I work downtown. We live in a quiet neighborhood not far from town. This is all very well for walking to work along the seawall and having easy access to excellent bookstores and chocolateries, but I have spent most of my life falling asleep to the sounds of treefrogs and owls, rain and wind. The city traffic and sirens and busyness can be overwhelming. Sometimes I need to get away. Anywhere with forest or open water and quiet will do. On one such day recently, we headed out for a hike in the highlands. I wore gumboots and brought an apple and a lump of cheese, and couldn't resist looking for hedgehog mushrooms even though I know it's still too early for them there.
Sunwashed streets are whispering summer. The air outside is delicious today. A hint of a breeze lingers in high branches moving past sunning crows and rusty oak leaves. These and the glossy acorns on the ground remind me that it's November. The snowline is so close I could hike to it from here, and touch the bluish trees in their finely chiseled white coats. Inside, there are cats and coffee. Projects begun and projects that are but shapes in my head and scribbled notes.
I have neglected to write for so many reasons. Staying up late and waking tired, then sleeping more. Morning walks and the distraction of a good book (The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila). A lack of new studio endeavors that sound thrilling to the casual ear. I have been sewing, some. Ironing, lots. Printing a vivid orange swath of cotton from my onion skin dyepot and a lustrous straw coloured linen cloth that went into the onion skins after. I am experimenting with printing small line drawings - a dabbling in toiles that I have long considered, and am now working to incorperate into my usual freehand floral motifs. The walnut hulls are still lurking conspicuously in the kitchen. Each morning I strain out the dark liquid and add more water from my leftover onion skin bath, and heat the acrid sludge once more. I will keep at this until all the colour has been extracted or until I fill my largest dye vat. Both in efforts to increase the richness of colour and to hopefully overpower the strong walnut hull odor, I'm adding coffee grounds to the pot.
A full month free from long scheduled days has led to an interesting, though perhaps not surprising restructuring of my days. It turns out I'm useless in the morning at anything that disallows puttering. Afternoon and early evening are strong studio hours. A need for dinner and all things related inserts itself next, then the hours that follow tend to be productive and focused, but not always spent in the studio. Sometimes the household requires cookies, like the chocolate peppermint ones, but with orange extract instead of the mint. All of a sudden, the clock insists that it is very late and bed is essential if I really think I can wake up at seven thirty or eight. It's a rough life, arting full time. I'm going to miss it.
A few small truths: I wipe my fingers on my apron when I'm printing. I don't like to wear gloves. Back in school, I would come home splotched blue and yellow and red all the way up to my elbows. My favorite squeegee is a small plastic dough scraper. I don't even own a t-square and haven't done a registered repeat since the day I learned how. Sometimes I don't remember how I made the colours I get because I add things after I write it down. It is an intuitive process, this printing of mine.
We have had the pleasure, this November, of experiencing nearly every kind of weather. There have been rainy days, which are good for sewing, and glorious warm days where shortsleeves are an entirely reasonable wardrobe option, then some exciting wind that kept us up one night and blew leaves into a thicker carpet on the sidewalks and left more sky showing between tree branches. On Sunday morning, we woke up to snow falling thickly. (This required a bike ride down a slippery, steepish trail, squealing disc brakes cutting into the blanket of quiet in the forest.)
My studio month is wrapping up yet I feel like I've just begun the process of making art in a much more real sense. This will continue.
This morning, day one, I woke up exhausted. Today is meant to be a switching gears kind of day. Recovering from work, maybe pulling the last of the root vegetables from the garden and putting some garlic in. Maybe I'll tidy the house a bit so I can focus, and bake something nummy to relax and get my creative energy flowing. As Kristie at work said yesterday, "baking is therapeutic".
So, this is it. Here we go! A taste of real, full-time arting.
I must admit, I have this idea that I'll be able to go for nice walks in the crisp fall air and admire the fiery leaves and misty mountains, and sit about drinking lots of coffee and maybe scribbling in my journal. These things might happen to keep me going.
The real plan though, is to shift into production mode. I need to set up my light table and emulse and burn new screens, cook up some dyebaths (I have some birch bark soaking in the basement that will hopefully yield a sweet rosy shade), do a whole bunch of printing and steaming and rinsing and probably more printing, then some cutting and pressing and pinning and stitching. Hopefully I'll also have time to pound out some more felt and make tea cozies out of it.