Reminded of another life…

Two messages on the same day.

The first was from my Goddaughter Emily and her Wife Ashley who sent some snaps from Canada of their handsome son Oliver. We love getting to see photos of Ollie who is just the happiest little boy with a clever impish smile…can’t get enough of them. But this one was extra special.

First I have to take you back…way back…over 30 years ago…
I was living with Peter Follansbee in the general store in Muddy Creek Forks, where we were studying our respective crafts. He was the more serious woodworker and I the wannabe painter but we overlapped in the chair and basket department.

Along comes a visit from Emily, a very young version of Herself, and as I had begun making children’s ladderbacks…this one had her name on it…

I just love the confidence and pride in here expression there. Such a love.

So now we fast forward to this …

And now I’m melting into a thousand puddles.

You go Ollie…I hope to show you how to make one of those chairs some day. But that bucket of crayons is also right up my alley and down my street…I can’t wait to see what you do with those !

So I’m all warm and nostalgic thinking of the journey that chair and the chairmaker has made and then I get some pics from Follansbee himself.

Here’s a sketch of my basement woodworking shop in our log cabin which I made for Peter back in ’97

Can you find the pipe ?
The one on the door not on the top of the cabinet.

Yeah so he and I have differing memories, his story will appear later, but I cherished that as being one given to me by Peter and his mother Mary from his dad Mo’s collection.  Peter says no, and I usually defer to his stellar skills in the memory department but I’ve held my ground long enough that he has capitulated…almost.

Long after I had made the move to fulfilling the dream of being a full time artist, our log cabin was caught in a massive flood. As we live 15 feet from the edge of a creek, it meant the entire basement was filled with water. Very little survived from that workshop but I took apart the tool chest and saved this door and carved a Mark Twain quote which was eminently applicable to Master Follansbee…

True to both our natures He took it one step further and then some…

He posted a blog that fleshes out the back story so I’ll copy it here and link it back to his website for those who want to read on.

But before I do it feels important to take stock of both of these milestones.

Reminders of that time in my life when my younger stronger body followed the whims of my woodnypmh muses are few and far between now. I made over 500 chairs. From Shaker style rockers, large and small, to dozens of children’s ladderbacks to full dining room sets of chairs complete with child sized highchairs.

It was always meant to be a way of making money so I could follow my true bliss and be an artist. Looking back, it certainly was a magical bridge. And now, I spend my days at the easel…making money so I can justify taking some time off to make spoons.

I’m content with all of it…
because I learned well
from the quote which was most often requested
to be carved in the slats of those chairs…

“The End is Nothing, the Road is All.” Willa Cather

Now here’s Peter’s side of things…(stolen directly from his blog…)

https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/

pine door w Heather’s Twain-quote panel

A week or two ago I got to a project that has lingered here for ages. The small panel in this door was made by my friend Heather Neill, way back when. The Mark Twain quote she incorporated in this panel is from the Autobiography, “My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.” When Heather & I met in 1982, I had just given up the notion of being a painter, and was concentrating on learning woodworking. She took up chairmaking after I showed her some of the steps involved. She probably made more chairs than me before she gave up chairmaking to concentrate on painting! https://heatherneill.com/

Hanging in my shop is a drawing Heather made for me in 1997; showing her chairmaking space when it was active. In this detail, note the cupboard door with the pipe door handle. (my camera was tilted, Heather’s chair is not squished…)

So for a long time, I’ve been thinking of how to incorporate her Twain-quote-panel in a new door. I have two cupboards near the back of the shop – one for axes, and the other for turning tools. I made the axe one first, and it got doors.

When I made the next one across the shop, I had run out of “extra” pine boards. So left it door-less til now. But now that I was going to all the trouble of making the door – I couldn’t leave it plain. In for a penny…

I made it with flush-fitting panels – because the Twain quote had no margin to speak of. Then decorated it.

I haven’t carved pine since I carved the timber frame of the shop. I decided to use something simple & quick. This braid is featured in the book I did with Lost Art Press – this time there’s no V-tool involved, just incised marks with different-sized gouges. The layout is done w two compasses.

In this example, the large circle is 2 1/2? wide, the smaller one 3/4? – I used a 1? wide #5 Swiss-made gouge, and a 3/8? wide #7 Stubai gouge. Then a nearly-flat tool to remove some chips.

