the sky has fallen and emaline in the park

I’m writing to you today from the wreckage of my dear old place. The plaster ceiling collapsed on Monday. I’m crammed into the “safe section” with all my belongings and lots of dust. All my plans for October are canceled and I’m scrambling to get things together to leave for the rest of the month at least.

wreckage

The event itself was shocking and my brain has not really worked right since. All the rubble is still here ( which is interesting…..) and I sift through sometimes looking for tiny things that might have survived.

tiny tea cup among the rubble

I hate to wish time away. Especially October. It’s such a good month. But the next few weeks feel impossible. I will keep you posted as the situation and my whereabouts unfold.

rubble

When the catastrophe happened I was having a perfect rainy October day, hand sewing a rag doll, sitting right underneath. I’ve got good reflexes. She and I just ended up dusty and surprised.

emaline in the park

Her perfect October continues, spending blustery days in the park among the fading flowers and leaves, reading about star crossed lovers and thinking her wistful thoughts.

emaline ragdoll

curious specimens

tiff : specimens

ann wood makerie

Constraints are interesting. So are intersections. We employed both elements in our warm up exercise at the mini makerie in Boulder last week. Each student received a mysterious box of supplies, a chunk of time and one instruction: a source for inspiration that shall remain a secret because it worked beautifully and I’ll probably do it again.

stitched collages

The compositions they created far surpassed my expectations and got wheels turning in all sorts of interesting ways for the entire workshop.

Immediately after the warm up we began creating our collection of imagined specimens: curious plants and creatures that exist at the edge of dream and reality. The workshop took place at At Hand Studio in Boulder, artist Fran Menely’s spectacular work space. As we began to think about inventing our specimens we explored her gardens for inspiration.

I loved spending 3 big days with 11 like minded individuals. Women who showed up willing to try stuff, experiment and collaborate. We spent most of the final afternoon photographing our work. We used found objects, specimen pins, old book covers (I grab them whenever I see them – such unexpected colors) and scavenged text to create mood and atmosphere that suggests the sort of dream world our strange specimens might inhabit, their imagined history.

cindy : stitched pods

tif: specimens

blair : pod and dragonfly

debora : nest

angela :mushroom and bug

fran : indigo mushroom

whitney : mushroom

abby : paper and fabric flowers

rachel : seedpod

tara : mushroom

karen : mushroom

dioramas in the forest and a third kind of image

squam diorama workshop

diorama workshop at squam

I think about thinking a lot. I think about imagination a lot. The mystery of it.  Creativity, art, inspiration, expression, all of that. I think about how it feels to get something past the filters. To get something that was inside on the outside in a way that feels complete and true. Seeable. With all it’s you-ness in tact.

That kind of expression is what’s on my mind when I’m preparing for workshops. The last two especially, Squam and the mini makerie. Both workshops had a strong focus on exploring and trusting your imagination and starting without knowing exactly where you are headed. Experimenting and responding.

I experiment on myself all the time, watch myself work, observe my own thinking and patterns, where I get stuck, how I unstick myself and I bring that experience with me. I also read a lot this spring and summer about art, imagination and creativity and that something else that doesn’t have a name. I came across the quote below in a collection of observations on Joseph Cornell’s boxes by Charles Simic. I love the idea of a third kind of image:

“There are really three kinds of images. First, there are those seen with eyes open in the manner of realists in both art and literature. Then there are images we see with eyes closed. Romantic poets, surrealists, expressionists, and everyday dreamers know them. The images [Joseph] Cornell has in his boxes are, however, of the third kind. They partake of both dream and reality, and of something else that doesn’t have a name. They tempt the viewer in two opposite directions. One is to look and admire the elegance and other visual properties of the composition, and the other is to make up stories about what one sees. In Cornell’s art, the eye and the tongue are at cross purposes. Neither one by itself is sufficient. It’s that mingling of the two that makes up the third image.”

– Charles Simic
Dime store Alchemy

I so recommend this book. I got it as a gift from my much older sister who is knitting me a sweater several years ago and it has been next to my bed ever since waiting for me.

