Category Archives: puppetry

gold behind the green


We can see it in the light just lately.  A goldening behind the lush greens of late summer.

This morning I take the dogs outside.  I take note.  And return with my camera to capture these fleeting light-moments.

I begin looking closer.  The colors beckoning.

Capturing changing light, shifting colors of the mood of a certain season – this is a favorite thing of mine.

Lately I find myself more and more captivated with capturing the mood of a moment, which colors and light it might hold, versus sketching out what things might “actually look like”.

Over the holiday weekend, we found ourselves in Asheville, North Carolina to visit friends, play a few tunes and hike.  On one hike we met a family from Guatemala who were keen on Catawba Falls as it reminded them of home.

I painted them into a little color drawing I made of the moment and shared it with them.  We talked of Guatemala and how beautiful it is. 

My sketch felt more like a painting, which pleases me to no end.

The weekend ended much too soon for my liking but I have taken custody of a wee hand sculpted by Anna Koloseike of Asheville.  I am in love with it’s smallness and the form it takes and am still deciding where to mount it.

It’s like the hand of a small maker.  Which is how I feel at times.

Today I sketched at the Cincinnati Zoo for awhile with an Urban Sketcher friend, and a few others joined us after the local illustrator’s luncheon.  Although I attend these lunches at times, today’s schedule was cut into slices which didn’t allow for lunch out and so I did what I could.

There just never seems to be enough time for all the things.  But occasionally a reminder comes along and I breathe a little easier….

I am grateful for this reminder.

At the zoo today I looked for an armadillo but could only find one with three bands and I need the one with 9.  (And a banjo.  He must have a banjo.)  So I will sketch on until the right fella finds himself at the tip of my pencil and I can pin him down to the job at hand.

More on this little project as it unfolds from here…..

In the meantime, I leave you with Asheville impressions.

Asheville dog culture is wonderful.

It was strange to visit Warren Wilson College outside of the scope of the Swannanoa Gathering.  All was quiet and peaceful.  But the place is lovely in spite of the music being flung to the hills until next summer.  I look forward to next year.


Think Less, Breathe More

Ginger Small and I have been playing a bit with stop-motion

It is a blustery day in the Hundred Acre Wood, proverbially speaking.  Blessed with a studio day,  I seek escape from the confines of my over-working monkeyed mind in the form of writing and perhaps some play with materials on hand.  It is important to dance with winter in anyway we can.

Once upon a time, I was a working puppeteer. Many wild characters were met while touring.

Craving coastline and a gentler breeze on this Polar Vortex day, I dip back into collected imagery from a whirlwind trip west not weeks ago, marveling at the light and magic to be found in California.

It blows a frozen, (though thankfully sunny) gale outside my window here, but if I just climb into my imagination a bit more deeply, I can remember what unfrozen air feels like, though it was brisk and cool.

Time with those beloved to us is magic time indeed.

Self doubts, once seemingly frozen into place, thaw.  The black dogs of recent depression recede, if only for a couple of days.  I realize that as much as I love woolen wear, and hot tea and buttered rum and life in general here in the Ohio River Valley, journeys which afford escape to more temperate climes in winter months keep my wheels on.

I am steeped in gratitude.

Guardians, ghosts and gods are easier to spot near the sea.  Sometimes they lean back and bend to the breezes.

As our wanderings take us farther down the coast we meet them more and more often, in many forms.

Through the mists we find them.

Those who light the way and *remind* us.  With words, color, hospitality, love.

“To paint is to love again.”

~Henry Miller

Emerging Hills, by Nepenthe based artist and new friend, Erin Lee Gafill
Blue Hills of Big Sur, by Nepenthe based artist and new friend, Erin Lee Gafill
A painting in Steve’s cottage by Jack Wilson. The light in it pure magic to my eye.
sketching fog, by Amy Bogard
A totem in it’s wild habitat, by sculptor and new friend, Stan Young

Through mists and moonlight, we come back to our animal selves.

Once returned, we seek not to deep dive back into old familiar patterns of busy-ness and not-so-aliveness, flitting about in our heads like trapped songbirds.  Though we do.

a bit.

I am thankful for reminders.

Words of advice worth typing out and keeping on hand from Stan Young 

But wouldn’t you know it, a guardian god did follow us home….

A Maximón of legend, lovingly crafted as a gift for us by Steve Worley who fancies himself *just* a craftsman, though we all know he is an artist to be reckoned with.

