Memories of moss

I’ve been working a lot in white on white in recent weeks (and months) (and years), mostly making small lacy bits through embroidery and needleweaving. I like the way white-on-white work emphasizes the texture created by my stitches. However, all-white work does get boring sometimes, so in the past few days I’ve been working on a little project in lush shades of green, reminiscent of soft mosses and summer foliage.

I don’t go out to the woods as much as I used to, but I did visit a state park this past weekend. As always, I found myself drawn to the small things- moss, lichen, mushrooms, the tiny worlds you can find on the forest floor. Some of those thoughts of soft, lush moss made it into this little piece of needleweaving.

It’s just a sketch, really- nothing fancy, nothing final, just a study for a larger piece that’s in the planning stages. As a reader of my Tumblr reminded me recently, sometimes fiber projects can be sketches too, especially since I don’t really draw.

Starting fresh.

Seven months is a long time. That’s how long it’s been since the last time I posted on this blog. How did that happen?

I know why, of course. My creativity had been struggling for a while. My energy level has been abysmal. I went back to school, which has been time-consuming and sometimes difficult. An exceptionally cold and snowy winter, our first as homeowners, gave us much to worry about. I was frustrated by the world of business and craft fairs and the impact that working to sell things had on my creative work. Other things intervened. It happens.

Most of all, I think, I’ve been learning a lot about the ebb and flow of creativity- my creativity, at least- and how it can’t be nailed down. If I have a muse, it just hasn’t been present for the first half of this year. The best option seemed to be to bow out gracefully and go into hibernation, as it were, hoping that eventually a better time would reveal itself. Which- perhaps- it has.

Things are a little different now. I get a bit of a break from school for the rest of the summer, so I’ll have more time to work on the things that matter most. I’ve effectively distanced myself from the world of craft fairs,which just wasn’t the right place for me. I’m no longer confining what I make just to what I think people will buy. (My Etsy shop remains, but I’ll be focused on one-of-a-kind pieces that really speak to me, rather than just cranking out things I can make quickly and cheaply.)

Also significant, though more personal, is that I’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, a type of gluten intolerance that can have a wide range of symptoms. We think this is what’s been causing my extreme tiredness. Switching to a gluten-free diet is not the most fun thing, but I’m trying to see it as an opportunity to get better, and if it helps me have more energy and feel more like a person, it’s totally worth it.

As my energy level returns to normal, I’m hoping that it will drag my creativity along with it. I’m starting to feel out ways to foster and encourage my creativity now that I’ll have more time and energy to indulge it. I’d love to hear from any of y’all who make things. What do you do when you’re tired, when your mind is blank, when you feel far away from your creative abilities? What do you do to keep your creativity alive in hostile environments?

I’ll try to be posting more, here and on my Tumblr, where I post bits and pieces and pictures of things in progress. I can’t make promises, but I will try, and I do feel like I’m coming into a time of renewal. Feel free to poke and prod me if I’m not posting.

Coming back is difficult. Starting fresh is difficult. Let’s hope that the stars are aligned such that I’ll be able to get that creative part of myself back.


I hit a slump for a while there, but I’m back now. Stitching away on the piece I talk about in this post after a long break; trying different things, some of them sticking, some not so much. I’m starting to get the texture I want, though, as you can see in the bottom picture up there. Layers and networks and intersections simultaneously adding to and obscuring the piece, and the image of my face from years ago. The nature of memory.

I post pictures and updates more frequently at my Tumblr, which you can find here. I’m trying to have a picture up just about every day as a motivation to work on something creative every day.

Entering October

I realize now that I didn’t write anything here in September, and for that I am sorry. It was a long month, full of moving tasks and getting to know the new house- did I mention that we moved?  But we’re settled in now, of a sort, and I’m starting to get my creative flow back in this new space. It’s exciting and illuminating to rediscover the supplies I’ve hoarded up as I unpack them, but also frustrating to be in that stage of still figuring out how to best set up my studio and not quite knowing where everything is. (My “cloudy recollections” embroidery piece has been on hold for just that reason.)

October is my favorite month, though, and hopefully will start me on a path to being a little more productive. In a few weeks, I’ll have a booth at my first craft fair of the season, the 113th Harvest Craft Fair at First Parish of Sudbury, Massachusetts. My scarves and assorted fuzzy things are much better suited to fall fairs than any other time of year, so I’m hoping for a good turnout! In the meantime, I’m working on more scarves, small embroideries, and fiber art for the home in preparation for my fall and winter craft fairs, and feeling out new directions in my personal work. I’m also still posting almost-daily images on my Tumblr of works in progress and little doodles and such. I’m also planning on taking some art classes soon. I have about a year before I start school again in earnest, and I want to keep up with feeling comfortable in a classroom setting.