This is the dramatic view down the line.

This sort of design is common all over the place. My photos from Sweden a few years ago include a few different versions of it. Notice on this arch the way the effect changes according to the relationship between the large & small circles.

One more – again in an arch, but this time with its columns also.

But in the end, I decided to hollow the circles – the scribed design was as prominent as the carved one – and I didn’t like it. I took a large gouge and worked along each band of the circles. This gives the whole thing more shadow.

The whole interlaced panel (& 2 rails) design is loosely based on one I’ve never seen, except in a photo. This photo below was one of a batch sent to me 10 years ago by Maurice Pommier, author of Grandpa’s Workshop – who is another whole story https://blog.lostartpress.com/2019/10/18/meet-the-author-and-illustrator-maurice-pommier/

carved joined work, Brittany

My version is simpler, too much blank space between the elements. But it will do, although I can’t wait to try it again.

Oh, I forgot about the pipe – why is that there? Heather swears it was one of my father’s, that my mother & I gave to her, no doubt as painting & drawing props. I swear I don’t recognize it. But my father had lots of pipes…so I might as well believe it.

 


Postcards from the Ledge – 12

Oh those sweet cherry bells.

The first crop is harvesting this week and it has made all the difference.

We lost a couple plants… not to frost but to squirrels…so to have something fresh to eat  from the garden is heartening.

This will be a short post…My friend Peter reports that most of his thousands of viewers who tune in to his online video tutorials last no more than 10 minutes. Their loss.

Short for me today because the sun in shining.

That elusive orb that so many of us have been sorely missing is blazing away here in the studio yard so it was time to try out our new wash set up.

I spent way too long yesterday in the garage building the wringer mentioned in the last blog post.

It is always fun for this former woodworker to pick up her tools and play. It got complicated yesterday as the workshop is full of a winter of discontent and my usual workbench was not accessible. I had to choose between the vice and the chop saw. The saw won so I cleared this spot out in the back…

This was a borrowed design from youtube which I had to modify. Quite a bit of modify as it turned out. The rolling pin on the bottom had to turn freely but the top one needed to be stationary. All I could find was one of my precious last chair posts…this one in walnut no less. I hated to cut that 48″ down to 15″ but needs must.

I loved climbing over the quarantine stations on the porch to sit for a spell on the shaving horse again…

I’m going to take Peter up on his offer to turn what parts I might need for this machine because I think the two rollers should be a pair of the same size. But that’ll be the upgraded version after I work out the current kinks.

With today’s sunshine…

we took the plunge…

I gotta say I’m a bit shocked that it actually works. I heard from many of you on FB after I posted a video of Herself trying this thing out that you remember vividly your grandmothers’ advice to keep your finger outta there…Even a story from Lodi about Aunt Imy remembering an incident with her mother and a tender body part.

Seeing as our motto here is Tit’s UP…I’ll just say that’ll be essential to remember on wash day.

With a bit of practice…and lordy we will be getting that…this part of our new world order might be manageable. And getting to spend time outside amongst the blooming lilacs…

That’ll do pig. That’ll do.

Today was supposed to be the first day of the Sheep and Wool Festival. They have concocted an online experience …

For which I applaud them. But I am personally glad that I found two fleece before this event. The virtual fleece sale online is just links to venders and I had hoped for good pics and details about each entry. Very confusing. I’m going to go outside now and open mine up and pick around to see what shape they are in.

I have ordered some carding combs. Think Edward Scissorhands. Extremely scary looking things. But it’s time to kick my spinning game up a notch and that’s just one lesson I’m taking from this crisis. If not now…when.

That’s it for now.

If anyone is still reading…here’s your bonus gift.

Be not afraid…

Noli Timere  – 2016

Be not afraid.

I called her Scout.

Because, I knew I was going to be spending
a lot of intimate hours with this sheep
and she needed a name.

Because, on the day I started this painting,
the news came across the airwaves
that Harper Lee had died.

And because I wanted to be just like
Atticus’ curious, strong,
loyal and fiercely brave
daughter Scout.

It was late in February
when I began this painting.
We were deep into a very rough winter
of care-giving and hospice nursing
for Pat’s elderly aunt and uncle.

His death in November
left a wife of 72 years to grieve
through the cobwebs of Alzheimers.

