could LIVE here!!”.

Going back this year was yet again, completely different from any other time.  It was more difficult in some ways, logistically and from a workshop management perspective.  And yet, there was a feeling of coming home after a really long absence.  I’ve begun to create community in Taos.  The folks at Mabel’s welcomed us with open arms and we all shed a tear when it was time to go. Dorothy, Maria, Diane and Judi were like a blessed herd of Awesome Aunties the entire week.  I couldn’t get enough.   The kitchen staff fed us like family and I still wake up wondering if I smell bacon….  I have set the dates already for next year’s workshop (June 16-22, 2013!!) and am planning to go yet another few days early to sink in a little deeper into Taos Magic.  My Eco-Chic partnership is another place I have found unexpected community and I look forward to meeting more and more of my co-facilitators on that project.  They are a powerful bunch of women, and I am still pinching myself that I’m a part of it all!

I jettisoned (for lack of a better word) back into life back home with an exhausting (and exhilarating!) week of puppetry rehearsals.   We are working with Rumplestiltzkin this time around in preparation for a two week tour in Georgia:

As much as I love all that I do, I’m feeling the need to figure out exactly what it is I really want to do, and to follow it.  This is scary.  And may take some time.  I have a couple of kids to get through high school.  And some jobs I’ve committed to which I really love.  But in the dusty corners of my studio lie some pretty awesome ideas for bodies of work I’d like to paint on, and children’s books I’d like to make, and workshops I’d like to continue improvement upon.  I need to make some space.

We shall see how it all shapes up.  In the meantime, I’m practicing being in the now. It’s a good place to be.  And as much as I can, I’ll take time to share some of those experiences here with you.

Go forth and doodle

We left our juicy river valley in the wee hours of the morning last friday…. and flew over the land, into some stormy skies, and finally into the mountains and the high desert of New Mexico.  First order of business was to find the taco truck preferred by the locals.  We were not disappointed…..

Our first night was spend soaking our tired bones and acclimating to the altitude at Ojo Caliente mineral springs.  These waters will bookend our trip.

I warmed up a bit in my sketchbook…  On Saturday it was time to hit the road for Taos, but before that, we took a slight detour up a magical mountain to the land of the Hopi…

And a celebration that was happening to welcome the summer solstice.  On this particular day, their celebration was open to the public as it was International Prayer for Peace Day.

We sat amongst this group and chanted and observed the joyful dancing and singing.

And then, eventually, we found our way to the Mabel Dodge House in Taos…..

I actually got to sleep in her bed….

There is beauty tucked into every corner here at Mabel’s.

Sunday arrived and it was time to get to work.  Jody and Beau McNicholas of the Eco-Chic Retreat project came to Mabel’s to film my journaling segment.  I now have two new friends in Taos.

Later in the day we moved into our house for the week, Mabel’s Gatehouse where we have settled in quite nicely.

On the first day of classes we took a field trip to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and the Earthships where some sketching was begun!

We took it all in….

It was hotter than blazes.

So we eventually came back to our gorgeous home in the classroom at the juniper house to continue working.

And this was only the first day of class!!!  There is still more to come about today’s activities.  Tours, visits to and from brilliant artists today and into tomorrow and thursday.  It’s all too much to take in, and frankly, I’m going to head outside now to enjoy the sunshine.  I’ll check back in upon return to Ohio next week.  But in the meantime, I thought I’d let you know that Taos Mountain has welcomed us with open arms.  I am so grateful for the chance to be here.


Shakerdale Farm

This is Blue, or Dreads, such as you see fit to call him.

Hey folks!  I am just a couple of days away from embarking on this year’s Taos adventure.  I’ve been running the necessary pre-trip errands (in between shuttling kids to and fro to summer activities) and doing some laundry to prepare.  Early, yes, but necessary, as the next two days are filled with puppet gigs, stem to stern.  Sadly, not much time to sit with the sketchbook and warm up for Taos.  I will just have to dig in when I get there.

That said, I did take a day last week to at least gather some images to feed the sketching for when I return home from this summer’s travels.  I took a lovely drive on a beautiful day out to Morrow, Ohio to visit the folks at Shakerdale Farm, a sweet little operation dedicated to the keeping of Shakerdale Sheep, a darling and somewhat rare breed of fiber sheep.

So here I will share some of the photos I took between helping out with some of the spring stall clean up.  I was tired and muddy and mucky by the end of the day, but couldn’t have been happier.  The Neff Family who run the farm are a delightful bunch to spend a day with and I genuinely had a ball.  There will be more posts in the future from this farm I think.  There was so much to take in.  I focused mainly on the sheep but there are also chickens, pigs, bunnies and horses to capture the camera, sketchbook and the imagination.