I asked students to keep that in mind, the unnamable thing, the third kind of image, as the worked on their boxes in the forest at Squam:

*click the images for a larger view – there are lots of details.

squam diorama workshop

squam dioramas

squam playhouse

And just like that it’s fall. September has gone by in a flash and I miss the forest, especially my early morning walk along this path for coffee. Until next time.

“The real things are happening in the forest still.” – Charlotte Mew

 

gunderson and snodd, a plum bat and other creatures

ann wood owls back

* The owls and everything below (plus some lambs in pants) are in the shop now.

Meet Mr. Snodd and Mr Gunderson. The best of friends.  I spent the last couple weeks finishing things, getting almost done stuff across the finish line. It clears out so much brains space. And I love the sensation of crossing something off the list.  I’m shifting my focus now to last minute workshop prep. I did not achieve the dream of being fully prepared  a week ahead of time but I’m in better shape than I usually am this close to leaving. Progress, not perfection right?

ann wood owls back

hand stitched bat

hand stitched bat

This plum bat is the second one I’ve made with the new method and I’m happy with it.  There are still some complications and difficulties I need to get rid of though before I can think about turning it into a sewing pattern.

paper mache ship and owl

The ship above is made from the small ship pattern.  And the gentleman sailor owl is the small size from the little owl pattern.

paper mache ship and owl

And a slate finch. I wish you could feel her velvet head.

slate finch : handstitched songbird

ann wood songbird

antique lace

antique lace

I’m spending the rest of the day sorting through mountains of fabric and lace to decide what’s coming with me. Some will be for workshops and some for the Squam Art Fair. I’ll be there with sewing patterns and some vintage supplies. Or just come say hi. If you do please bring me a beer (the keg is by the door).

 

 

stitching in prospect park

hand stitched owl

September first was an excellent day for sewing outside. I spent most of the afternoon hand stitching in Prospect Park.  I should do it more often, it’s always lovely. I worked on owls and finished a new songbird.

handmade songbird

mr. gunderson owl

The lambs in pants came too, they read, explored, drank sweet tea and napped all afternoon, the way lambs like to (P.S. the tiny quilt was a gift – it’s spectacular – thank you CP!).

lamb picnic

On the way out of the park I wanted one more photo – the lamb with his book and satchel. The little yellow satchel is special – I love it and it was my plan to never part with it.  When I looked for it among my bags of packed up things it was nowhere. I searched furiously, unpacking everything and realized it was officially gone. Out in the world all alone. It was breezy, it had been quite a while since I packed up and I was far away from where I had been sitting so it seemed pretty hopeless.  Walking back to the original spot seemed like a waste of time and I was already late. But I did it anyway.  And there it was. Undisturbed on the grass under the tree looking especially tiny.  It was a tiny satchel miracle.

tiny satchel

lamb ragdoll

Wishing you a lovely weekend and a Happy September,
ann

margin – or, panic early

I first published this post more than two years ago. In all of my 11 years of blogging it is one of my favorites. It is also still my biggest struggle. I’m sharing it with you today for two reasons:

  1. For the first time in a long time I haven’t got a blog post this week. I’m occupied with filling orders, details for upcoming workshops and beginning to plan new classes and workshops for 2018 (including at least one in Europe…… stay tuned).
  2.  The message, the idea of margin, is one I need to hear and apply again and again but especially right now. It boils down to this – when there is certainly and officially too much to do – the only sensible thing is to decide to do less. Ideally before it gets decided for you.

I’m forcing myself into my high gear, last minute place, that magic spot where priorities are crystal clear and hard decisions get made easily. I’m forcing myself into that place a little early so the week before I leave to teach I’ll be one of those super chill prepared people. For the first time. Ever.

(This post was originally published April 2015 – I’ve updated with images of preparations for my natural history workshop)

Had I already mastered the idea of margin in my life I wouldn’t be editing this post 20 minutes before I need to publish it. But I have not mastered margin, not at all. Margin is the space between, the room left for error or chance, the cushion, and I rarely have any. I’m the guy hand making one more Christmas gift at 2 AM on the 24th, 10 year old me was adding glitter to my styrofoam ball planets on the bus to the science fair. It isn’t really about procrastination (although I’m great at that too) – it’s more – I see some space, some room and think “why not add something?! Why not make it better?! Let’s do both!”.  It is a kind of misguided enthusiasm – it’s hard to say no to something I’d love to do even when I know there isn’t enough time. It also comes from fear of lack – fear that the universe will find me ungrateful and opportunities will disappear, it’s living in fear, fear of scarcity. And I am a wishful thinker, I catch myself all the time planning for things to go perfectly, filling every possible moment with commitments, scheduling things back to back or overlapping. It feels like I’m being diligent, a hard worker, but I’m setting myself up to fail – when there is no room for error some little thing, like the printer breaking, can become a huge deal.