Two days after I began this painting,
Aunt Mary died, in the dark hours
between dusk and dawn,
while Pat slept
on the floor beside her bed.

The afternoon before,
out of a deep state of rest,
Mary sat up in bed and cried,
Pat, help me, I’m so afraid.

Taking her hand Pat comforted Mary
with the words that her room was full of angels,
and all of them were there to take her to Bob.

Pat’s art is her compassion.
She was born to be a hospice nurse.
It is hard, meaningful work,
that only someone strong,
and fiercely brave can do.

Her courage runs fathoms deep.

The grief that followed Mary’s death,
was interrupted by waves of peace.

In the wake of that chapter in our lives,
I was drawn into a profound intensity of focus,
as I tried to shine some light on the emotions
that were trying their best to hide.

Scout and I spent those weeks together,
weaving our way through her pasture of grasses,
and catching the sunset in the fibers of her fleece.

I had been listening to Louis Penny’s wonderful
Three Pines Mystery series, and was so happy to be
among the old friends her characters have become.
They are real, and honest, loyal and brave.
Spiked with just enough wit and humor to keep my pencils sharp.

At some point,
most likely when I was struggling with
refracting the rainbow of light
through one of those four hundred million locks,
I caught a new word, and paused the book
to go back and listen again.

She was describing the words that Seamus Heaney
had written to his wife, on his deathbed…

Noli Timere

I put down the brushes.
Scout smiled.

As I am writing this now,
in this troubled world,
with so much to fear,
I am sitting next to Scout,
framed in her quiet island pasture,
searching my soul
for the courage… to listen.


Postcards from the Ledge – 10b

Follow up –

The Follansbees have provided the following and previously promised article…

“Washing Household Linens and Linen Clothing in 1627 Plymouth” by Maureen Richard

I can’t figure out how to get it here on the blog but the link below will provide you with a pdf file which you can open any way you like.

Maureen-laundry

I’m looking forward to reading it over my lunch hour. It’s hot dog day.

Secondly,

Someone requested the recipe for that fabulous looking loaf of bread featured in part A of this blog post.

I don’t remember where I got it but I tweaked the original so I get to rename it…

Quarantine Potato Bread

1 med Starchy Potato
1/2 cup potato water (twice…twice… I have dumped the water out while draining the cooked spuds so I’m giving this helpful hint…save that water)

3/4 cup warm water
2 Tablespoons Honey
2 1/4 tsp. Yeast
3 1/2 cup Bread Flour (best of luck finding that)

Cut that potato into small chunks and cook for 15 minutes or so then mash fine…

Drizzle the honey into the bottom of your grandmother’s pyrex measuring cup, then add the warm water up to the red 3/4 cup line and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside for 10 minutes until foamy.

Combine all ingredients and knead for 10 minutes. That’s my favorite part.

Proof in a lightly greased bowl covered with a damp tea towel and set up on some high warm surface like on the top of your old mustard colored double oven…1-2 hours. This is a good time to weed one bed or do two crossword puzzles or play 12 Maj-Jong games on your ipad.

Return to that bowl and marvel at the rise you got from all that kneading. Knock it down and roll it up into a buttered loaf pan. Cover with that damp towel and proof for 45 minutes.

Bake (with the towel off obviously) 30-35 minutes @ 375 degrees.

Another helpful note, I found that placing it on the bottom rack in my top oven gave a more even bake …and 30 minutes is the exact right time for same oven.

If you buttered that pan like my Mima would have then your own fabulous loaf will fall gently out…let it cool on a wire rack as long as you can stand before cutting it open and slathering it with butter.

In the original recipe it was said that the addition of the potato somehow helps the bread to last longer. I can attest only that the previous two loaves I made each lasted one week. On the last day save two of those older pieces per person in the household to make french toast. It’s quarantine bread after all…you need your strength and maple syrup is well known to stabilize one’s sanity.

You are welcome.

And as a bonus…here’s a look at that wonderful stove…

Hot Flash – 2007

If you need to ask… you won’t get it .

A list of thank yous is in order though.

To Julie, for the long term loan of her grandmother’s fan and for recognizing in the first place that I “needed” to have it in the prop room.

To Susan, for the gift of her magnificent old stove and for recognizing that I “needed” to have it in the new studio.