For now, Maximón watches over our doings and comings and goings from his perch on our kitchen counter.

But we will one day provide for him a proper altar of sorts, much like the blast of color, taste and smoke to be found in Santiago Atitlan.

More adventures are on the horizon, I can just see them through the bursts of icy snow – shining, beckoning like soul beacons.  A small personal getaway with the women in my family before workshop season gets underway in full force.  Last minute sign-ups for the Guatemala trip have both weeks *at capacity*. 

I marvel.

Just last year I wondered if I could possibly work out two back to back workshops.  The work speaks for itself and somehow, here I am now.  Not with out much needed help, encouragement, and proofreaders for my dyslexic, prone-to-wander brain.

The California based weekend workshop is officially OPEN.  Do send me an email if you are on that lovely Left Coast and care to join us to sketch May 18/19, 2019.  You can choose one or both days.  Each is different.

Taos, my flagship course is also *at capacity*  and I am already dreaming and scheming what to share with my class this year.   Again, I marvel.  And I am not without what every single successful person I know of deals with…. a (not-so) healthy dose of imposter syndrome.  Yes, there it is.  The beast in the room.

But the advice to *think less, breathe more* (I think these words set to music from Hamilton) is good advice.  And also, to just make work.  Surely this will calm the beast a bit, yes.  Especially certain types of beasts…

I have embarked on a project with a fairly tight deadline for the annual May the Fourth show.

Like many beasts, he is large, imposing, but once you get to know him, he softens up and becomes an exercise in mindfulness.

Stitch, by stitch.  Hook by hook.

Snow. I solemnly swear my dog Charlie is not involved.
In which chewy’s face begins to take shape…..

I shall breathe more, think less.  (And watch a bit of Netflix along the way I am sure.) while the beasts in the room get as close as they can to the space heater.

Thanks for reading as always.  More soon………



A story of Petrushka

It all began with a request, from my first born, to create a special gift for his long time university level private-lesson teacher/ coach / mentor, Paul Patterson.   If anyone could understand our complex and multifaceted young musician, and light a path ahead for him through the throes of life in a conservatory setting, Paul has been that person.   He enabled Jack to see that there was no need to choose one musical path over any others – that to study jazz music was not to abandon the classical tradition.  This forked path is not for every musician, and it takes a great deal of extra work, but over the years, with the help of some other amazing instructors as well, Paul has quietly given our Jack many tools to follow his musical nose down whichever path that may lead.

Words simply cannot convey how grateful we are to Paul for his patience, his belief in this kid, and for truly shaping a young life in a way none of us thought possible.  Maybe in some ways, he even saved that young life and placed it on a more hopeful and focused path when he needed it most.

I had in mind perhaps a painting, of a master and his young student. Or perhaps a handmade book.  In typical fashion I thought and thought but was dragging my proverbial heels, artistically speaking, as Jack’s end-of-conservatory recital drew nearer.

Finally, Jack came up with a brilliant, though rather lofty, idea for a gift.  The kind of gift which might suit a teacher who has everything he may want or need.  What if I were to create a small puppet-styled doll, in the shape of Stravinsky’s famed Petrushka ballet?

And so I sourced some scrap wood from a carver friend, and set to experimenting.

This red cedar is incredibly beautiful, but difficult to carve in the time scope we had (and with my ever-so-rusty carving skills!).  So I fell back on some basswood I had up in our attic space which is softer to work with.

After a number of practice runs and false starts, I finally had a serviceable head with which to build Petrushka’s figure and so I set to work on the rest of the body.

I carved and carved.

Shaping things out of little blocks of wood and slowly bringing character and a bit of life to them.

I’ve worked with puppets in the past, most notably with the brilliant Frisch Marionette Company.  But my work there mostly centered on the performance aspect of puppetry, not necessarily the building of them.

And so my goal with this particular work was not a proper puppet necessarily, poised and balanced for nuance of movement, but rather a doll, with puppet tendencies, to be presented as an artful gift.

Soon I had pieces of this puppet-doll put together and able to move hither and thither in his own way.

To me, a representation of anything, be it animal, person, or puppet character, doesn’t really come to life (two-dimensionally or three) until the eyes have been gifted the spark of personality.

Creepy as this may look to those averse to clown-styled imagery, it was upon painting this Petrushka’s face that the personality of this tragic ballet-theater character truly fell into being.

