Often times, one must simply make a commitment to something. Sometimes these commitments are small, such as making one’s bed each day,, eating more kale, or promising to go for a long walk every day ~even without a dog. (to be fair, these can add up to big things in the long run.) But other times, these commitments are larger ones. Such as adopting a pet, becoming a parent, or…. investing in a new musical instrument.
Today I sent an email off to a renowned Uillean pipes maker in Ireland to acquire a “half-set” of pipes later this year, hopefully when I go to Ireland for my artist’s residency. The maker is someone recommended to me by my teacher, dear friend and fellow musician Cathy whom I trust whole-heartedly. I guess this means I am diving full on into this piping stuff. I will continue to play the set I have on loan here, with all it’s quirks, and hope for the best with the new set when I pick it up in the fall. Praying I don’t drive everyone crazy with my practicing as I go.
In the meantime, St. Patrick’s day is coming. There are gigs to play with friend-musicians I am so fortunate to know and play with. A number of years ago, this would have felt like a pipe-dream of its own, really. So I have faith that with a bit of work, maybe my own “pipe dream” may come true and I’ll learn enough to play this wild new instrument along with others once more…. in the meantime, it is nice merely to grow and learn with a new project. I have some large canvases I plan to paint on as well. Big, new terrifying territory. But, like music, I am diving in. It’s the only way.
What are you doing these days that scares you?
ps. The above is week 18 of my little drawing series with John Joe Badger. While I was away teaching in Guatemala, I did manage to make a drawing each week, though sharing wasn’t as manageable. Here are week 16 and 17…..
As much as John Joe Badger loves his borrowed practice set, even with all of its idiosyncrasies (and don’t all sets have their idiosyncrasies?), he’s begun to consider the acquisition of a practice set of his own. Perhaps even a “half set”, which would surely complicate matters.
John Joe consults his latest issue of Piper’s Weekly……
Where does an average badger of modest means even begin to look for such a set? Does he go for a freshly made set of pipes? Or a well loved set, which might come along with adopted issues. Who are the best makers? Does he seek a maker near to him and to his climactic locale? Or does he dare contact one of the makers in Ireland….? These are the questions that keep our dear John Joe awake at night these days.
These, and the humidity levels (or lack thereof) here in late winter.
There are many varieties of the notion of “bagpipe” to be found in many cultures across the globe. The Uillean pipes are just one. But since we gather the air into the bag which activates the reed in our chanter with a bellows, versus blowing up the bag of air with our own lungs, we often get curious questions from onlookers….
Yes, they are truly and actually a proper set of bagpipes. Yes, we play “real” bagpipes. And we use a bellows, pumped by our elbow (Irish for elbow is uillean) to blow them up. Hopefully this clears things up for poor John Joe Badger and his piping friends who manage to field all kinds of questions while out in the world playing.
Thanks to my flute teacher (who also plays Gallician pipes) John, and my pipes teacher Cathy for the inspiration for this week’s illustration. Each of them have heard it all over the years!
Here are some examples of “other” piping traditions….
John Joe Badger hasn’t been much of a piper these last few days. He has traveled many miles to visit different forests than his own. He thoroughly enjoyed the company of his friends from other places. But he missed his musical practice and the comforts of his very own hut.
We shall brew a cup of tea to nurse this head cold, often a side effect of getting out into the world at large. And perhaps we will coax the pipes out of their slumber a bit in the coming days. What do you like best about traveling, and about coming back home….?
……With much practicing, John Joe Badger has learnt most of a simple jig.He has invited a couple of his closest friends and confidants over for a cup of tea to share it with them.But lo!Just when John Joe reaches the B part, *phlooofff!!*….. An embarrassing blowout!His friends do their utmost not to laugh, as these things do happen.Especially in the beginning.
The fecks continue to fly, of course, yet John Joe carries on.His friends are delighted at his progress, in spite of the leaks, the blowouts and the goose-like cacophony of his playing.Keep practicing John Joe!Oh, and maybe a little twist of waxed hemp to shore up that connection between your bellows and your bag, yes?Yes.
~A TWIST OF HEMP~ week 3 of John Joe Badger’s journey into Uillean Piping……
John Joe is diligent in his efforts on wrestling the octopus-like instrument we call the Uillean Pipes. Gallant even! But there are times during this journey when one might hear some rather colorful phrases coming out of the woodshed, or round the kitchen door. John Joe realizes he has taken on a beastly task here, and that this will not be easy.
With every mistake, out of tune squawk, honk, or (occasionally, miraculously) note, John Joe looks up, takes another deep breath and tries again. Letting the flying curses fall where they may….