To Mima, for the hours spent in her Uniontown kitchen and recognizing that I would someday go out of my way replicate it in the hopes of channeling her love.

And, to my dearest Pat, for paving the way before me…and for smiling as she recognizes, with such affection and that ever so tender hint of knowing sarcasm, that the battle has only begun to rage inside my hormonally challenged almost fifty self.


Postcards from the Ledge – 10

Hello in there…

Bless you John Prine and Bette Midler for piercing my 20 year old heart with that song.
It pulled me by the teeth to the other side of a gripping depression and became a touchstone along the way for the next 40 years. I have always worn my fried egg on the outside…proudly because of you.

Me at 20 -1978

Etching from college portfolio  –  1978

So I just got off the phone with my pal Peter Follansbee. I’m throwing a link to his website here …click… so that you can spend some of that extra screen time that we all have these days to visit with him and his woodworking. He, like most of us creative types, is able to continue plying his craft and is producing some fabulous new work.

Both Peter and his wife Maureen are historians who worked at Plymoth Plantation so they have a unique perspective on the 17th century. Peter’s focus was primarily on all things wood while Maureen was the textile expert. So it was that today, when we were comparing quarantine notes in our social distancing phone chat, and I brought up my own next woodworking project… Peter said Maureen wrote an article about that. He’s gonna dig it up for me… and I’m all ears…because…

Laundry.

As I sat in the studio kitchen one morning last week…looking out at the same view I’ve been greeted with for over a decade…the Muses lit a match.

Spark…at the end of the walkway…the centerpiece of the Morag Gamble bed…were the washtubs that Susan gave me years ago for a planter. Deb’s begonias and a few annuals  bloom there every summer and brighten that corner. And the extra light that now shines there in the wake of the giant ash tree removal last year…was apparently just what the Muses needed.

Because…wait for it…they are WASH tubs.

This was the beginning of what turned out to be Olde Timey Sunday.

Well the true beginning was actually the two hours it took me to repair the hose faucet and run a line out to the tubs. But after that …well after I had to whittle a couple stoppers out of our stash of wine corks. But THEN we got it going.

The washing part was made so much easier with those tubs. But the next stage…wringing…eh not so much. My hands aren’t strong enough any more to do that. So I did some research. Of course there is a youtube video on that…and with that help I’ve figured out a way to build a wringer. Hopefully Maureen’s article about doing laundry in the 1600’s will give me a few other pointers. I’ll keep you posted on the making of the wringer…for now you can ponder on the parts list…a rolling pin and bungy cords were ordered from Amazon and the garage will need to be cleared out enough to get to the wood stack and the tools.

It always gives me an energy boost to have a new problem to solve and a project to build, and while the clothes were drying in the sunny breeze, Herself began clearing out the greenhouse…so we could get to the spinning wheel.

Because I scored two brand new fleece to spin !!!

Snowball…and Calico…

Beautiful fleece I found on Etsy from Aspendale Farm . 

A small farm in Idaho where Romney Sheep are raised and where they are kind enough to send an extra gift bag for safe storage…

One of the best days of our year is the trip in May to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, and one of the first dominoes to fall in our corner of this pandemic was the early cancellation of that festival. Having had to miss the last two years I was doubly sad. But social media came to the rescue and, after putting a query out to our resourceful peeps, I had several leads on where I might procure some spinning fleece.

One of the best parts of that side trip was reconnecting with Tom Knisely. A wonderful weaver friend of old who lives just over the hill from the studio and we have only now discovered that he has a new weaving/spinning retreat and workshop with his daughter Sara Bixler…oh the excitement as I get to anticipate the day when the vaccine arrives and we can go back out into the world …the very first place I will go is…

So now I’m all set.

The old wheel got some new grease.
When the weather gets just a bit warmer I’ll be out there in my most peaceful place with soft silky fiber steadily spinning onto the bobbin.

The pioneering theme closed out the day with a simple quiet rise…

And there is no better way to illustrate the way that all this hand work soothes the soul …

The Long Draw  –  2018

Stay frosty out there.


Hello blog readers…

As squalls of snow flurries surround the studio, the artist within is happily ensconced in her hermitage and the brushes are flying. Had a bookend of visits with Peter Follansbee last week so his painting gets the pride of place here today.