When you have margin you have options – so often in this life that I supposedly designed to afford choice I feel I have none. And I need to fix that. Fix it or miss out on my best work. Fix it or be swept along in the chaos – just reacting to emergencies.

I came across this article recently and for some reason it penetrated in a way that the idea just hasn’t before. It got my attention and it stuck with me and I understand something new: margin isn’t something that happens when things get magically better, it is a decision.

It’s a choice.

It’s a choice and a discipline, something you plan for. I don’t have a busyness problem I have a decision making problem.

It sounds simple – just plan for extra time  – but It means fighting against life long inclinations and habits, the temptation to fill every available minute is strong. My first move in the right direction is to figure out how to take one day a week completely off. Oh boy. My current situation is so far away from that I can barely get my head around the idea and at this point I think it’s going to take a while to make it happen. I’m hoping for progress, not perfection, for improvement, some sense that this is attainable for me.

So much of the new stuff I’m trying is working but I think this one issue is the lynch pin, the biggest obstacle, the thing between me and real improvement in my work and my life.

mending, tiny pants, a blue owl, and other travel sewing

indigo owl work

Another thing to love about small sewing, hand sewing, is how well it travels. I’m packing up some projects today and heading out of NYC to water and forests and people who have forgotten what I look like.  It’s the first of several upcoming trips.

indigo owl work

indigo owl wing

This blue owl is coming. His indigo wings are all pinned up and ready for stitching. I love the blues, the variety, layered together Boro style.  There is also some small blue appliqué work – I’m experimenting with eyes.  More on that soon.

indigo owl progress

I’m bringing lot’s of mending too. The seats of my pants mostly. I’ve been wandering around Brooklyn lately with extra and unseemly ventilation.

cornell and mending

cornell and mending

Most of my other upcoming travel is for workshops and I’m in serious last minute thinking and preparation mode for both of those – natural history with the makerie and diorama with Squam. I’m spending some time with Joseph Cornell’s boxes and thinking about how things, objects, relate to each other, the moods and atmosphere and ideas those relationships can create and the poetry of things. They are ideas important to each of the afore mentioned workshops.

tiny tousers

And I want to sit by the water and make tiny trousers. Tiny trousers for little lamb gentlemen. I find the little pants particularly satisfying – they are quick and there is just something about tiny pants.

lamb folk progress

I want to come home with a little pile of satchels and pants.

(ps- there is a mr. lamb in the shop).

good and simple lamb folk

mr. and mrs. lamb

mr. and mrs. lamb

Patched and mended, a little worse for wear, but good and happy sheep, sheep who persevere. I made mr. and mrs. lamb from the mr. socks pattern with just a couple little modifications. Their outfits and the satchel are made from the tiny rag doll clothing and wardrobe patterns with modifications detailed here.

The only changes are to the head. I made ears  – gray on one side and black on the other – stitched with the right sides together. I left the last half inch open for turning right side out.

I closed the opening, whip stitched around the seam and then stitched the ears to the head. I cut a little circular head cover instead of the pointy mr. socks head cover.

I pinned the head cover in place and stitched over the ears and across the front. I added a tiny bit of stuffing before closing the back so his head would be smooth.

lamb ragdolls

Here they are all sheepified – mrs. has got some seriously happy ears.

tiny doll wardrobe

tiny trousers

Mr. L’s tiny trousers are my favorite part – made from the tiny rag doll bloomers – I added about 1/4 inch to the pattern and they just fit.

mr.lamb

Mr. L sports the always risky pants and scarf but no shirt look.

mr. lamb in the forest

He is off to wander among the woebegone pines.  Find the free pattern for the trees right here. I’m working on some photographs for the holidays so I’m making a bunch right now.