….. in which we deal with dryness.It is far too cold in the woodshed for John Joe Badger to practice his pipes.He must bring the noise making inside where it is warm and dry.Dry, yes.Winter is dry.And the pipes find themselves leaking air in all directions.What is John Joe to do???Well, he shores up leaky connections on his borrowed practice set with a twist of hemp thread, made sticky with a bit of beeswax.He puts a full kettle on the stove top to boil.These two things may help get John Joe through these trying, leaky, dry times.For today at least……
John Joe’s struggles are my own. I practice the pipes as much as I can, when I can find time alone in the house. They are loud! And not yet pleasant. (For others at least.) The dryness that comes with a “forced air” heating arrangement is mitigated a bit with cool mist humidification and of course, putting the kettle on as much as possible. It does help. And so does the bit of hemp and beeswax. It all feels very old fashioned. It’s testing parts of my brain and motor memory which need the exercise! I may never get to the point of playing this contraption out in the world. But who knows? I will say that I already have next week’s John Joe drawing idea in mind. And it involves flying curses. Til tuesday…..
Meet John Joe Badger. …. and his story in the coming weeks.
A borrowed practice set of Uillean Pipes. Loads upon loads of humility and patience. A fair bit of time. And patience. (Did we mention humility?) And humor too, of course. And we mustn’t forget the tea. Cups upon cups of tea. (I hear he’s partial to Lyon’s, with a splash of fresh milk).
These are just a few of the things John Joe Badger will need as he begins his journey down the perilous and noisy road of learning a bit about the Uillean piping tradition in Irish music. There will be blowouts, embarrassment, hours alone in the woodshed. (And more ungodly sounds!) But our John Joe is keen. He’s made a few friends on this same tricky path already and he’s acquired a teacher whom he’s fairly certain is a saint or perhaps an angel disguised as a fellow Irish musician.
This is week one of A Twist of Hemp. A little set of storied pictures of a timid badger making his way, albeit clumsily, down this musical path. Stay tuned!!
Rain is falling and it is said snow is coming. What a perfect time to share this……
So excited to finally share with you a little drawing I made in late summer or so. It is the cover art crafted for a beautiful collection of pre-twentieth century European Christmas carols, all arranged for fiddle and guitar and performed with such delicate grace by Finn MaGill.
You can obtain this music digitally via the link below during pre-order days for just $7 until Nov. 29:
In a world so mad with the day to day, it is really nice to find a pensive work of music to set the tone. Especially for the holidays. Truly, it’s lovely. Go get it.
In other news, I have been pulling myself up by the bootstraps a bit as I dig back into colder weather and grayer days. I look back at older work to see where newer work might come from. My friend Rima Staines posted online a week or so ago a weeklong set of prompts for “Folk Tale Week” and at the last minute, I decided to play along.
It was good for my mood. Here they are….. (but to read my reasoning behind choosing these particular images for these specific prompts, go to my instagram page.)
It really was fun to re-visit some of my older drawings, and fun to feel inspired to make a couple of new ones as well. New ideas are a funny thing. We need the space and time in which to create them, and in a busy modern world, finding that is a feat in and of itself. But we must also seed new work with perhaps pieces of our own old ideas, or maybe some new things from people and things that inspire us. and so, we strive for balance.
This balance is always up for scrutiny, at least for me. Too much time alone with my own thoughts can be dangerous. Too little, is equally or perhaps more so. But I keep wandering the artful path. Trusting that time spent playing my flute or learning new things on the pipes is time well spent (let’s face it, no money is being made and in this modern age, that can seem like a waste of time!!).
In pipes class the other day we were lamenting the piping path, fraught with peril. And a new idea occurred to me of a series that might happen showcasing a newish piper, a Badger perhaps, clumsily finding his own way along the road to piperhood. And so I may have a new friend. He may look a bit like the fella singing in the album cover above…. John Joe? is that you?
More soon on all of it. In the meantime, treat yourself to the quiet beauty of Finn’s new album. It’s gorgeous. And for once, I am excited to put on Christmas music.
“I don’t want realism. I want magic.” ~Tennessee Williams
There is much coming and going of late. Hither and thither we work and play. I’ll share a bit here as I set aside remembered things to pack away for upcoming workshops. Antigua beckons…..
Narry a week ago, I was working in my own sketchbook in a warm place called Key West. When I wasn’t strolling the colorful streets filled with colorful people, feasting my eyes on color and light, I was bobbing in a pool or better yet, in the sea herself – buoyed by salt, water and sun.
pay no mind to the chitter chatter in the clip above, we were on a sunset cruise. I was captivated by the murky depths. And miraculously I did not get sea sick.
Key West enchants with its embedded quirk round every corner. Some folk come here to drink their cares away, but I for one came to drink in more than just rum. Though to be fair, rum has its place.
If one but stays just off the beaten path, there is charm at every turn and lovely sunsets to behold. And it can be a balm for the soul of a weary, land-locked midwesterner nearing the end of a long, gray winter…..