I’ve been away from this portal for so many months that there is a towering pile of posts waiting to be written. Look for me to promise a regular flow of entries, but I’d hedge those bets. My energies and attention span tends to be hyper focused at the easel when I return from weeks away.

While the weather freezed me out of the garden, and the darkness deepens into the solstice, the dust collects on every other corner of the studio except where I and my brushes are at work.

But I’ve taken a quick break to visit the office today because I need to give you a heads up about the prints offered here on my site.

Due to the increased costs of paper and ink the price of prints will be following suit.

Figure I would return the kindness of your years of support by giving you all a heads up…so I’ll wait another month or so and make the price changes take effect on January 31, 2020.

The small prints will go from $95 to $125
The large prints will go from $195 to $225
And I will be charging a flat shipping rate of $12 for all tubes, multiple prints can be shipped in one tube and will only be charged once.

The Menemsha Basin and Strider Prints will remain at their current prices for now.

OK, that’s done.

Now back to my snuggly spot by the heater in the corner with my Muses.

Stay frosty out there and thank you all for being there.
H


Mercy,, Mercy, Mercy

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy  –  22 x 26

It was the 80’s.

I was working at the Harvard Coop which was then quite a hopping place. In the middle of Harvard Square was a tiny alley paved in colonial cobblestone called Palmer Street. At the top of that alley was a hole in the wall music cafe called Club Passim. If you are of a certain age and had a soul that craved folk music then you already knew that.

I went to their website just now to get my facts right and it would appear it first came on the scene the year I was born, 1958, in the form of Club 47. That’s sorta fun. In 1969 it was established as the Club Passim that I came to know and love. It boasted the likes of Baez and Dylan taking the postage stamp of a stage. In my era I saw Tom Rush, Suzanne (New York City) Vega, Shawn Colvin.

But I had a unique view of that musical mecca. Literally.

Just across the alley and up one floor was the closet of a frame room which I managed for most of that decade. And for the first part of that tenure it was a windowless workshop. Until…while on a muffin break, I came up the stairs from the basement club and looked up. Huh. I never really gave it much thought but there are windows up there…where my desk was…only I faced plywood when I framed.

There was always a big turnover in that frameroom…think young college students and musicians needing work to bridge the gap until the rest of their lives came calling. On that day I had a particularly crazy group of framers who actually did go on to become musicians. Look up Sluggo…I dare you. He is a founding member of The Grannies.

A band which I am too musically challenged to classify but I can attest to the fact that Dug, excuse me Sluggo, was and is one of the grandest humans in the land. Big big heart that guy. It gives my own heart tremendous pleasure to add that he now owns and operates FRAME, voted 2017 winner of best frame shop in San Francisco.

So, with all that burgeoning creative energy working around me, I hurried up the back stairs to the closet and started pulling things off the makeshift shelving in front of what I now knew was a window. We began with a drill. A very small hole. And the light poured in.

Over the course of what I remember as a few days we enlarged that hole and waited to see if anyone discovered us. Then we got out a saw. A very small saw. After which we had a  deck of card sized hole. Waited a bit more but at this point we could actually see the weather. The next phase brought us what I remember being a horizontal rectangle about the length of a pair of my reeboks at the time. And that’s where Club Passim re-enters the story.

I could now see the top of their steps.

Where I once saw Nanci Griffith ( big fan ) leaning against the brick wall with one elbow on her guitar case and the other one lifting a cigarette to her lips. We could watch the lines form for evening concerts and the occasional film crew that came through. One famous actor (Follansbee would remember his name, Gene Wilder and Sidney Poitier come to my mind) had to run through the alley carrying a dozen eggs which he bobbled and splattered on the cobblestones. They had to clean the whole mess up after every take of which I saw three.

And here’s were the painting comes in…

I could also look down from my peep hole perch and see…my saxophone goddess.

Her name I have forgotten but not her long curly red hair…and her chops.
She would throw her case open and lean into some sweet jazz that wafted on the salty Cambridge air straight up to our window and into my heart. When I saddled my nerve I tossed a quarter in her case and asked if she gave lessons.

In my brief career as a sax player I learned two songs. As Time Goes By from Casablanca, and Cannonball Adderly’s Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.

The instrument has traveled with me lo these many decades since and somehow the muses found it this winter and brought it down from the old prop room as a dare.