Soon I was crafting a little outfit for him, all handmade, as proper gifts often are.

After awhile he was complete, except for the semblance of strings to give him the feel of a proper puppet, if not necessarily the movement of one.

This Petrushka is full of quirky personality, much like our Jack, and much like his amazing mentor, Paul himself.

It’s been a great joy to put time and energy into this project, even if it meant getting behind in and left behind by a few others.

This Petrushka’s workings are a tad on the clumsy side…


But he is a lovely sculptural gift for some one who loves music.  Someone who has himself, done much to sculpt the abilities, thinking and sensibilities of our young musician.  Things we as parents can’t always do.

They say it takes a village to raise a child.  I firmly believe in the truth of this and I take pride in the other adults we’ve invited into our lives over the years to help us in raising ours.  We are deeply indebted to all of them, and this trend continues into the young adulthood of both of our kids.  All that said, Paul Patterson is exceptionally close to our hearts for all the hours he has spent shaping and carving out the musical life of Jack.  We often ran into him at gigs Jack had, even outside of University life.  He always had much to report on all of the hard work Jack was putting into his music, and how we might best support him in our own, non-musical ways.  We can’t thank him enough!

Paul, this one is for you.  With love and gratitude.

On the move (experiments)

A couple of weeks ago I took a short stop motion animation workshop through my local artist’s collective at the Kennedy Heights Art Center.  The instructor is Kate Ball whose work is interesting and hand crafted and which has just the right amount of surreal creep factor.  I loved it!  We had a ball working as a group and I knew I’d want to go home and try it myself.  Here are the early experimental results……

I have no idea if I will keep working in this medium as the paints are calling.  But I like that this is just another tool in my took kit in the art making realm.  I do enjoy it.  I hope you do too!!


Retreat to Taos

Any of you lovely readers who follow this lowly little blog know that one of the highlights of my working year is a now annual Travel Sketch Journal Trip to Taos, New Mexico.  Over the past few years I have partnered with the Art Academy of Cincinnati to create a unique, outside-of-classroom art experience for creative adults looking to hone their observation and basic drawing (and beyond!) skills thru the vessel of a simple blank book.  Plans are already in full swing for 2013.

If you are local to Cincinnati, there is an information night next Wednesday, Nov. 14, at the Art Academy where folks will have a chance to meet me, ask questions and see a few slides of what a week in Taos looks like and some of the work we have done in years past.  I hope you will join us.  That said, one huge goal of mine this year is to include participants in the class who are not from the local Cincinnati area.  We already have someone from San Diego, a potential from Austin, TX…. If you have been eyeing this class from afar, this is your year to join us!  And please bring a friend!  Email me  directly if you need more information.

A really cool thing about going back each year to a sweet place like Taos is that I get to discover new things about it each year.  I have made friends in Taos whom I visit upon arrival each year.  And this year things got even richer.  I was approached last winter by film maker Jody McNicholas about being part of a DVD project that would provide a retreat experience for people who might not necessarily be able to/ desire to travel to a far flung place but wanted to try some of what happens at a retreat.  I officially became a part of the Eco Chic Retreat last summer, filming a short segment introducing the idea of keeping an illuminated journal.  The DVD is now finished and the Eco Chic team is diligently working to get the word out about this amazing project.  For just $50 you can give yourself or a loved one the gift of self care in this 3 day retreat experience.  There’s cooking, art, meditation, yoga and more!!  It’s a beautiful film and I am so proud to be a part of another something that helps people feel creative and well.

Most of the Eco Chic team is fairly far flung in the world and we filmed our segments separately with Jody at the helm.  Over time, we have all gotten to know one another virtually by connecting via email and facebook and such.  But we all desired to meet personally, as we agreed this project has taken on a life of it’s own. So last week, my hub Tony and I cashed in some hotel points, and airline miles and headed to Taos to meet as many of my fellow Eco Chic facilitators as could make the trip.

This trip happened to fall over the Spanish holiday tradition of el Dia de los Muertes, the Day of the Dead which is an exciting time to be in New Mexico.  Below are a few pics of our time out there and some sketches we made along the way.  I’m hoping it will whet your whistle to come along next summer when we go for the sketch trip….

One of my favorite things about getting into Taos is having to cross over (or drive down into) the Rio Grande Gorge.  It’s an amazing place.  Deep and full of mystery and shadow and the sweet green river running quietly down below.  It’s a great place to draw and get a sense of how to use light to create space in a drawing.

