Friday, November 27, 2009

Anniversary and a visit to Iowa

November 27th was our 27th wedding anniversary.  When we married we were living in Topeka KS at the time.  I worked full-time as a Labor & Delivery RN, and my husband worked repairing video games and electronic instruments while programming on the side.  Our married life has been full of wonderful things:  our 3 amazing daughters, the adventure of starting and growing a business, and all our loving family and friends.  I have an amazing life partner and I don't take it for granted.  Ever.

Today we drove to Belmond, Iowa, my husband's home town and the home of my parents-in-law.  We were looking forward to spending time with them.  Between the conversations and ongoing Scrabble games it was an enjoyable visit.  We even saw the Belmond Holiday Parade!

Our two youngest hug their grandmother

One pats her grandpa's back while another hugs him.
The third, on right, hugs her grandmother

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Beautiful Thanksgiving sunset

Sunset on Keller Lake

What a lovely day!  A fine gathering of family, wonderful food, and plenty of time to savor the moment and reflect upon how great life really is.  The only sad bit was that my mother and father-in-law were unable to come to Minneapolis due to a recent illness.  We were sorry about that.
All the Jenison/Benjamin cousins were together and having fun!

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Heartland: A Personal Landscape"

This is the first in what will be a series of very personal pieces.  Ha!  All my work is personal.  This piece is a landscape.  It represents where I came from and how it shaped me.  The words are  autobiographical, though not readable by the viewer.  It is constructed from silk habotai and disposable cotton facial wash cloths which were screen-printed with procion dye, machine-pieced and quilted.
It is mounted on a stretched canvas that I painted with acrylic paint, gold leaf, and puff paint.
I still need to finish the back with some black felt before it goes to the gallery.
Finished size:  textile construction 10 inches by 10 inches, canvas size 12 inches by 12 inches.

"Heartland:  A Personal Landscape"



My understanding is that Copper Shade Tree Gallery intends to publish a small book of each juried artist's small landscape piece.  The 12x12s will be assembled collectively at the front of the gallery during the show, which opens in February.  Here is a link to the gallery site:

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Here are a few things I've been looking at:  ornamentation and intervals of birds sitting on power lines:

chair arm

...and foot

I caught sight of a throng of birds while sitting at a stoplight today, near twilight:

I missed life-drawing last week because of a migraine.  Here are two drawings from the previous week:

this is a 3-minute drawing

...and this is a 5-minute drawing

Last week it seemed like the shorter drawings were more correctly proportioned than the 10 & 15 minute ones.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


I am pleased to report that my quilt, "Edge of Information:  A Cityscape of Paper & Cloth" is part of a mini online gallery exhibition at the SAQA website!  Please take a look, as there are some wonderful pieces with an architectural-theme, curated by Ann Anastasio:

Red(der) hair & a new construction-in-progress

I went to the salon to get some highlights in my hair today.  I go to an Aveda salon and I love most things about it, but one thing that isn't up to par is their red hair color tones.  They just aren't as good as the product they used before (Goldwell).  Well.  My stylist "smuggled" in some of the color we used a long time ago and she applied it to my highlights.  Whoa.  It is seriously red.  This photo doesn't really do it justice.  I'm very happy about it.

In the meantime, I am finally satisfied with my small prototype that combines silk habotai and my recycled facial cloths.  I'm planning to make a series of autobiographical "landscapes"with these.  This is the first of what I hope will be a series.  I'm very pleased with it so far.  The quilting is coming along but these photos were taken prior to any being done.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Happy Lavender

I purchased 2 roses yesterday while on a field trip to the Antique Rose Emporium.  I lost one old rose this summer due to the extreme drought, and decided to replace it with 2 because there was a large gap in my rose bed.  In addition, my recently ordered assortment of agastache plants arrived from High Country Gardens.  Since we are expecting rain tonight I used part of the afternoon to dig out the old rose roots and plant my new items in the butterfly-rose garden bed.
I'm sore from my first-ever yoga class yesterday and mucking about in the garden is a good antidote.  Plus, I'm fighting a migraine and I needed to keep moving to see if I could shake it off.

I took this photo while sitting on my garden stool & planting the agastache.
The lavender is experiencing a 2nd blooming period!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Getting on with it

Yesterday I was getting many things done other than the thing I needed to be doing:  sorting through my mixed-media ephemera, paint, and other "stuff" that was stacked on my work table and making me crazy.
It is humorous (now) to me how long I will procrastinate about this.  Eventually, I had to face the music because the clutter was impeding my ability to be productive in my work-space.  I finally buckled down last night and worked for a number of hours (and into the wee hours, I might add) to get things sorted.
Too bad I didn't take before and after photos.  I don't think the workspace, to the casual observer, looks very tidy at all.  But to me it is transformed!  I've already messed it up a bit but that is because I am working again, so that doesn't count!

