Category Archives: puppetry

Happy holiday

We have seen much rain and fog here lately which makes the swing of the year’s pendulum back toward the longer days and shorter nights a welcome notion.  When there is too much darkness, we light candles…..

And curl up for naps in our cozy beds.

And occasionally, the clouds part and remind us of all the beautiful stars in the sky.

It has been a delightfully busy time in recent weeks.  I’m continuing to practice the art of bringing marionettes to life in preparation for my first performance in January.  The Frisch Marionettes are old-school gorgeousness and when I am around them I feel I am a part of a centuries old puppetry tradition, which, I suppose, I am….

In between puppetry practice and building concertinas at my other Best Job Ever at Carroll Concertinas I have managed to put together some drawings for a small commission I was offered.  The task was to sketch 3 dogs who are cousins.  One of the pups, the older wire haired terrier had recently passed away and so I worked from photos of her, as well as of the new puppy in that household, neither of whom I had the pleasure of meeting.  It is a challenge to capture the personality of dogs I have never met but I went with what I could glean from the photos and from my meeting with the scrappy little dog Sandy whom I did have a chance to spend some time with.  The results were well received and I think the recipients of these drawings on Christmas morning will be delighted with them.

Although I never met Mulligan, apparently I captured a bit of her spirit in this sketch.  I was so happy to do so!

Commissions were not the only thing brewing in the studio however.  It is the season of giving and so I have been elf-busy creating some handmade gifts for Christmas as well as some overdue wedding presents.  My friend Simone is a wonderful artist and had some amazing ideas for hand made votive candles made of beeswax as well as some tiny terrarium necklaces which are just so fetching that I made one for myself!!

The votives started as water balloons dipped in wax and ended up like this:

They smell amazing and cast a wonderful warm glow.

These tiny terrariums contain moss and a crystal and are sealed with beeswax.  I just  love them!  This is the first time I have built terrariums at this scale, but I have had an interest in larger ones for a long while now.  I put together a couple of big ones to present as wedding gifts and am so excited with how they turned out.

While out and about choosing gifts for my loved ones, I came across a strand of labradorite beads which I decided to fashion into a Solticey necklace along with some moonstone beads I had laying around.  These baubles look especially fetching against the back drop of pottery by my friend Lisa.

And so the days continue to pass….

We found time to choose a tree…

and to bring it home.

In spite of the busy-ness of the season with semester exams for the kids and school concerts to attend, we have also found time to celebrate this season in my most favorite way, with music.  I enjoy attending irish-music sessions whenever I can, but the best ones are often near the holidays when the college kids and young adults are back in town and we can all catch up on long over due tunes together.

I sincerely hope this holiday season is good to you, no matter how you celebrate it. May you be blessed with a chance to rest and reflect, to spend time with loved ones, and to play your own tune…..



Bits of things

Meet Sandy.  Sandy is a sweet terrier mix of a dog whom I’ve come to meet recently so I could put together some drawings for her family.  It’s been forever since I have done much dog drawing.  I used to draw my old terrier, Caskie, quite a bit.  There is something irresistible about a scruffy, scribbly dog.  I adore my current caramel colored pups, Iris and River, but I don’t draw them as much as I would someone who is inherently more bed-headed.  Already I am a huge fan of Miss Sandy and her squirrel-obsessed intensity, which only a terrier can really pull off with such grace and seriousness of purpose.

Another new character in my life in recent days is this little guy, Gepetto, a Frisch Marionette with whom I’m working to practice many of the basic moves necessary to give a marionette The Illusion of Life.  Gepetto is a bit heavier and more difficult to maneuver than little Peter Page was but it’s important for me to work with many different puppets as I’m learning the ropes (so to speak).  I am really having a blast getting a hold of this new skill and can’t wait until shows start in January.

I took a day last week to meet for coffee and then bop around the art museum with a friend.  It was a gorgeous sunny day perfect for seeing beauty in the smallest things.  I was captivated by this gate at the coffee shop we visited.

The museum was as enchanting as usual.  Inspiring right down to each brush stroke.  Here are a couple of favorites from this visit….