Over time, Tony has done quite a bit of sketching in his book inspired by the work I’ve done.  Here’s a beautiful drawing he made of his time at the gorge…

Often when I am teaching in Taos, I don’t get out into the countryside enough, so on this trip that was a priority.  We were up before dawn a couple of different days to experience all the mountains had to offer.  One morning we were treated to the sight of a herd of female elk.  I spotted them across a wide valley and just at the bottom of the tree line.  They blended so beautifully that only their slight movement gave them away.  The camera could not capture them.

Only fields and mountains stayed still enough to make drawings….

Dawn above Angel Fire NM was reputed to have cloudy wings of fire.  We just had to see this for ourselves…

I love windy roads/ drives which head into the hills.  I have often thought it would be lovely to have access to a little place just around the bend down one of these remote driveways where I can escape and find quiet when needed.  Funny thing is, this was not that far from Taos town.  It gets remote out there fairly quickly.

As I wrote earlier, each trip to Taos seems to result in a new friend or two.  This trip was no exception.   I met Leslie, a puppeteer/puppet maker living in Taos and she introduced me to some of her lovely hand-made hand puppets.  I couldn’t make it to her show as we had an Eco Chic dinner scheduled, but I thoroughly enjoyed meeting her and her puppets.  I have a feeling we will meet again!

We joined my friend Kate for tea one afternoon at a delightful little ‘Apothecary’ tucked back away off the main road near some gallery spaces in the bosom of Taos Mountain.

April, the proprietess at this lovely shop, created amazing warm drinks for us from magical combinations I have never tried before.  They were delicious and good for the body as well as the soul.  Taos being the small town that it is, it turns out that April has created a special tea blend just for Eco Chic Retreat!!!

I love sitting at tea shops and coffee shops sketching and discussing art, politics (and aliens too!!!) when I’m in Taos.  Folks there are not as tied to the clock nor as in a hurry as we are back east.  Going at this pace actually seems to open time up for me and I get a lot more drawing done that when I am in a hurry… Go figure…

Of course, meeting my fellow Eco Chic facilitators was the purpose and highlight of this trip.  One afternoon we gathered to take a painting class led by Jan Haller at Magic Brush Studios.  We painted in response to the colors with no plan or attachment to outcome.  It was very freeing and fun!!!!

On another day we visited with Louise Lowry, chef in the ECR at her rented house just outside of town.  This is a magical place with charm and eccentricity around every corner!!

There was a tree house.

And guest rooms in the former chicken coop.

And quirk around every corner.

Of course I felt right at home.  And we had some tea and cookies.

We left Lou to do her shopping for that night’s dinner party and went to see some art in the afternoon at the famed Harwood Museum.  There was much to see both new and old.  What stuck with me was the work of Maye Torres who lives outside of Taos and makes amazing mixed media sculptures and paintings.  Her work is haunting.

Our final evening in Taos was spent convening with the Eco Chic team.  It’s simply amazing to meet a group of people with whom you feel immediately connected.  Strangely, we all felt as if we had known each other for years.  Conversation was easy and comfortable.  The food, thanks in large part to Louise (and Jan’s desserts!!) was out of this world.  We had a fabulous time.

It is with an ever heavier heart that I leave Taos each time I travel there.  This time it was so wonderful to take Tony and give him a taste of what a trip it is to get to this amazing place.  Aside from Eco Chic work, I was free to be more of a tourist, which will make me an even better prepared instructor for next summer’s Sketch Journal trip.

We rounded out the trip with a stop in Chimayo to see some sweet old adobe church structures.  We also had some tacos at the BEST taco truck EVER (in Santa Fe, kitty corner across from Trader Joe’s on the main drag to Taos).

All along the way, in typical Taos fashion, I was reminded that this is a soul place for me.  It feels a lot like home….


Catch this post on Dwellable!!!!


The above quote came across my facebook feed the other day (because thankfully, I have friends who post beauty and inspiration, not just their political views, something I am ever grateful for here in this swing state).  This quote puts into words something I grapple with often.  What exactly is success?  For most people, I suppose success is directly linked to earning money.  If you are earning money, then you are successful.  But like Mr Orr states, I think there is more to it.  And with this farther reaching notion of the definition of success, I’ll share with you some bits of what I believe have been a successful past few weeks indeed.