That’s a bit of an update. Hopefully this month I’ll be able to keep up better with writing.



A project taking shape. Half-remembered faces on gray flannel and natural muslin, embroidered with pearl cotton in dark grey-blue, light grey-blue, and a shifty shade of greyish mauve- the colors of darkening skies.  To be brought  together with more fabric, stitching, and quilting.


In keeping with that last post: here’s a current working song that gives me big feelings about the past, Neko Case’s “Calling Cards.”

Every dial tone, every truck stop, every heartbreak,
I love you more
Looking like you just woke up from making songs
Shooting satellites that blow up the pay phones
Saying we’ll all be together
Even if we’re not together
With our arms around each other
With our faith still in each other
I’ve got calling cards from twenty years ago

Cloudy recollections: a process post

Over the past few weeks, between other short-term projects (as seen on my Tumblr), I’ve been steadily building up a new embroidery project. The seeds of it were sewn a year ago, when I went on vacation and stocked up on embroidery threads in moody, rich colors- greys, blues, and purples, tinges of bronze and green and dust, the colors of a thunderstorm roiling overhead, the dim shades of a bruise fading over time. I didn’t know what I was going to use those colors for, but I held on to them anyway, cotton and silk and wool, just waiting for the right time to pull them out.

I’d also been mulling over a pile of old photos, wondering how best to turn them into something embroidered. It was sort of strange, I reflected, to stitch random people from my past without their knowledge. I couldn’t think of a good reason to do it- why would I want that project? What would be meaningful about it to me? The photos, dimmed on the computer and printed out, sat in a pile in a drawer in my studio with all my other half-finished- or even half-started- projects.

Moody thunderstorm colors and faded pictures of the past. When the click between the two finally happened, it felt totally natural.

When I was growing up, my mom kept hundreds of photos in shoeboxes, always waiting to put them into albums, but always getting behind. Now that digital cameras are omnipresent and it’s possible to take so many pictures without the fuss of physical film and processing, I find myself sitting on an even larger hoard of electronic images, stretching from now back to my first year of college.

Every so often, I find myself paging through them, looking for a certain image or trying to remember a particular time. When I was in college, I took pictures of everything I could find to take pictures of, and they are all still there, snapshots caught in time, just as they looked the day I took them. Friends dance at an impromptu art party, share food at a potluck, simply stand and look at me with my camera. Faces fill the screen; some have changed over time, some have not. Self-portraits abound, many shots taken to try and get the perfect angle to show off a new nose piercing or haircut. People I cared for very much and still care for even after so much time and other events. So many moments.

That was college- and that was years ago, now. College was a special time, a golden time. It was a time I made friends despite my lifelong struggles with social anxiety and shyness. It was a time for so many moments of discovery and growth, for stepping into a new world and encountering new possibilities. Those were the best years of my life.

Or were they?

Looking at old photographs now, during a time in my life when everything is changing and full of uncertainty, I recognize the temptation to idealize the past, and the razor-thin line between fond memory and consuming preoccupation. I dream of the past- old loves, places I called home- and wake up so troubled. I want to live in the moment- it’s important to my mental health and my future that I live in the moment. But the past calls to me with its siren song, begging me to get lost in memories that are no longer even sharp and accurate. My moments, my memories, are disintegrating, and I am trying to cling to them more than is good for me.

So I am stitching over old photographs, distilling them to their essential lines and gestures, remaking them in the moody shades of a stormy sky. When the guiding paper is torn away, what is left? Only an outline- only that sketchy, clouded, photocopied, dogeared memory, so far removed from the moment that it used to be. I am stitching slowly, forcing myself to immerse myself in memory for a little while. My stitches depict something, but as this project evolves they will also obscure with layering and quilting, adding depth and texture, clouding the image as memories are clouded by time.

Practically speaking: what I’m creating is a memory book, a photo album of sorts, but also the opposite: a forgetting book, a recognition of the passing of memory, a way of exorcising the things and times that haunt me so that I can better appreciate the present moment and the new paths of the future. It’s likely to end up in scroll form, rather like a long, skinny patchwork quilt covered in embellishment and embroidery- a book that rolls up like a sleeping bag, a book that can be neatly self-contained and set aside in a place of honor, a book that can be held and hugged and cried on if necessary.