I wonder what (or whom) she is thinking of……

My hub celebrated his birthday yesterday so we spent much of the day taking in a good bit of all that Cincinnati has to offer on a Saturday.  A Frisch production of Hansel and Gretel, lunch at a new tomato soup & grilled cheese place downtown called Tom and Chee, a visit to the endless shelves of The Ohio Bookstore (I could spend hours in there browsing all of the old tomes.  And, it’s a secret desire of mine to someday have a rolling library ladder in my very own home with which to reach the highest books on the shelf!), an afternoon bourbon toast at the historic and charming Washington Platform restaurant, and some shopping at the even more historic and charming Findlay Market.  We topped off the day with a fancy-full dinner at Cincinnati icon, the Precinct Restaurant.  It had been 12 years since we last went and the kids had never been, this being one of those Very Special Occasion places.  It was a treat for all to sit down to such fabulous food at a slow, fancy dinner pace with lovely lighting and the perfect company of my little family.  It was truly a fun and fabulous day.

As we gear up for Thanksgiving around these parts, my daughter and her teammates are working hard putting the finishing touches on their dance choreography routine for the big Oireachtas competition in Chicago next weekend.  Today they rehearsed in wigs and dresses to get the feel of performing in full regalia.  It was adorable to see them in their mismatched socks and no make-up, but we got to see a hint of what they are made of as the Oireachtas draws nigh.  It might look like a bunch of hair and fabric, but under all of it are some amazing athletes.  Best of luck to all the McGing Dancers next weekend!!



It is a season of change and of cocooning and hibernation.  There are bridges to be crossed daily – moving to new things, bridging old projects to new adventures…

From a well made, protective cocoon, given enough time and love, magic can emerge.  Music where there was none before; artful objects that did not exist just months ago.  Opportunities appearing from seemingly thin air…..

One evening last week I attended a Halloween-themed chamber orchestra concert at my son’s school, The School for Creative and Performing Arts.  These talented kids took a break from their day to day rehearsals for the upcoming major musical Brigadoon and managed to put together an evening of entertainment with everything from Michael Jackson’s Thriller to the Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens.  They decorated the theatre with an assortment of goulish bits, and after a last minute rehearsal…..

….it was show time.  Let’s just say, that to begin the festivities, the orchestra teacher/conductor, (an unapologetic creative himself) emerged from a coffin, in full Dracula regalia, as the orchestra pit was  brought to stage level, and the music began.  It was BRILLIANT!!  I am reminded on a daily basis how fortunate we are to have this amazing school in our city.  It is the first of its kind in the US;  a K-12 arts enrichment facility, where the study of the arts is taken as seriously as other academic pursuits. (often times more so!!)

Meanwhile, after months of occasional stitching, and travels down dark avenues of the Unknown, my final quilt project for presentation to Mammoth Cave National Park (affectionately named the MCQuilt) was finally finished and readied for delivery to the fine folks down there.

VOILA!!  The Brea(d)th of History

I am still not entirely sure of what to put in a written statement to support this work now that it has become part of the Mammoth Cave Collection of Interesting Things.  I believe that sometimes works of art come from a gut place, far from the realm of descriptive words, and they need a little time among We Who Use the Spoken Word.  It may be awhile before this quilt is itself wrapped in a blanket of words, but for now I will feed you some tidbits….

While working, I was thinking a lot about the tie between natural and cultural history that is such a part of Mammoth Cave.  Unlike some other parks in our National Park system, MACA is distinctly and directly tied to the people who explored, sought shelter in, and sometimes even died in the cave.  It is rich with history, known to go back as far as 4000 years ago.  Perhaps even beyond.  The shadows and whispers of those who came before are around every bend in the cave.  This cave, much like others, breathes with the breath of the earth, air moving with the changing temperatures and moods of the earth and atmosphere itself.  It can at once shelter artifacts which are preserved indefinitely due to cave conditions, while simultaneously act as Living Cave – creating new and ever changing crystal formations and new, undiscovered caverns.  It is a place deep in mystery, and steeped in legend.

Upon completion, late one evening, I held up this quilt to have an upright, good look at it, and discovered that it glows when lit a bit from behind.  A small and delightful surprise.

We must always seek the light in the darkest places…..

And so, it was time for an autumn road trip…..

My friend Julie from the Jakk’s Magic Beans Workshop took some time out of her busy schedule to join me for the 4 hour trek down into the hills of Kentucky and a lantern lit cave tour underground.  It was, the proverbial 3-hour tour…..

