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On a recent trip into New York to visit my niece, sister, and my dear friend from college, I took a few hours and spent them wandering around The Metropolitan Museum of Art. As a textile design student in NYC in the 1990s, I would go to the Met on a semi-regular basis with the help of student passes and their amazing 'pay what you wish' entrance fee. Some days I went just to see my favorite painting, which was The Album by Edouard Vuillard. I would sit in front of it for a while and then head home. What a luxury – to be able to have the time and easy distance, to visit this museum whenever my heart desired. Memories of those pre-internet days, when a glimpse of a favorite painting were not a keystroke away, are so dear to me. I loved that in order to research a textile or sculpture, I had to go in person to see it, and then spend hours in the library hand writing notes, which I would type into a finished paper on my little portable word processor. There was a great sense of adventure and satisfaction in the long process. I noticed on this recent visit, that while I still love The Album by Vuillard, it's not so much the painting that I love now, but the vivid memories of how it made me feel on my frequent visits. It's comforting seeing it and being in a place where I spent so much un-rushed time. It's like sitting with an old friend or visiting the home of a beloved relative where you spent content days as a child. Each time I visit The Met as an adult, I find new favorites and am struck by the peacefulness of a place that is always so crowded with people. If you're lucky enough to enter an empty gallery, as I did when I happened upon The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, the stillness and wonderment of being alone in the company of such awe-inspiring art, is a gift that feels bestowed directly from the artists themselves.
Since I just shared some images of my block print process, I thought I'd post a few photos of my screen printing process this week. Much of my work is inspired by natural elements that I find on walks. The inspiration for this pattern was a beautiful fern I found in the swamps that border the lake. It measured about 24 inches in length and the finished printed pattern is the same scale. The photos above show my watercolor painting and the in-progress painting of the pattern on the screen with a liquid called drawing fluid. Drawing fluid masks the area of the screen that you'd like to print with so that when you cover the screen with screen filler, the drawing fluid can be washed away and the ink can pass through that area. These new cotton Fern towels will be available in my shop this week, along with another pattern that combines both processes of screen and block printing.
It's so rare that I document my process. Most projects end with me thinking - too bad I didn't keep those branches, or photograph my block carving in progress. Well, I'm finally learning from past regrets. Here's a little glimpse into designing my block print patterns ~ from nature's inspiration to finished product (in this case - naturally dyed organic jersey headbands for my Spring markets).
I've always loved stories set in cold, snowy places. The more remote and isolated the better. There's a quiet in the bleakness of winter that's unlike any other setting or season, and just under the surface of that stillness is a beautiful mystery.
For many years, I wasn't able to fully appreciate that stillness because I was living in the city. Even during the severest of snowstorms, and even when the city "shuts down", there's still movement and noise – it's less, but it's there. Living in a rural Pennsylvania has allowed me to experience the much desired feeling I had only known vicariously through books or film.
When I take walks with Alice now, and the only sound is our breath and the crunch under our feet, I feel like I'm finally getting to know the winter that I had always longed for.