As you see, I called their collective bluff, but it started, as many paintings do, with a simple gesture…

Our renegade window did eventually get spotted. Some big wig saw the light emanating from it as I worked late one night. I got all kinds of yelled at and we had to cover it back up, which may or may not have been a clandestinely removable patch.

In my dreams now it is open and I can see the stars above the chimneyed rooftops.

And I have told Herself
that if I go first
she will know
every time she hears a saxophone…
it’ll be me.

 

 


Night Philosopher

Night Philosopher  –  20 x 30

No single painting can tell the whole story.

Hell, even a story can’t tell the whole story.

Having Peter Follansbee for a best friend for over half my life has been pretty damn great.

A lot of people know him now,
he’s a famous woodworker, teacher, and …philosopher.

But what most of those people don’t know…
is that his mother Mary was a rock star.

I never knew anyone who didn’t think the world of Mary Follansbee, and I wouldn’t want to spend five seconds on a park bench with anyone who says otherwise.

She held a family of five kids together after her husband died way too early and ruled that roost with an iron skillet of a soul and a Boston Irish yell the memory of which can still make my spine snap right on up.

She challenged her righteous catholic faith openly, had little time for sarcasm but had all the time in the world to listen for the truth.

Her devotion to civil rights was on a cellular level and love was the solid core from which she moved through the world.

I miss her…her fierce abiding love…and her popovers…every day.

Those of you seeing this painting, or reading these notes, will know how important birds are in Peter’s life. He’s as fanatical about them now as he used to be about the Boston Celtics. No painting of Peter would even try to tell the whole story without an ornithological reference.

But what you may not know is that it was Mary who taught him to love those birds.

And the very first bird that she taught him to recognize was…the cedar waxwing.

So she’s there
just over his shoulder
his biggest champion
who would be mighty proud
to know that his children
can spot a cedar waxwing
from a country mile away.

 


One of those days

Feeling fractalled.

Today started out just fine.

Beautiful December sunrise light bouncing all around us as Finn and I made our icy commute from log cabin to studio. She opted for an early morning nap while I sat at the kitchen table and clicked the knitting needles and gave the muses plenty of open space.

Last night I put the last touches on a portrait of my pal Peter. It was wonderful to come over these last few days knowing I would be spending it with him. But now, time to move on. Usually, and by that I mean 99% of the time, by the time I am winding down one painting there are at least two or three others competing for the easel. But by the time Herself came over mid-morning she found me roaming aimlessly around the studio…still pondering.

We sat together at the table and she listened as I rambled and a few ideas did start to pop. She reminded me to write them down, so I made some quick doodles, and the energy lifted. She left to do some shopping and I sat down at the computer and began playing with some of the thousands of photo references on file.

At sixty, I know that it takes more than a list of subjects, or a collection of still life objects to start working on a composition. In order to sustain the energy required to give my total attention, over the course of the days and weeks it takes to create a painting, I must feel the spark. My way in. It can be the challenge of a new subject, or the challenge of rendering a familiar subject in a new way, or a particular emotional connection, or the whimsy of finally telling the story behind a few words, which held the promise of a great title, and had been scribbled on a, now well worn and dog-eared, slip of paper taped to the easel.

I KNOW it when it clicks…
and so far today…
nada.

I keep telling those who ask, that being a mature artist means I know when to get out of my own way. After six hours of sitting here at the computer scanning for that spark, and sketching and re-working a new composition which I originally had thought was going to be a sure winner, one which would be easy to tweak and get to the panel quickly…I can see now how I fell right down the rabbit hole and into that old trap..quite firmly planted directly in my own way. If the muses don’t show up…there ain’t gonna be a ball game.

When Pat came home from her errands I was hopelessly lost. I explained what I thought the problem with that composition was and asked for her fresh eyes. Eh…no sparks on her end either. So, I threw in the towel and decided to pour my vapid thoughts all over this page.

What I’ve come up with, whilst writing, is that this current crisis of creativity is yesterday’s problem.

I’ll set the stage…

I had an hour to fill while I waited for Katie’s Women’s Study class to call me for a facetime thingy…something about which I was very nervous. They had been in the Granary Gallery last week using the artwork there as fodder for a discussion about gender in art.

Here’s a shot, which I believe one of the gallery associates took, of them studying my painting, Celeste envies Ruth.