slower, quieter : experimenting with appliqué

appliqué experiments

appliqué experiments

Sewing is frequently on my mind when I’m painting and drawing and painting and drawing is frequently on my mind when I’m sewing. Lots of intersections, lots of overlap. I wondered what might happen in the translation process – from paint to cloth. Wondered if it would be interesting – what it might change or reveal. I decided to try some things this week. Make my self start, start before I had it all figured out, before I know what they might be. I chose a couple simple and small designs to begin.

appliqué ideas

The ideas emerged from my sketchbook work, my little daily paintings which aren’t so daily right now you may have noticed. I’m taking a break so I can work on some other experiments like this.

appliqué ideas

appliqué experiments

At first I tried turning, basting and ironing the edges of my sometimes tiny shapes before stitching. It was tedious and awkward and I found I liked cutting shapes and turning the edges under as I stitched much better.  And the translation process is interesting. I found lot’s of inspiration there. It is slower and quieter than paint. I think hard about relationships, my decisions are deliberate. And there is an element of happenstance – the cloth brings unexpected details, textures and colors I did not invent.

appliqué experiments

I never would have chosen a warm red for this piece- but it was all I had so I tried it and I love it. Making those big, bold  red stitches was surprisingly satisfying.

And it’s the perfect kind of sewing for the morning – before I’m quite awake. I love having something all ready for stitching, waiting for me when I get up – everything cut and pinned. It is also good traveling work, subway work, sit in the park work.

sketchbook swan

I have plans for lot’s more of these. Some tiny and some large. I’d love to do a very large stitched interpretation of this swan. It will take me one million years to make.

PS – Do you get the newsletter?  The latest blog posts and extras – delivered to your inbox. You can checkout this week’s here. And sign up here if you like.

applique experiments

front bustles, a frothy negligee, tiny medals of honor and other happy details

soldier doll : coat

This is a long post – with lots of dolls in it. All the dolls below are in the shop right now.

soldier doll : coat

The details make me happy. The tiny details. Stitching the feathers and flourishes to his hat and the medals to his coat. I’ve been looking forward to those tiny medals since starting him. They are pretty much why I made him.

soldier rag doll

A note on his fancy hat – I’ve just learned it’s a Bicorne – that is what the Napoleon-ish hats are called. Now you know – in case it comes up.  Let’s talk about the coat. It has a real working, very tiny, button and button hole. It is my first. It might be my last. But I do love it. I am turning him into a sewing pattern and the coat will be included – it’s very easy to make.

soldier doll : coat

doll skirts with front bustles

And I sure do love a front bustle. It looks so pretty on the hem and reveals a scandalous amount of leg.rag dolls with secrets

I wonder what they talk about…….  Lots of progress was made this week on the rag doll pattern. I’m planning on including a basic body, a clever and easy hair method and options for stockings, underthings and a skirt and, of course, the nude option.

rag doll with black stockings

Speaking of nude, I made Nora a frothy negligee – so when she wanders the moors in the mist she is not quite so entirely naked.

rag doll in a frothy negligee

And finally dear mrs. spots. With lots of details, all her necessities. You can find more about how to make her wardrobe here.

mrs. spots wardrobe

mrs. spots doll

indiscreet rag dolls, a colonel, two mischievous cats and expressive feet

rag dolls : expressive feet

The five day – doll every day challenge: I was great at starting them. Less great at finishing them.
They still aren’t done. I made the executive decision to go with “substantially, but not quite finished”.

naked rag doll : nora

Here is who turned up – the first was nora who you met last week. She didn’t get any happier but she did get more naked. I decided to give her all the lady details. She is a little smaller than the original immodest dolls and I also made a lot of progress toward turning her into a pattern.

naked rag doll : nora

A steady hearted Colonel. I like his turned out toes and expression – and I found a new way to make hair easily. I think I’d like him to be a sewing pattern too – what do you think?

steady hearted colonel doll

steady hearted colonel doll

rag doll : fancy stockings

rag doll : fancy stockings

Next – a lady with fancy stockings. Same pattern as nude nora. She and the Colonel both have expressive feet. I try to give everybody expressive feet.

rag dolls : expressive feet

And the last two were a mr. socks and a mrs. spots (find the sewing pattern here). I never get tired of making the mischievous little cats.

mr. socks rag doll

It was a good exercise for me in a couple of ways. My brain got moving again – I generated lots of ideas and found some energy. I made things I might not have otherwise – things I like. And containing projects in a day made me see more clearly how long things really take and how consistently I underestimate that. Still. The week ended up with too many things crammed into it- next time I do this I’ll clear some days completely.