With the help of our guides Rangers Bobby and Linda, we discovered historic graffiti, and listened to the cave speak to us as we quietly walked it’s stony paths.

It has been a year since my month long residency down in the park and it was so wonderful to go back and catch up with friends I now hold dear.  This new layer of community is perhaps the greatest gift from my time there.  Everyone oohed and ahhed at the quilt work.  I felt so honored to present it to them.

All of this ceremonial completion deserved a bit of celebration, which occurred this week with some of my now friends from last year’s Taos trip.

In the past few posts, I have written about my desire to get deeper into image making – drawing and painting.  I want to steep myself in an inner narrative that I have never truly explored beyond it’s crusty surface (with it’s gorgeous, touchable textures – where so much of my Big Work has resided).  Like many artists I know, I keep by my bedside a worn copy of Women Who Run With the Wolves.  It’s the ultimate book of fairy tales.  In this modern world of ours, we don’t often think of the old stories beyond a Disney version of the average princess-in-distress story or some such.  But if you dig just below the surface to the root of those tales, they have much to tell us and Dr. Estes does just that in her fascinating book.  The world of children’s stories, myth, puppetry are where we human beings hide Important Truths which may be too big for knowing just now.  Thankfully, these stories and others, are told on a routine basis, sometimes in bits and pieces, by artists, performers, musicians.  A few of my recent favorites are Rima Staines, whose blog The Hermitage is simply a feast for the senses and an escape into a timeless world of mystery; and Carolyn Ryder Cooley – I am in love with her drawings and installations!  Two other painters with whose work I became acquainted with via the miracle of Twitter are Kathleen Lolley and Lindsey Carr.  I love the colors they use, evoking a time out of place, just through the fog, to an Other. I look forward to exploring more of the work of these artists and more, as I dig into my own work more deeply at the same time.

A funny thing happens when you cast a wide wish-net into the Universe.  Ask for fairy tales, old fashioned narrative, and artists who are masters at the interpretation of these tales, any you may just get exactly what you ask for…..

In my last post I hinted that I had a potential work opportunity brewing that would provide me with another tangential avenue upon which to broaden my artistic horizons.  Let me introduce you to Kevin Frisch, of Frisch Marionettes:


The word on the street was that Kevin, whom I’ve known as a friend and fellow member of our local puppetry guild, was looking to hire a new puppeteer to help him work his larger shows.  I ignored this at first until my old boss at the Red Cross encouraged me to toss my hat into the ring for consideration.  I visited Kevin and his current fellow puppeteer Tiffany (slated to go back to grad school this winter, hence the search) at their presentation of Hansel and Gretel.  I spent some time with Kevin and a few of his marionettes to see if I had even an ounce of natural marionette manipulating ability.  And after a week or so, was offered the opportunity to begin rehearsing for performances in January 2012.

In this interview, Kevin explains why sometimes, artists and musicians make good puppeteers…


And so Peter Page and I will be spending many, many hours together this fall.  Learning to walk and stand without slouching, to run and walk with a distinct bounce in one’s step, and to focus, really focus on exactly what you are supposed to be paying attention to.  (a wee bug on the ground perhaps).  Surely these are good lessons to work on with or without the help of an adorable puppet page.

It is indeed wonderful to be crossing this bridge into an altogether new adventure, to have put to completion a year’s worth of thinking and stitching, and to begin nurturing the parts of my creative self that have been sorely neglected.  As things settle in to this season of hibernation and cocooning, I’ll work at my puppetry skills, and the creation of parts and cases for the beautiful concertinas I have the pleasure to listen to and handle on an almost daily basis. (one day I shall learn a tune or two on the concertina, I believe.)  I’ll enjoy curling up for some doodling and sketching (new art academy sketch-journal class starts next Thursday, there’s still time to sign up!!).  I’ll continue to practice my flute playing and teaching at the Riley School of Irish Music.  And hopefully get my paints out to blend the sorts of colors that now occupy my sleep.