So that’s what I’m up to right now.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Things that inspire me, August 6

  • I’m inspired by the response I get from posting quick photos of my work and works-in-progress over on my Tumblr, which you can find at It’s always nice to get a little visibility, and sometimes I get great suggestions- like recently, when I asked what titles I should add to my fiber-arts library. (Suggestions are still welcome on that front!) Thank you to all of y’all who follow me over there! I can’t follow back on that account, but know that I’ve read and explored many of your own blogs. :)
  • I’m inspired by our upcoming move and the upheaval it’s brought to our house. Not only do I get the prospect of a new working space to make my home- always a fun project!- I’m also remembering and rediscovering so much as I prepare to pack up my studio. It’s good to be reminded sometimes of the wonderful hoard of materials I’m sitting on, from paints to papers, glitter to beads, fabric to mysterious bits and pieces to half-finished projects waiting for a revamp. It reminds me that these things are meant to be used, not set aside as too precious.
  • I’m inspired by Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard, a nature-focused memoir that’s a perennial favorite. Every time I read it, something new- some different phrase or passage- catches my attention and leads my thoughts in a productive direction.
  • I’m inspired by dreams and memories, and the way that the past appears when viewed hazily through the clouds of time. I’m working on an embroidery project based on photographs of times I remember fondly, a period of time in college that I now look back on as a sort of golden time, the early days of my relationship with my now-husband, stitching them in the colors of thunderclouds, dark and moody. They are stitched in outline, some details blurred or obscured, just as the memories they represent have lost their fullness over time and devolved into mere outlines of past feelings. I’m not sure where this project is going… perhaps sewn and quilted into a sort of photo album? But regardless of where it goes, I think it’s actually quite good for me to work out my complicated feelings about those memories through art.

Choices and changes

First things first: the past three weeks have been uncharacteristically busy for me, so I haven’t gotten much done in the way of making my own art. I did get to witness some, however. In mid-June, I got to see both of my sisters perform in their studio’s biennial dance recital, and brought them back to Massachusetts with me for a few weeks of concentrated sister time. They live several states away, so I don’t get to talk to them and watch them grow up as much as I’d like to, and it was great to have that opportunity. On the art front, innumerable paper dolls were made, pictures were colored, Sculpey and air-dry clay formed a play ice cream shop, and thrills were had in the form of getting to paint on actual canvas- “just like a real artist!” said my youngest sister. (I actually think the painting that resulted was pretty good!) Bringing two kids into a normally quiet, adult-only household was a bit of a whirlwind, but we got through it without any disasters. :)

Now that the dust has settled, I’m on to other things. I’ve decided to defer my entrance into my textile and fiber art post-baccalaureate certificate program until next year, meaning I’ll be entering in the fall of 2015. It was a difficult decision, but a number of practical concerns, especially about transportation, made it the best choice for me right now. I’m so lucky they allowed me to defer a year- that will help me get things in order to make sure that I get as much out of school as possible. Where that leaves me is trying to decide what to do with the next fourteen months of my life. It’s not an easy project, but I’m working on it, and working on finding the right ways to incorporate self-defined structure into my days.

To be perfectly frank, the past year hasn’t been easy for me, between health issues, the demands of the Etsy shop and craft fairs, and the concentrated effort to try and figure out what I really want and should do. Everybody has their time for discernment, I guess, and this is mine, and it’s complicated, as it’s always complicated. What happens when what I wanted and prepared for is no longer the right path for me? What should I explore when it seems simultaneously like everything and nothing is possible? And what do I do now that the process of discernment is taking much longer than I thought it would, and I find myself longing to be confident and useful instead of so confused? I’m glad I have a partner and a therapist and a doctor who are good at supporting me through that process, and I’m hoping that other parts of the equation fall into place soon.

One thing is (almost) for sure: in less than two months now, we’ll be moving into our very first home! That project has been under way for a little while now, but I haven’t talked about it here yet since it was still early days. We’ve decided to stay in the same town where we’ve been renting, the town we chose when we first decided to follow our instincts and move out of the city, and have since come to love. It’s just a little Cape Cod-style house, tucked away on a quiet street near the woods, but it’s going to be ours and that makes it special to me. The closing date still seems far off, but it’s still exciting to know that there is a little house a mile away, with tall rhododendrons and dogwood trees and an attic for my studio and room for us to grow, and that house is just waiting for us to arrive.

In six weeks or so, my life will be pretty heavily taken up by packing and moving, but for the moment, I have a break to sort some things out. Heaviest on my mind right now is the lack of a “big project” for the moment. I know that there’s no use trying to force an idea out and starting a project I’m not really into, so I’ve been sticking to small projects- an ongoing blackwork embroidery piece, taking up again the needlepoint of my childhood, a little crochet, a little painting on fabric to be used in future projects. And, of course, lots of reading, blog-following, Pinteresting, and otherwise seeking out things that inspire and teach me.

What I really need to do is come up with a binder or notebook system that works for me, and be more diligent about writing down and fleshing out ideas as they come, then possibly setting them aside for later use- but not forgetting them entirely. With five thousand pins on Pinterest and innumerable saved blog posts, articles, and images, I need a way to organize my inspiration that’s better and more accessible than just folders on my hard drive or pictures pinned to the wall. I have some ideas, but I’m always open to more. Any suggestions?