 

After their sojourn, Katie thought it would be interesting to pose their questions and thoughts directly to the artist. I got a tutoring session on how to make the technology work and we scheduled a date.

So, while my nervous self was waiting for the phone to ring yesterday morning, I picked up a pencil…and BAM the Muses snuck up behind me, grabbed the pencil and in minutes they had fleshed out one of those old dog-eared notations-of-an-idea which had laid dormant, after several failed attempts to work out a solid composition, on other fractalled days like today when I had tried to show up for work without them.

You probably won’t see what I see here, but this is the sketch…

Five minutes later the phone rang, and I had a grand old time answering their questions and listening to their thoughts. I particularly loved them pondering which apron was Ruth and which Celeste, and their takes on why. They sure left me thinking, and that may have been why the Muses were exploring their own interpretations of gender roles in art.

Originally I had just a title, A Boston Marriage.

I’ll leave it there for now, it’s entire evolution won’t be complete until this fat lady sings…
but armed with this new sketch, and the lingering energy of the collective Woman’s Studies class, I was eager to get to work.

I already had my models in waiting…and waiting..and waiting…since I first approached them with this request over two years ago.  And we have plans to see them for dinner this weekend…but scheduling modeling time now that the Muses have arrived means postponing the fun of digging into this painting for potentially days or weeks.

And there you have it.
I needed a workaround.
Alas, I stepped all over the creative flow with today’s failed attempts to “fill in” the gap between that project, for which I have found the spark, with something equally compelling that will be the work of days rather than weeks.

Frustrating to waste one of these precious days when I have nothing but lifting brushes on the agenda. This month has far too many interruptions on the calendar to allow me to pull up the drawbridge. That will happen the minute the new year bells chime.

So, rather than call this day a complete wash, I have now used you dear readers to help me work through this…

And Herself,
who has just texted me this from her snuggly sofa in the cabin…

“What painting are you working on ? Asking for a friend (insert red heart emoji)”

My response… I’m writing a blog about NOT coming up with a painting idea.

Stay frosty out there…

H

 


The Mystery Unravels…

Well, tomorrow at this time we will be pulling into Mystic for our first stop on the way to the island. And so it is fitting to use this last blog post before the show to catch you up on the investigation into that carving on the spinning wheel at the Mystic Seaport Museum.

THIS JUST IN…

Remember this painting…

The Spinning Loft

And do you remember the detail shot of the carving on this large wheel in the foreground

Well, Follansbee and Co have uncovered some information that brings us closer to solving the riddle of who might have carved it and what building would it have been.

I want to introduce you to Paula Marcoux…her delicious website is here…click.

PAULA

Marcoux

Writer
Speaker
Consultant
teacher

I’m a food historian who consults with museums, film producers, publishers, and individuals.

My training is in archaeology and cooking, and I enjoy applying the knowledge of past cooks and artisans to today’s food experience.

My work is exploring bygone pathways of food history and culture, through building, experimenting, playing, and eating. 

I’ve known of her through Peter, and following her on social media, but we haven’t yet met.

So Peter reaches out to his Plymouth pals and they do what they do best…research stuff.
I’m going to copy the thread of their discoveries here, with permission of the author, and then the caveat that she made me promise to include will be there at the end. Clearly these people are driven by brilliant minds, and their super powers are curiosity.

From Peter then Paula,

PF -So the question is:
Is the graffiti scratched into this equipment at Mystic, originally from Cordage park, real? Is that a building somewhere around Cordage?

Who would know?

PM -I will want to read her blog later carefully—but yes what mystic exhibits is one third of Plymouth Cordage’s rope walk.

PM -The builidng in the graffiti (which IS fascinating) looks to be a wharfside structure, right? The ell to the right is on pilings over the water. Plymouth Cordage was situated to take advantage of Plymouth’s best natural channel—a piece of relatively navigable water called the Town Guzzle. Certainly long gone by the time of this image around 1900:\https://digital.hagley.org/AVD_1982_231_016

If you look at this map, you can see how the walk was situated….(here’s a clip) I would guess that the building pictured would be between the place it was carved in the ropewalk building and the harbor.