We paid homage to the sea and to the rich history of the place, even visiting the home of Ernest Hemingway which boasts 55 polydachtyl cats living their best lives on the property.
There is magic around every turn there.
Too soon we must return home once again to the gloom and gray of Ohio. But we look for the quiet magic to be found here.
My daughter and her boyfriend are home for break and he has some new camera gear he is eager to test. He stunningly captures the magic of our yard in the dark. With his extended exposures, our criss-crossing creeks become fully laden with an Otherworldly quality and I am reminded how lucky we are to have this little patch of land of ours.
Art has a way of reminding us of the beauty in the world. Music as well. This week ahead is the high holy season of Irish music and we are quite busy indeed.
Tuesdays there is always a session here in town, even on ‘normal’ weeks. This Tuesday we are at Streetside Brewery on Eastern Avenue. It’s one of our favorite places to play. Saturday March 16, I join the Roving Rogues to play St. Patrick’s Day eve at Arnold’s Bar, Cincinnati’s oldest tavern. and on Sunday, we once again will play in the evening at Palm Court in the Hilton Netherland Plaza hotel. Come on along and enjoy a fancy cocktail. Escape the green-beer fray, won’t you?
I am so grateful for the music.
And this music as well….
Our Jack was part of a concert celebrating the music of Bach which we attended last night. It was divine and captivating, as Bach can be, and we were swept away on this stormy evening to another world indeed. There is more this evening as well, I can’t recommend it enough.
All is not angelic and ethereal round here however. As I mentioned, I am busily getting last minute things in line for my double workshop endeavor in Antigua, Guatemala. This is keeping me on my toes instead of at the drawing table or in the journal where I belong. I embark on that journey later this month.
But before I go to Guatemala, I am attempting to complete a somewhat hefty hand-made project, which in it’s own earthy way is keeping me grounded in work. That of a 3′ X 4′ latch hook rug project for the annual May The Fourth Star Wars Tribute show.
I’m using a grid to help me keep track of my design on the canvas.
All the yarn I am using for this project is either from my own stash of leftover yarns or has been acquired second hand at Scrap-It-Up over in Pleasant Ridge. This has added some complexity to the rug itself and is helping me to make Chewbacca extra fluffy and scruffy.
My studio assistant Ian takes his job quite seriously.
Until he’s ready to leave the room, at which point he rings the bell to let me know.
Working a bit on this rather ridiculous project each day keeps me grounded and working with my hands which is good for my head ironically enough. And this is good.
And so, the fitting in of all the pieces of this life’s puzzle continues. While I must admit to this being a rough winter in many ways, things are looking up now that the light seems to linger longer in the days, even when it’s snowing. The sun is even shining today as I write this. We must always remember that change is the only constant and we must at least attempt to move forward.
I say this as a reminder to myself really. Behind the scenes here I spend a fair amount of time applying to and being rejected by various opportunities such as with publishers (who often don’t/can’t respond, which feels like throwing work into a great dark abyss…. hello- oh – o – o …….. receiving back only the boniest of echoes) This is all part of the process. I will say, while it does continue to smart, it does get easier the more one applies.
Residencies are yet another application process I find myself often involved in, always looking for some way to go somewhere inspirational, seeking a deeper sense of time and place to make and grow my work. I can’t tell you how many of these opportunities I’ve applied to, heart firmly tied onto the application via the proverbial string, only to be denied for my efforts. I really try to envision myself there when I apply and so I do pour heart and soul into each application.
To those who’ve never thought about these things, one has to remember that merely applying is often a great deal of work – writing essays and statements, gathering photos of work, recommendations, tweaking one’s CV, etc. etc. I fit these efforts into the small spaces between the usual goings on of my day to day. And I just keep trying, allowing a bit of grief and maybe some ice-cream when a particular refusal really gets me down.
But I do keep trying. And sometimes, like throwing spaghetti at the ceiling, something sticks……
I am beyond over the moon to announce that my Maine based friend Julie Persons of Adventures of Claudia and Chicks In Hats fame and myself have been selected to share a month long residency in Ireland next year for the month of October. We are thrilled!!!!
We have put up the party flags and are doing a little happy dance, albeit virtually for now.
I’ll share more about this exciting news as things formulate into firmer plans. But for now it is enough to have the invitation from Olive Stack in lovely Listowel and to know the dates we are to be working there.
So much rich stuff ahead. And the challenges too that we face in this world on a personal level of course, and globally as well. I said to someone the other day that this is the new normal for artists – to be able to hold in our hearts and minds, at the very same time, the dual notions that all will be well, and that things are really wrong too. – This is not an easy task. But I aim to try, as I have for years now. To highlight and showcase beauty, to work for positive change. It’s what the artists I most admire do best.
Baby steps, Micromovements (as this blog has long been named) is how we move things along, how we take the leaps to grow into new opportunities and to try new things that challenge us. It’s terrifying really. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”