walking down the hallway toward the studio
sorry about the less-than-ideal lighting for the photo
note my head vase collection on the window sill, each sporting brushes

the table in the foreground is used for mixed media work

same table, different angle
the clear plastic bins residing on top of my rolling drawers are a new addition
(If you zoom into the photo you will see some of my daughters' artwork:
the painting on the wall of my hands at my sewing machine was done by my oldest daughter while she was still in high school.  A self-portrait of my second daughter leans against the wall on the floor, as do paintings that my two oldest daughters made of one another).

another shot of the work table and my new storage
I am using my photography lights for everyday lighting because my room lighting is so poor

my other work table, reserved primarily for textile cutting
the area behind this table masks floor chaos-this is the next area that must be addressed

I got up this morning and went to a yoga class for the first time in my life.  I belong to a health club that offers many different exercise classes, and I haven't taken advantage of them.  I really liked the class:  flexibility does not come easily for me, even when I was a young thing and dancing 5 days a week in college.  I think this class might be a good addition to my exercise routine and I like the instructor (also a Leslie).  I felt great all day, even knowing that my buns will most-certainly be sore tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good News, Garden, & avoidance tactics

I can come up with some pretty interesting things to do when I am avoiding something I don't want to do.
Take, for instance, my studio cleaning.  The truth of it is that I'm having a storage crisis here and I don't know how to go about reconciling it.  To do it properly I should really take every single thing out of here, figure out some realistic storage solutions for both mixed-media supplies and textile/quilt-related supplies, then bring things back into the designated location.  That is probably not going to happen again until I redo my floor.  Soooo.  I went to WalMart at the recommendation of Laurie Brainerd (the most organized quilt maker I know) and purchased 3 sets of clear plastic storage drawers.  I am now considering what should go into them and where they will reside.  I have to get a handle on the mixed media supplies, in particular.  I am finding that my lack of organization is leading to lack of accessibility, and that is NOT good.

While ruminating over that, I started playing with my most recently-acquired set of metal repose milagros.
I coated the surfaces with clear gesso, and today I decided to begin experimenting with them as the substrate for some mixed-media collage.  I have no idea if this will work, but it is an interesting way to avoid working on studio cleaning!

I used acrylic ink here, and I doubt it is a good idea.
Old paperback pages, as well as a segment from an old boarding pass on the bird's tail
(these are unfinished BTW)

....and later, a bit of progress on two milagros:


This morning I walked out to the cabana for my cuppa.  It got chilly last night (high 30's!  brrrrr) so I wanted a little wind-protection.  I opened the cabana doors, sat down, and thought about how lovely my garden is and how much I wish that dang post was absent from between my doors as it blocks my view!
In the future we hope to open the front of the cabana, extend the roof-area, and create an outdoor kitchen.  My idea is to put Nana doors out here so we can use the cabana more like a covered porch...

Bizzi, our miniature schnauzer, is on "squirrel patrol"

I stood still for a long time in an effort to catch a shot of
the lesser goldfinch at the feeder (no luck this time).
My camera with the good zoom is elsewhere for a while, so I am using my little Canon these days.

And now the really exciting news:
"Wish You Were Here:  Postcards From The Road", a mixed-media quilt created by Frances Holliday Alford and I, has been juried into the 2010 "Form, Not Function" exhibition!  To say that I am thrilled and honored would be a massive understatement.  Here are 2 detail shots of our piece, which is 29 inches wide by 40.5 inches long:

A little background on this collaborative piece:  Frances and I discovered that we both enjoy mailing ourselves postcards while we travel while we were at the Houston Quilt Festival in 2008.  Frances brought some of her cards that had been mailed while she was traveling in Korea as well as some others  she was working on.  I was thrilled to discover yet another common thread (ha!) that we share with one another.  As time passed we began discussing how we could integrate these richly textured cards into a textile construction.  Late last year we began exchanging cards with one another, sending them through the mail and adding additional layers of ephemera with each sending.  The resulting cards have a wonderful, "beat-up" quality that comes with repeated mail-processing and transit.
We met numerous times to decide which cards would be used in the quilt blocks, then constructed blocks and appliqued the cards to them.  Joining the blocks was, er, tricky, to say the very least, because of the stiffness of the postcards.  I have never wished for a longarm machine so fervently as I did when joining these blocks!

One question I am frequently asked is, "Why do you mail cards to yourself?", and my response is that I enjoy finding a postcard in the daily ritual of getting the mail, usually long after I have returned from my trip.  It is a little "freeze-frame" moment of joy for me.  I sometimes do small watercolors if I have time, but I am more likely to collage ephemera from the trip:  museum ticket stubs, boarding passes, train tickets, restaurant name it.  It is a way of preserving what my friend Billie refers to as
"exquisite moments" forever.  The beauty of the postcard is the size, which can be subsequently collaged into a journal, framed, or saved in a travel book.  What fun way to look back on a pleasurable journey!