I’ll put all the dolls above and a couple others in the shop next week. You can sign up here if you’d like an email when they are available.

onward,
a

PS – there are a few new paintings in the shop:

               

rowing out of the doldrums with a doll every day

nora : hand stitched doll

For the next few days anyway.
Doldrums. Who ever invented the word deserves a prize. It sounds like what it is, what it feels like: a warm inertia, an unpleasant stillness, listlessness. Apparently I am not a summer person –  productivity wise anyway – I always find myself here mid July-ish.

Or maybe it’s coincidental. The mid summer almost always finds me working on larger – longer term projects – christmas – workshops for the fall etc. Projects that it can be hard to feel progress on.
And sometimes the stagnated feeling means I need a break. Not this time though – this is a restless stuckness. So I am busting out. Rowing hard until I can catch a breeze and some beautiful momentum. For the next few days I’m making – starting and finishing – a doll everyday. Experiments and some of the usual suspects like mr. socks and tiny rag doll. It’s the kind of sewing I feel like doing, the kind of thinking I’m in the mood for.

nora : hand stitched doll

I began today with Nora. A mysterious dark eyed girl. Im still deciding on her  degree of anatomical accuracy and outfit.  I’ll spend the rest of the afternoon and evening finishing her.

nora : hand stitched doll

Working on shorter term projects gives me a sense of forward motion and satisfaction. I can feel the shape of the day again. Hopefully I can bring some of that energy into the larger projects in a couple days.

Have a lovely weekend and check back next week to see who else appears.
P.S. There are a couple new small paintings in the shop.

7/7       

3 ideas to try : paper lanterns, end of day baskets and collage experiments

paper lanterns by oh happy day

Everything I’m doing this week would either not be remotely interesting to you or is top secret so it’s the perfect time to share a few good ideas I’ve come across lately. Stuff I’d like to try. I love paper lanterns, I like things that hang and play with light.  These have so many possibilities. You could use fancy paper, or found paper – mixing in some wax paper and or fabric could be interesting. I love the way they look hung together. Find a tutorial for four different styles on Oh Happy Day.  And lots more photos too – all beautifully styled and charming.

susies scraps basket

I’m a fan of finding ways to use the littlest scraps – especially little bits of fabric I love to much to part with. You’ll find a complete tutorial for this “end of day” basket here. It seems pretty straight forward – clothes line rope, fabric scraps and a machine with a zig zag stitch. I particularly love the black mixed in with bright color on this basket. It also occurred to me that a tiny – doll size – one might be interesting.

julie hamilton collage sketchbook

And the sketchbook collage work of illustrator Julie Hamilton. I discovered her work through the Brown Paper Bag Blog – there is a post with lots of Julie’s work and more about her process. It’s such a good way to experiment and an easy place to start if you’re feeling stuck. Make some marks. collect some paper, cut stuff up and mess around.

If you try any of these I’d love to hear about it – you can let me know in the comment section.

sketchbook 6/18 – 6/24 and current obsessions

sketchbook : 6/21

The sketch book posts don’t usually get included in the blog page but I made an exception this week for a couple reasons. Mostly because I had a good week – I liked everything I made last week – that hardly ever happens. There’s even a naked lady.

And I wanted to tell you about my current obsession with Staffordshire Pottery and how that came about. I love looking at other people’s stuff. I want to look in your windows and open your drawers. I want to stop by when you are not expecting guests and look at everything. I came across this blog lately: The Bible of British Taste.

And I love everything about it – the houses, the art, the stuff, the textiles- on and on. This house in Scotland is my favorite post. That’s where I came across Staffordshire and there is just something about them – formal, sweet and quirky – all at the same time. You’ll also find some Chinese portraits there that have inspired.

Check it out – I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Also – For the next few weeks any way – I’ll be adding little paintings to the shop each Thursday.