To me these animals look like they are about to burst into song.  Like a musical perhaps.  (Defying Gravity, anyone?)

My friend Anna would call those ears, ‘rose-petal ears’.  So sweet and curious!

And yes, there are a few bunnies there.  Even teeny baby ones, with only one eye yet open…

These sheep love to munch on the green grass in the pasture.

One of my hosts, Olivia, has learned to shear her sheep.  This one, Pickles, is patiently learning to tolerate being sheared often in order to ready him for the fair and, ahem, market.

My job for the day consisted of helping to muck out one of the winter stalls.  Funny how sheep crap just doesn’t seem as gross as say dog or cat poo.  But maybe that’s just me.

Kim and daughter Addie put the tractor into place for me to place the muck onto so we could truck it out to the Big Pile (I’m assuming out on the proverbial back 40).

When the gates are opened, the sheep go running for the grass.  This made me laugh.

There are few things more ridiculous than a sheep running!

I did manage to draw a little in situ

And over the lunch hour Marciah drew a bit in my sketchbook as well. (And though I don’t have a photo of it, lunch was provided by Zoe, who is one heck of a cook!!)

Every flock needs a protector.

Every time I turned around there was a sheep watching me.  Outside….

…and inside.  This little one is Jade.  She was bottle fed due to a deformity of her upper lip.  She’s fine now and will hopefully find a home at a farm that caters to kids with special needs, as she is pretty special herself, and is so sweet and friendly that even the most sheep averse will love her instantly.

Thank heavens I had help in the mucking department!!

These sheep are lovely creatures.  Kim introduced me to some of their fiber and I gave it a whirl on the drop spindle (literally!)  It spins up gorgeously!!  For the first time in years I find myself wanting to maybe sit and spin a bit.  Perhaps when these kids get their driver’s licenses there will be just a little more time….

Til next time!!


Little black spot

There’s a little black spot on the sun today…. (a few thoughts on the Venus Transit.)

….but alas it’s covered in clouds. (and I even had my welding goggles ready!!)

So I suppose I will stick with things a little closer to home, like baby tomatoes…

and the earthy sounds of life near a pond.
Pond sounds (click the pond sounds!!)
As much as we may ponder the celestial life, things are pretty good right here at home.

In the Garden (and beyond)

Things are rolling along at the Amberley Green Garden.  We are down to simple watering and weeding chores which is nice.  I finished up any mulching that needed to be done this weekend.  The leaf mulch around the plants and then the more wood-chip mulch material in places to create paths (more like stepping stones) so I’ll have a place to stand when the plants mature.  Already we are reaping a plentiful harvest….

We’ve already begun to see a few results.  A few of my fellow gardeners have planted a 3 sisters garden that I plan to help out with as it grows.  3 sisters is basically a garden of corn, beans and squash .  These plants will support each other through out the season.  But for now….

Thankfully (or should I say tankfully…) we had a few days with rain in the last week and so our water tanks are back to being fullish.

At home, I’ve managed to grow a flower in my ‘living stone’ plant.  I love this.  So far, no deer has eaten it.

It’s not all been work in the garden.  It’s summer so we have had ice-cream.

And each week the Taos trip draws nearer…. Thanks to Julie who has been snapping some of the prepping process for the class.  Students are getting to know their watercolor sets.

And they are collaging and transforming blank books into vessels that will capture their travel experiences.

We are all getting to know one another as well…

as we prepare to head west next week (next week!!)

And Taos.  Oh sweet Taos.  In one short visit a few years ago I fell in love with the place and it’s had a magnetic pull on my soul ever since.  There’s always been Maine.  And Ireland… those moist and gray and green places that seem to help me grow roots to my very self.  But Taos is a different animal.  Instead of roots, it’s gift to me seems to be wings.  Every visit there I discover more about, and have more opportunity to further, my work.  This never ceases to amaze me.

This year’s delightful surprise is the chance to be a part of the Eco-Chic Retreat team.  A group of women, artists, healers, makers – who are coming together to share their work in a DVD project created by filmmaker Jody McNicholas.  Just as I was putting together today’s blog-post, an email arrived with Eco-Chic’s film trailer and a chance to support the making of the film on the indiegogo fundraising site.  

I hope you’ll take a peek at what we are up to and consider supporting the making of this film…

Til next time.