I had a minor meltdown the other day.  Ok, maybe slightly more than minor.  It may have been a case of burn-up-on-reentry after my NYC trip, faced with real life again with all of its complexities.  It may have been this nasty cold that I am trudging my way through.  It may have been the fact that tornado season is about to end and with it, my earning potential as a puppeteer.  It was more than likely all of these and more.  I spiraled downward into the familiar dark hole where the questions of why do I make art, will I ever make a living doing anything artful, is it even worth it….are the norm.  It’s not a fun place to be.  Even at my grumpiest, I usually don’t have the chuck-it-all-away sensation more than once a year, but here I was, feeling like I just wanted to quit.

Timing is everything they say.  And so it has been since my little existential crash.  Here are a few examples:

1.  The long overdue dedication to the ArtWorks mural Tina, our teen apprentices and I worked so very hard on all winter, was yesterday.  We got to unveil the work in dramatic fashion and were treated to a wonderful reception by the appreciative folks at the Convention Center.  Our friends and families were there to cheer and ooh and ah.  It was great!  It is not often that such work is so publicly celebrated.  It cheered me up a bit in spite of being in crisis mode internally.

2.  While at the dedication, a good friend of mine congratulated me and asked how I am doing.  I let her know that I was a bit down and just didn’t feel like the art life is for me.  I think I may have said something about looking for a real job.  A standard day job.  She just smiled and said, “you can’t quit being an artist Amy.  It’s like motherhood.  you don’t just quit.”  I smiled back.  She’s right.

3.  I came home from the party and checked my facebook and email as usual.  I am an NPR fan both on the radio and on facebook.  On their FB fan page there was a post about a video for Josh Ritter’s song The Curse which features puppets handmade by the drummer in his band.  It’s so beautiful and artful.  I fell immediately in love and watched again and again.  It reminded me of what I love about puppetry.

4. Then, in my email, there were three separate messages from 3 very different places.  One was a follow up from my sketchbook class last fall saying she would like to take the class again now that there’s a book making component to it and that she’s tremendously excited to go on the Taos trip next spring.  The other two messages were from people whom I know personally but who had never seen my art work.  They both want to meet to talk about art for their homes.

5.  Ok, so by now, you get the point.  Avalanche of reminders.  But I have one more little thing to share.  Today I have been at the computer most of the day getting caught up on Drawing Down The Vision work with emails and blog posts, research and finding my way around this cool thing called Basecamp.  I am trying to pull myself up by my boot straps.  Getting some illustrations out onto Veer and other online stock photo websites to maybe make some extra arty income.  One guy’s work that Adam introduced me to is Hugh McLeod, creator of cube grenades which are little art works geared toward the business set.  He had this to say about art:

“I’m inte­res­ted in how art affects what some peo­ple call “The Real World”- the work­place, the world of  work, the world of busi­ness. That’s what the cube grenade idea is all about.

My adver­ti­sing buddy,Vinny Warren, grew up in a Roman Catho­lic hou­sehold in Ire­land. He was telling me that his parents would always have a few reli­gious icons han­ging on the wall somewhere. Pic­tu­res of Saints, Mary & Baby Jesus, that kind of thing.

Why? Says Vinny, “To remind us who we are.”

Art that reminds you who you are. Exactly. What applies in Catho­lic hou­seholds also applies in pla­ces of busi­ness. Sha­red Mea­ning. Exactly. Social Objects. Exactly.

I don’t think any of this is roc­ket science…”

Hugh’s art is pretty edgy and cool.  Very different than mine.  But he reminds me that there is a place for art work anywhere.  In the homes of people who admire our work.  Or in the day job offices of folks who might not be artists themselves but like surrounding themselves with reminders of who they are.

I am sitting here in my studio, surrounded by all kinds of reminders such as books, art from friends, bits of found stuff, grateful that I have an artist’s mind and heart.  Difficult though that path may be to hike from time to time.  I’m grateful for the reminders from the Universe or whatever Its Name may be that came to me in a low soul time, though this one’s gonna take some serious diggin’ out.

Below are some snapshots of the great unveiling of our mural.  Enjoy.

oh, and p.s.  I hope you get to spend some time this Memorial Day Weekend to think about those who have been lost, in war and beyond…..

Here’s Tina, tearfully thanking everyone and explaining her vision for the mural.

Jake Speed and the Freddies were there to entertain.  Their lyrics are in our piece as well.

…. and so the veil comes down….

Lots of time in front of the mural for pictures and congratulations.

Here Kim finds the lyrics to her song, The Greatest Story.

We had quite a crowd for the party.

I guess it’s official.  I’m an artist.