Last I wrote it was September.  The garden was in full harvest mode.  In spite of the work involved there, and work in general, I was able to schedule a date with a couple of albino hedgehogs in the classroom of my sons former elementary school teacher.

They huffed and puffed at being woken from their nap, but we got along just fine anyway.  And I made a few drawings.

Being the fall time, it is open house season at the kids’ schools.  And so I sat in shortened versions of high school classes.  And made a few drawings…. (below are English, AP US History, and Chemistry – liked chemistry the best.)

Mind you, these are doodles (a la high school) made on my hand outs.  Pardon the poor quality!

Soon it was nearing the end of September, and we had a wedding to attend in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, home of the beautiful Michigan Ocean (you can call it a lake all you want.  It is an ocean to me.)

We gathered flowers for the bouquets…

And honored the happy couple.

With music.

And game playing.

And long chats and a great deal of laughter with friends we do not see often enough….

Congratulations to Michelle and Chad on the beginning of their new life together.  You are loved!!  And speaking of new beginnings…. I came home from the wedding, to the birth my new niece whom I already love dearly.

What is it about the children being born these days?  Their little eyes are so full of Wisdom and Knowing that seems tremendously Otherworldly.  Like they’ve been around this block before and are here once again to show us the way.  Welcome to the world LuLu.  I love you to the moon and back.

In the midst of all this runnin’ and travelin’ and birthin’ and workin’, there is forever the music.

There’s Jazz on Saturdays with the Young Lions at the Blue Wisp.

and of course, never ending new adventures at the Riley School of Irish Music.  Below is Justin, one of the fiddle teachers, with his Nyckelharpa.  Not Irish, but very awesome.

As October arrived, it was time for me to bid adieu to my friends and co-workers at Carroll Concertinas and put my puppeteer hat on.  The Frisch Marionettes went on tour this month down to Atlanta, Georgia where we were welcomed by the fine folks at the Center for Puppetry Arts.

For two weeks we performed the classic Peter and the Wolf, along with the Frog Prince with these unconventionally sized marionettes.  I have some new muscles after this tour!  Unlike most marionette shows where the puppeteers hide back stage (precisely where I’d rather be), for this show we were on stage working the puppets.  And while I did have fun with this show, I’m glad we are back to the more routine proscenium style shows where I can let the puppets be the performers.

We made many new friends at the Center, and caught up with some old ones as well.  Like many of the circles I travel in, the world of puppetry is pretty small.  Quality over quantity I say.

The Center for Puppetry Arts houses an amazing museum with puppets from around the world.  They are currently displaying characters from the Jim Henson collections as well.  It was awesome to see Big Bird, Cookie Monster, the Fraggles and creatures and art work from the Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.

There was even Ma and Emmet Otter from the way back….

I’ve not posted any pics of these amazing puppets out of respect for the museum’s no-camera policy. But if you are anywhere near Atlanta, ever, take the time to visit this amazing place.  There is so much to see, do and learn.

Ok, so I didn’t post museum pics… but not all of the puppets are in the museum.  Some were in rehearsal for the upcoming Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer production due to start in November.  We hung out.

The people who work there are passionate about the art of puppetry in all its forms, for children as well as adults, and this country is fortunate this place even exists.   They built these puppets to exactly match those from the old stop motion movie we all grew up with.  They are brilliant!!!  (puppet makers, as well as puppets themselves!)

With double performances most days and all the time spent poking around the center and it’s incredible library and workshops, there wasn’t too much extra time to sight see.  But I did get to a few Irish Music sessions thanks to one of my far flung musical buddies.  I also got to run a few miles with one of my former running partners from my marathoning days who ironically now lives in Atlanta.  Catching up with these friends was icing on the cake for the time spent there.  My dear friend from here at home also came down to spend a few days and we did take in a few local sites.

At the botanical gardens there was a Chihuly glass sculpture to admire as it distilled the evening sunlight.

And we were able to walk with some haunting work by Magdalena Abakanovich.  Someone who’s art I’ve always admired.

Back in the hotel room I was able to get Ginger Small and her Halloween themed Paper Doll sets mailed to the lucky recipients of them.  Ginger is a timid soul and this was her first foray into her public life in sales.  Successful?  Yes.  All 20 sets were spoken for, and Ginger and I are now working on her holiday themed card.

For those brave enough to wield their scissors and release poor Ginger from her page, there was much fun to be had.

It’s good to have choices when Halloween arrives.  Just in case there are multiple parties to attend, don’t you think?