It is quite simple to bring a few supplies for collaging while traveling:  a moleskin notebook & a pad of 4x6 watercolor postcards, double-sided tape and a small container of gel medium or acrylic varnish (if you carry-on only be sure your container is within TSA guidelines...grrrr), small scissors, a permanent marker, and possibly a small travel-size box of watercolors and a brush or two.  I generally put these items into a small plastic zipper bag for easy portability.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Walking the Garden

Goldfinch are flitting between this birdbath and feeder
(when I'm not standing so close)

The purslane look really good!  They have filled
in nicely under one of my live oaks

my small crop of Satsuma oranges is beginning to "turn"

this fossilized rock was discovered during a landscaping project
What is the curved-area?  Initially I thought it was a tusk!
Tim thinks it is some sort of plant.
I should have it evaluated by someone who can tell me...

close-up of the cool fossil rock

another view

I ordered some additional plants yesterday from one of my favorite purveyors:  High Country Gardens  They specialize is xeric landscape plants with a special focus on the southwest.  They are located in Santa Fe NM.  I have had good luck with their products:  they are shipped very carefully packaged and the plants are especially healthy, with vigorous root systems.
I cannot recommend them enough!  The drought, coupled with our summer heat, was brutal on my garden despite the fact that I have a very tough, mostly-xeric, environment.  I intend to replace a few things and augment a few areas that need more filling-in.  I am in love with all of the agastache varieties because they attract both hummingbirds and butterflies, and have a nice minty fragrance.
This is one of my favorite varieties:  
                                                         'Ava' hummingbird mint

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Bee Charmer

A bee comes to sit on my daughter's finger

Making friends with a hen

My daughter spent last weekend in New Jersey at one of her college friend's house.  They own 4 laying hens
and have an extensive garden with loads of bees hanging around.  She is one of the few people I know who adores bees, and they always seem to return the affection.  They frequently land on her when she is outside in our garden.  She sent these photos to me and I wanted to share.

isn't she pretty?

Butterflies enjoy the lovely weather

a gorgeous Monarch graces the cosmos flowers

this guy, along with a huge black swallowtail butterfly,
have been drifting around the garden today

(this photo courtesy of the National Butterfly Center)

I am pleased to see that the recent rain has assisted in speeding along the germination of my wildflower bed.  I have loads of tiny seedlings making an appearance.  I think this bodes well for the entire Hill Country-area wildflower crop next spring:  it all comes down to getting rain in the right amounts & intervals during the fall season.

I was talking to my daughter on the phone while this butterfly was wafting about.  She told me it makes her happy that I send photos of the garden to her (she is in college far away @ SUNY Purchase).
I think it helps her feel connected to home.

I didn't know that South Texas is recognized as America's Butterfly Center!  I found this informative website about the varieties that can be found in this area:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Farmer's Market & the new "River Reach"

Another Saturday morning visit to the Pearl Farmer's market.  This time I remembered to bring my camera for the walk along the new river-area.  The following are a few photos of our stroll...

A beautifully embellished loaf of bread at the Pearl Market,
this one from Sol y Luna Bakery

The river taxi moves past the grotto sculpture

Look out for the scary monster inside!

My daughter walks through the grotto

The landscaping along the new river-area is lovely.
It will be breath-taking once it has filled in.

This beautiful butterfly, a Gulf Fritillary, was enjoying the lantana

This new falls was created just behind the Pearl Market
(note the footbridge in the upper left portion of the photo)
The headwaters of the San Antonio river are about a mile north of this site.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tiny watercolor book & more garden images

Another wonderful day in San Antonio!  After performing the requisite tasks of the day I gathered my camera, watercolors, pencils, sketchbook, and my cute & tiny watercolor book and headed outside.
I walked around the garden and admired the recently cleaned-out lavender/sage berm.  It had become quite overgrown with nutgrass since we've had so much rain.  The mowers spent some extra time working in the bed, and I planted a new lavender in place of one I lost over the summer.

This berm is over 30 feet in length.
May Night salvia on right edge, and lavender mounds to the left of it.

Looking back from the opposite end.  This side has Russian Sage.

Close-up of Russian Sage & the bees (see one in the lower right corner?)

A cool piece of limestone dug up during a garden project

Here's another one.  Oh, how I love rocks!

We live over the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, which means we have a tiny little bit of bad (BAD!) soil barely covering hundreds of feet of limestone.  Soil-amendment takes on a religious fervor if you are a gardener in this area.  The soil is incredibly alkaline.

my roses are very happy right now

This is my cute little watercolor sketchbook,
purchased from Strikebooks on Etsy

here's the inside cover.  It is lovely.

one of my tiny drawings to which I will later add watercolor
(one of our outdoor light fixtures)

A modified contour drawing of my shoe,
which I later filled in a bit with prismacolor pencils
(Hey!  I didn't say they would be good, just that I would be posting them!)

I'm really pushing myself to spend time drawing and/or painting every day.  I want to get better, to be more accurate in proportion/perspective, and working with intent on a daily basis is the only way I will get there.  I feel that by devoting some studio-time to these activities I will be improving my skill-set in a more general way.