Big Art

Suddenly, it’s the middle of May!  Spring is always a busy time, with Red Cross puppetry in full swing.  But there is a lot besides puppets making things exciting.  First, the ArtWorks project I worked on January – March is finished and has been professionally installed.  I have not had an opportunity to see it in situ between the Convention Center‘s hours and my busy work schedule.  But I had some spies visit it last weekend and below are a few pics!  (Special thanks to Jeni for the awesome shots!!) I am so excited to see it and to celebrate it’s completion with my team, the wonderful folks at ArtWorks, and of course, our sponsors at the Convention Center at a dedication reception May 27th from 5-6:30.

Keep in mind, the work itself it 13 feet tall and begins about 3 or 4 feet off the ground!

Below are the three faces I painted.  I look at them and can’t believe I did that!

In the midst of all of this, Drawing Down the Vision is really shaping up.  We have a new and improved website that changes often with blog posts from both me and Adam.  We are both putting immense amounts of energy into writing as often as possible to convey to visitors to our site the basic philosophy that drives the practice of Drawing Down the Vision.  Check it out!  And of course, check back often.

Meanwhile, a huge labor of love is finally, officially underway.  On Big art projects, so much work goes into the front end of it.  Raising money, figuring out sites, supplies, fabrication etc.  All of this is guided and driven by the artist in charge, in this case, Jessie Henson.  I have watched in awe as this talented artist has navigated all of the pieces to this crazy puzzle of building a large scale sculpture.  She has, with grace and smarts, put all of the pieces into place, gotten all of the various parties working together and we are on our way.  Steel fabrication is happening at Vulcane, glass blowing at the Art Academy’s River City Works facility.  Below are a few photos from the glass blowing.  There will be hundreds of spheres in the blue/green range of color in size of 3″ to 15″.  It will be beautiful.  It already is.  I think Esme would be proud of every part of it.

And so spring continues.  I was out in the dark the other night getting some veggies into the ground before the rains came.  For mother’s day, my amazing husband built me a little cottage style flower garden.  Everyday I try to get out for even just a few minutes to pull a weed or coax a seedling out of the ground.  I am learning to be a gardener!  And loving every minute of it.  Next week I am putting my roady hat on again and heading to NYC with Kim. She has her work to do there; I plan to leave my computer at home and just draw a lot and listen to an inspiring musician do her thing.  I am blessed.


It’s been a whirlwind, maelstrom of a time around here lately.  Months of work suddenly seemed to come to fruition recently and I have been working feverishly to keep it all afloat.  Drawing Down the Vision has had multiple pilot workshops and, coupled with a new and improved website, is ready for sale to receptive corporate audiences and beyond.  My business partner Adam and I are tremendously excited to see almost a year’s worth of work and research finally see the light of day.

The Artworks project for the Cincinnati Convention Center is “rounding third and heading for home” as they say here in Cincinnati.  Tina and I are in the finishing stages of making this huge project a reality.  We are technically ahead of the long list of things that need to be done, but it is still stressful as we prepare to move the work in a few weeks to the auto body shop for a finishing clear coat, and then finally on to the Convention Center for installation.  There is still much to be done, but we are plowing through it.  Yesterday I worked on two more faces, those of Christian Moerlein and Louis Hudepohl who will be in the part of the design that looks a bit like a brewery…

Being springtime, at least according to the calendar, it is also tornado season and that means puppets!!  (At least for me and my fellow Red Cross puppeteer Jeni!)  We did our first show of the season a couple of weeks ago and made it through with no discernible mistakes.  It is amazing to me how well we can remember our lines after only a couple of run through rehearsals and months off before that.  The depths of memory have no bounds it seems.

The Make a Book/ Fill a Book class at the Art Academy is approaching week 6.  Cody and I have a great group of 10 students who are bravely forging their way in their newly-made “re-purposed” journals.  Cody taught us all how to take an interesting old book cover and fill it with blank paper using traditional book binding techniques.  I have been introducing students to the various materials and techniques I use to then make a blank journal into a one of a kind, personalized sketch-journal.  The results have been delightful!!