I’m having loads of fun developing this character.  And I’ll share more of her adventures with you as she grows.  But eventually, homesickness does come to one living in a hotel room for more than a day or two.  I pined for my family and my dogs.  And for fresh air and open windows (yes, even when it’s cold!).  Atlanta is lovely, for a city.  But I prefer a woodsier environment for my walks.

It was time to head home.

We were treated to a beautiful and uneventful drive through the mountains and the countryside.  While we weren’t paying attention, (or rather, while we were in the south) autumn had arrived in full force.

In the short course of just 2 weeks, things had really changed at home.  Just beyond my treasured Enchantment Flags there is a lovely golden glow to the day.

So golden that even the dogs blend in to their surroundings like furry chameleons.

There are still some small late treasures to be found hiding in the garden, though I am guessing these are to be short lived.

The day I left for Atlanta, I planted some seeds.  And they promise a harvest of greens to be enjoyed as we venture into my favorite time of year.

Sweaters, stew, knitting, a fire in the fire pit.  These are the things that spell success in life, at least to me.  My couple of weeks away gave me a nice little paycheck, which I suppose is also a sign of success, for which I am grateful.

What spells success to you?  What can you do to make a small ‘micromovement’ in that direction?  I’ll be doing little things to develop the illustrator side of my art work, both on paper in perhaps in puppetry and short-film making.  As always, I’ll keep you posted.

Happy fall!!!








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.

Doings (and this week’s ‘in the garden’)

This past weekend I woke before the dawn (very uncharachteristically, I might add – thank goodness for coffee) and headed out to Vevay, Indiana for some puppet shows with the Frisch Marionettes.  It was a lovely day for a road trip.  Foggy and magical.  We took the scenic route along the Ohio River which afforded us some beautiful views…. along with some nail biting blind moments as well….

During our first show the sun magically came out and we were treated with a few minutes to walk around the sweet streets of this little old fashioned town.  It’s such a tiny place that you don’t really need much more time than that, but for a tiny town, there is some color.

Puppetry (and I suppose any kind of performance) takes a lot of energy and sometimes we literally have to talk ourselves into being excited for the next show.  Physically it’s a roller coaster that consists of adrenaline highs and then crashes shortly after.  (again, thank goodness for coffee!!)  Sometime we just have to get silly backstage.  Laughter is really a pick me up…

Meanwhile, this week In The Garden, I’ve been redistributing things that seem to have gone hog wild.  Like the sedum, which I love, but can be a bit over-industrious.  I’ve also been trying to stay on top of weeds which is a never ending battle.  One I’ll never win.  So I just do a bit each day.  If at all possible.

We had such a warm and early start here in Ohio that we have some early risers.  My ‘hens and chickens’ are already out and about in their strawberry pot with out my doing anything.

Speaking of hens and chickens, our village has been considering a new ordinance that would specifically allow for the keeping of backyard chickens.  Chickens have never been, by name at least, illegal here.  A few people even have them already.  But the by-laws do say ‘no farm animals’ so pro-chicken folks have sought clarity through this new ordinance.  Things were looking smooth a few weeks ago when it seemed all of council were on board and our village seemed to be keeping up with modern trends, allowing the keeping of hens.  But suddenly, those prone to village drama (and in my humble opinion, a whole heap of ignorance) started getting loud about all of the ‘questions’ chickens propose.  The crowing (hello! read the ordinance – no roosters!!) The smell (dog poop is worse and there’s plenty of that around the village) The DANGER!!! (I’ve heard of attacking roosters, but never of aggressive hens!)  So now it’s back to attending meetings and snuffing out the nay-sayers and their ignorant, ill-informed fear mongering.  Those of us who plan to keep chickens or already do, are the type of folks who take care of their pets.  We clean up after our dogs and cats.  Our chicken coops will be clean.  The only noise you’ll hear from our hens is the soft cluck-clucking and doh-doh-dohing sounds they make which you can really only hear when you are near them.  I think it’s a bit ridiculous that there is this much hulla-balloo over a few backyard chickens.  There aren’t that many of us in this village who will even want to keep hens.  As one pro-chicken friend of mine so aptly put it at the village council meeting last night, “Really? Seriously?  All this over chickens? Surely this village has bigger fish to fry.”  Speak your truth sister.  I wholeheartedly agree.  I shall keep you posted as to how this all goes in the weeks to come.  More about the chicken hullaballoo can be found here at our Vice-Mayor, Natalie Wolf’s lovely blog Lone Wolf In The Village.