There are other 19th c images I’ll poke around for later

Then Peter assumes he has satisfied my tasking him to get the skinny…

PF – (satisfied) my debt to Heather that is…god knows what I owe PM now…

Then…

PM – Also January 25, 1867 — the storehouse at the Cordage Works was “blown down” in a gale and a lot of damage was done to wharves…. that could have been the end of that building (WT Davis, Memories, p 221) 

And again a day later…

PM – In its earliest iteration the Cordage consisted of a rope-walk, wharf, storehouse and other buildings (incorporated August 1824). 

Huge expansions came  by the late 30s, with the adoption of steam power, but the walk itself might function the same regardless of power source.
I can see from the same source that two Carrs (Andrew and Patrick) had been working for the Cordage for decades by 1900 —then both around middleaged and having started working there young — Patrick at 9). 
My money that a little more research will suggest their father, Belfast emigrant William Thomas Carr, produced these graffiti after lunch on August 4th, 1851, while his foreman was out sick with “a summer complaint, brought on by eating blackberries and cream”. Okay, we probably won’t get to that satisfying a level of detail. But the first two paragraphs are documented at least.
And quickly after I asked if I could share this here…

PM –

Sure, Heather, with the proviso that it is very “tossed-off” and incomplete—I should be working on my own problems, but I get so sucked into these kinds of questions (in case that’s not apparent) but I’m always surprised when others are interested. And although I was joking about the elder Mr. Carr from Belfast, I would not be shocked if I could get a little further with his identity—the Cordage was great at record-keeping. In it’s first fifty years at least it was the very model of a paternalistic enterprise — its founder had very high ideals and took a distinct interest in the welfare of the workers and their families. 

Here’s the bibliography so far. (There are lots more cordage publications, too, that I haven’t looked into yet.):

The Plymouth Cordage Company; Proceedings at Its Seventy-fifth Anniversary

By Plymouth Cordage Company (1900)

 

Plymouth Memories of an Octogenarian

By William Thomas Davis

 

History of the Town of Plymouth

By James Thacher

Now wasn’t that cool to learn about ?
I know, me too, I love the library at our fingertips time we live in.

And I love that all these people are making their livings today by dabbling in centuries old traditions and crafts.

If you want to learn more about such endeavors,
I encourage you to start by doing some of you own research,
and I’ll make it really easy for you…
Visit their website Plymouth Craft…by clicking here.

Good people
doing meaningful work

and teaching others
and passing it on.
It takes a village and I’m grateful to Paula for taking the time to provide us with some answers. When I get home, I’m going to follow the breadcrumbs she’s left.
Thanks to all of you for tuning in.
And thanks to  Liquid Web 
for making this blog work like lightening.
Now that this thing can keep up with me I will be posting more regularly.
Stay frosty out there and I’ll let you know when the brushes are once again…flying.

The Spinning Loft

The Spinning Loft  –  30 x 40

This one got personal.
I am a spinner.

We have one more stop to make in Mystic.
A short walk from the Morgan is a lonnnnnng building

And this is the Spinning Loft,
below which is the Ropewalk at the Mystic Seaport Museum.
There is a short video ...click here...which shows a bit of what this room was all about,
and you can read more of it’s history there as well.

But it really is worth a visit to let all your senses dive into this space.
Resonant with the century old aromas of hemp and salt air,
the velvety soft patine of well worn wooden surfaces,
the sensuous flow of the carded fiber,
it positively sings history.

The perspective isn’t skewed, this building is really 250 ft long,
and it was only one section of the original Plymouth Cordage Company,
which operated until the mid-1900’s and was then moved to the Mystic village.

Here are some close up shots to lure you into the lusciousness of the fibers…

and the long walk back in technology…

And there’s a mystery…

As is so often the case,
when I returned from one of several visits to the museum
and reviewed the thousands of reference photos,
I spied this carving on the giant spinning wheel.

Those frisky muses.

Round about my birthday,
the Follansbee came through on his trek to teach some woodworking down south,
and, being a carver of woody things,
I showed him this part of the painting,
whereupon he said that Plymouth Cordage used to be a company town built around the rope making industry.

I went down a serious rabbit hole after googling it.
I’ll leave those historic details dangling for anyone interested in doing their own research,
but the point here is that many of the old buildings remain in town.

These Painter’s Notes will serve as a reminder to Peter that he said he would look into seeing if anyone in those parts recognizes the building from this carving…
well…from my rendering of the carving.

That should be sorta fun.

For me,
it’s all about the peaceful art…
of spinning.