Often, when I am in the midst of teaching this class or when I have a time of great externalized efforts, like recently, my sketchbook is along for the ride in my car or my bag, but doesn’t see much action inside.  I can go for weeks sometimes without sketching or writing.  This is a pattern with which I am familiar and I have learned not to be to hard on myself; that I will get back to it when things settle.  Last week, this pattern was shook up a bit.  In the middle of everything – I took a trip.  A badly needed respite from all of the work as well as the stress and grief from the trial of Esme’s murderer.  Although work has been so wonderfully busy, this trial opened up and salted wounds that had only gingerly begun to heal over the past year with all of our positive efforts to create a lasting legacy to someone lost so young.  Some time away was in order.

Months back, Tony and I had planned to join a group of Cincinnati area kayakers on a trip to the Gulf coast of Florida to swim with some manatees and to enjoy everything the Nature Coast has to offer.  We set up a hip yet responsible house sitter to hang out with the kids and dogs and off we went for paddling, snorkeling, and for me, some serious time in the sketchbook.  I am excited to share the fresh pages with my students this week when I get back to class.  Here are some highlights from my trip and from my sketchbook….

The drive to Florida was just under 900 miles and I slept a good bit of the way.  Once I awoke to look out the window at a huge peanut on top of a building.  Ah, Georgia.  We wound up in Cedar Key, Florida, a sleepy little island town and I was instantly smitten.  (My good ol’ friend Carol did remark, when have I traveled and not fallen in love with my surroundings?….. I think she has a point!)

We had hoped to paddle in the morning but awoke to storms.  Instead we walked around town and visited the museum and some little galleries and had some wonderful chowder at a place called Tony’s.

By the time we got to the campground the rain had pretty much stopped.  We were in for a week of majority sunshine!

Day one, Rainbow River.  It was the clearest water I had ever seen!!!!  So many gorgeous colors.  We kayaked and snorkeled and by the end of the day, I knew I needed a new wet suit top if I was not to suffer hypothermia….

Day 2 – Three Sisters springs, and swimming with manatees!!!  Thanks to my new friend and awesome photographer, Jamie Trammel, I have some shots of our time in the water with these gentle giants.  I could have done just this every day and would have been satisfied.  We wound up going back on day 4.  I love manatees.  Simple as that.

Under the water, they are very purpley in their grayness.  That is how I sketched them.

Day 3 – the Weeki Wachee River.  More clear blue water, snorkeling, rope swinging and even a few manatees toward the end of the paddle!!  This place is famous for its mermaid shows but we simply paddled and swam it’s waters.  Given more time, I would have liked to see the show.  Maybe next time!

While part of the group took the cars to the end of the line, those of us left behind arranged the kayaks for a colorful picture.  Here’s to random acts of guerilla art.

Later in the week, at the end of the trip, a few of us headed back to Cedar Key for a paddle to Atsena Otie Island which used to be where the actual town of Cedar Key was located.  It was washed away by a hurricane in 1896 and only a cemetery and building foundations are now present.  It is a lovely, quiet and haunting place and we spent quite a bit of time there poking around and drawing.

While paddling over, our friend Don picked up a little swallow that had died and brought it to shore so I could sketch it.  A sad but beautiful little thing.

I also sketched some horseshoe crab shells.  Tony found this one, completely intact.

The gravestones at Atsena Otie are old and beautiful and covered with lichen.  I took some rubbings into my book and wondered about the people that somehow managed a living on this far flung island.

So here I am, back in Ohio, on a cold, rainy Monday.  Vacations have a way of shaking up things and getting me far enough away from the norm that I can really take stock of things.  While away, I made working in my sketchbook everyday a huge priority, even forsaking the occasional paddle.  I simply can’t express how soothing this was and a huge reminder that I need to make it a priority in my daily life here in Ohio.  I found upon returning that I am feeling more centered and focused than before I left.  This is due in part from just resting and getting away from it all.  But I attribute it also to all of the drawing I did in my sketchbook.  As Adam and I move toward marketing our Drawing Down the Vision workshops to the generally non-drawing corporate crowd, I plan to practice what I preach more than I have been amidst recent stresses.  The act of picking up a pen and mapping out ones surroundings on paper (be they internal or external worlds) is crucial to staying centered and seeing broader connections.  This past week has reminded me of that.  I am grateful for it.