Meanwhile, also village-garden related, the community vegetable garden has been marked off and is ready to till.  We meet in a couple of weeks to get the scoop on how things will work up there.  I am so excited to grow food beyond my sun-starved shady gully where the best I can get are a few kitchen herbs and my winter greens in the cold-frame.  Seriously.  I am SO excited!!!!

But back to my little patch of land… There are plenty of rodents.  Squirrels are a constant source of entertainment and doggie-fantasy.  Iris and River are ever at the Ash Tree trying to surprise them.

We’ve also had a few bunnies hanging around.  Especially early in the day when it’s moist and quiet outside.  I have even done a few sketchy doodles of them….

Not sure who has been nibbling on this mushroom but some little critter has….

and by next week, perhaps this rhody will have bloomed.  I shall keep you posted!


hothouse flower

I’ll admit to feeling a bit wilted lately, with a full schedule of puppetry rehearsals for the Frisch Marionette production of Peter and the Wolf and the Frog Prince (Frog Prince Himself, above),  actual live Hansel and Gretel shows….

…and the arrival of a chest cold.  But I had to share here a couple of links to High Street’s media blast featuring a series of terrariums I created just for their spring display!  I visited the store yesterday and got a few snapshots of the set up taking shape.  I hope to get  back there this weekend to take some more, but for now, here are my little hothouse beauties in situ.  Do stop in to see them at High Street if you are local here to the Cincinnati area.

You can catch more about High Street’s interest in terrariums as a design trend here.

More soon!!

Back to Center

During the past couple of weeks I spent the better part of most days working up the show Hansel and Gretel, as performed by the Frisch Marionettes.  We had a hired rehearsal space at a local community center and hammered out the choreographed details of the show to prepare for what was my first public performance.  Rehearsals are very much an on sort of thing and while I enjoyed it immensely, I found it utterly exhausting.  At one point I admitted that I am not really a performer, per se, and that I find the notion of working for an audience rather daunting.  That begs the question, then why take a job where a big part of it is performing??? My answer to that is the puppets.  I love bringing life to puppets in the spirit of play.  I love having the opportunity to play with these animated sculptures and to give them personality.  I enjoy hanging around with good art and talented artists.  Performing shall be part of this and that is that.  Our first show together went just fine.  We had a wildly cabin-fevered crowd of nearly 300 and I survived the first show jitters.  I’m sure as each show passes, I’ll get more and more comfortable, and the spirit of play I enjoy so much in puppeting will be more and more present.  I love my new job.

Meanwhile, my other jobs continue….

There is a local shop interested in possibly carrying the terrariums I’ve recently put together (I shall let you know as soon as they are available!) and so this morning I took the opportunity to gather some more moss from the back 40 before the temperatures plummet once again.  Juicy juicy juicy!!!!

Yesterday was the deadline for registration for the sketch-journal trip to Taos, NM in June and we have a cozy crew of 8 folks signed on to take this amazing journey with me.  We shall be spending the Summer Solstice there and so there will be much talk of celebrating the longest, lightest day of the year with art and friendship under the clear blue high mountain desert sky.

All of that said, if you are reading this just now and thinking, ‘DANG IT! I missed the deadline!!!’, or ‘man, I wish I lived in Cincinnati and could go to this class!’, well fear not.  First off, you don’t have to live here in Cincinnati to take part in this opportunity.  You can meet us there for the Taos part and I can work with you online/ via phone for the lead up classes….  And, I think I could squeeze ya in past the deadline if you email me that you are interested.  We have a few slots left…..

Special thanks to some of my past students who went out of their way to pass around this opportunity.  Linda posted this on Facebook.  She neglected to mention that her professional photographs of our 2011 trip are stunning and can be found HERE. They are beautiful!!

I am so excited to have flights booked and dates set for this workshop.  It’s incredible and inspiring to me that even in the midst of a struggling economy, people are willing to invest in their own journey toward creativity and the individualization of a magical travel experience.  I do not take this lightly and have wonderful exercises planned for our time in Taos….

But for now, Taos seems a million miles away.  It is raining buckets (again) in our little river valley and we are due for more cold by the end of the day.  The notion of a sunburn feels ludicrous.  It’s a good time of year to hunker down with some soup and embroidery and find my center.  Wishing the same to you….

Grace Under Pressure…