’tis the season

Ok, so maybe it’s still 20 degrees outside.  Yeah, and maybe it snows, at least a little, almost every day.  And, I’ll admit to some pretty nasty icy patches out on the drive.  In my mind, however, it’s just about spring time.  Perhaps its just me in psychological survival mode but there are real signs that things are thawing out.  Just a few minutes down the road in Kentucky, my friend Justin‘s chicken’s are laying eggs already and we are delighted to take a dozen home each week.  They are from happy, free roaming chickens and are lovely shades of browns, blues and greens.  Way more fun than the plain white ones.

Meanwhile, my old amaryllis bulb is back up for it’s late winter show.  It never ceases to amaze me the life force to be found in a flower bulb.  This plant grows so fast and furious, it doesn’t even seem real…

But what is really telling me it’s spring time is my schedule.  It’s Tornado Season once again so Jeni and I are already on the road with the Red Cross’s delightful puppet show, The Wind Around the Toy Box, spreading the word to little kids about how to stay safe in case of a tornado.  Just as I got home from Key West, it was time to start rehearsing.  We were back up and running just as the sirens started blasting here for the seasons first batch of storms, headed our way from Oklahoma.

Tornados are serious stuff, but the show we put on helps make things a little less scary for young kids, while still getting the important messages of safety across to them.  Last season we did the show for over 10,000 children and we may break that record this year which would be great.  Below are some sketches I did last season of these crazy characters with whom we spend so much of our spring time…

Puppeteering is hard work.  Physically it’s exhausting, dragging the set in and out of dozens of schools plus performing sometimes 3 shows a day.  For me the most demanding part of it all is getting up in front of people and Performing.  As an introvert, I’m usually toast by the end of the day.  That said, I love this job.  It’s good work for decent pay.  I get to promote the work of the Red Cross and spend most days hanging out with my BFF.

A few things may fall by the wayside a bit in the coming months…. especially this blog.  On my long daily to do list, the blog usually sits at the bottom.  But I will do my best to update when I can.  I am back to teaching at the Art Academy for the next 6 weeks.  My students are a great bunch of people whom I’m sure will have exciting work that I’ll want to post.  In the meantime, my hope is to get outside and watch for signs of quickening.  Perhaps you should do the same…. and send me an email if you find something cool; better yet, draw it!

Playing Catch Up

It’s hard to believe sometimes how time flies.  I know that sounds pretty cliche’ but there it is.  20 days have gone by since our country’s miraculous election and things have been rather busy round here at Chez Bogard.  Busy is good.

Yesterday I took a friend of mine to the Cincinnati Art Museum to see Madcap Puppet Theater’s production of The Firebird. This show was done in the style of shadow puppetry using light and flat puppets to create the illusion of space.  What was interesting to me about this particular production was the use of color.  The puppets were created with a heavy duty plastic and painted with the “stained glass” paints that are found at the crafty stores.  The effect was exquisite and magical.  Adults and kids alike at the show were enchanted.  Being a member of the Cincinnati Area Puppetry Guild, I knew some of the performers and got to go backstage after the show to see how it all works.  Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me but here is a shot from my phone taken during the post-show Q&A.

The holidays are officially upon us and they seem to come earlier every year.  Case in point, we had the Riley School of Irish Music‘s 3rd annual Peace and Merriment Concert on Saturday night.  We did it early this year to avoid clashing with too many other Christmas-ey shin-digs coming up and also to coincide with the end of fall quarter at the school.  Students and Instructors alike performed various holiday/ harvest related tunes and the audience seemed to enjoy themselves.  I hid in the back row of the ceili band performance and played my tunes as best I could.  Stage-fright is less and less an issue with me as time rolls on, but I still am not keen on the idea of playing in front of people.  Below is a shot of some of the Riley kids who are not shy about playing for people.  They pretty much rock, those kids!

As Riley School finished up, it occurred to me that a number of things are freeing up precious time for me in the coming weeks.  The Carnegie Center has changed its regular Family Saturday activities from Dec. 13 to Dec. 6  to accommodate a participatory arts day planned for that day.  I won’t be able to make it that day so  I’ll see all of my regular Family Saturday folks again in January!  Meanwhile, this past week was my final class for the semester at the Art Academy.  I am slated to teach the class again in the Spring, Feb 21- March 6. (6 weeks this time!)  I will post details for registration when I have them.  My hope is that I will have some returning students next time who will keep pushing the limits of tending their sketchbooks. Spring will also be a perfect time for taking any interested students slightly farther afield for a day (or 2?) to practice their sketching skills.  I have for some time entertained the idea of leading a travel sketchbook course.  I have a handful of folks who have expressed interest in participating and so I’ve begun to make plans.  I will be sure to post any destination ideas I have here and would love any feedback or requests for fun places to visit and draw.  Anyone up for Madison, Indiana?

So with some extra hours available to me I plan to play in the studio with wax and clay, reacquaint myself with my own neglected sketchbook (update my Daily Dog collection), and perhaps finish a pair of socks I have been knitting for far too long.  I have a new heater in the studio which should help take some of the chill out of the space (thanks to Dave for that suggestion!)

Although I haven’t been too active at the wax table in recent weeks, I have been working on some clay tiles I plan to install as a back splash in our new kitchen.  I am making them in pieces which will eventually come together to create an artistic take on the foot print of the Ohio River in our region (approximately from the Indiana border out to Maysville, Ky, a favorite river town of ours).  Kudos to my kayaker hubby for that brilliant idea.  It seems to be turning out nicely….

Last but certainly not least in today’s post, some wonderful doggie news:  The puppies have graduated out of their kennel and are now sleeping upstairs with us at night!  For some months now they have had the run of the upstairs hallway when we would leave the house.  They just chill out on their beds in Tony’s office and wait for us to come home.  At night however we were still putting them into their kennels to avoid morning chaos.  Last week we decided to try putting them to bed upstairs with us after a long walk to see how they would do.  Amazingly, they did great!  They have learned fairly quickly to just lie down in their beds when we are in ours and that just because we get up to go to the bathroom, doesn’t mean they need to get up too. (Caskie learned this years ago and likes to sleep in Maddie’s room).  It’s working out wonderfully.  During the day, their recent favorite hang out is in the kitchen…. sprawled out on the heated concrete floor!

Inch by inch

I’ve been feeling a little guilty lately about the fact that I have not been making a whole lot of art, let alone blogging.  But that doesn’t mean that I have had a distinct period of inactivity either.  As wrote in my last post, things have just been at a standstill in the studio and my energies have been primarily on the homefront.  This continues to be the case as we navigate the final touches on the renovation of the major spaces of our house.  This process has been fraught with little victories and annoyances along the way but basically things are coming together.

I miss my studio work however and so have been slowly reclaiming my work space as my own as we get things put back where they belong.  Like many homes, ours works like a puzzle whose pieces fit together in a specific way.  When one piece, or in our case many pieces, are out of place, the whole puzzle is a jumble and all the pieces don’t sit right.  For months my studio held four rooms of furniture in it as we worked on the rest of the house.  Finally the piano, couches, appliances et al are back in the other room.  I have cleared out the spiders and their recent developments and there is breathing room in here again.  Maybe some decent work is around the corner…

Meanwhile, Mother Nature showed a bit of her nasty side last week when a freak wind storm hit our area and took down trees and power lines.  We didn’t have much damage, thankfully, just a few days without power and some spoiled food.  We were lucky.  Our neighborhood has tons of old trees so there was much to see when the wind finally died down.

The kids were off of school for 3 whole days due to power outages and so were forced to find alternative things to do with their time.  We all used the daylight as much as we could for yard clean up and chores.  At night we lit candles and donned headlamps and spent our evenings playing music and reading.  A few nights we just went to bed early.  I secretly enjoy a good power outage.  It would get to be a pain over time, surely, but there is something about the quiet that happens and how creative people tend to get when television is not an option….piano-in-the-dark

the current list

These are a few things that are on my brain recently….

1. puppets

2. soapstone

3. tamarins

4. tamarind trees

5. tunes

6. persimmon

7. puppies…


Yes, that is Parker the Party Girl, over for a visit in her Sunday Best. Caskie was part of this romp as well (as were Bonnie and Maggie, Parker’s cousins from next door) but was probably sitting in the creek cooling off just to the left of the frame of this photo. The pups are about 6 months old or so now. Caskie is finally not only used to River and Iris, but really loves them. There is a lot of Wild Kingdom-esque wrestling and playing these days. There is mutual respect at meal time and sometimes the cat makes a run for it, giving the dogs a little thrill. Life in Dog Land here is pretty dog-gone great.