Taos Journey – Day 1

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Despite getting a late start on the road from Albuquerque to Taos and also leaving during the height of rush hour traffic, we were graced with a very good omen that traveled along with us for quite some time. As I drove along, I just kept thinking how different and, even somewhat alien, the landscape seemed in comparison to my home in New England. But oh, how lovely it was with the shifting patterns of light and the towering mountains shadowing our route. The spirit of this landscape was speaking directly to my soul.

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First rule of thumb when traveling and driving to an unknown destination: plan your arrival during the daylight hours! Our drive to Taos took approximately 2 1/2 hours and, yes, we did arrive just as it was getting dark. Of course, we got a little lost but we finally pulled into the driveway of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House around 8pm, just in time to attend a welcoming gathering in the Main House.

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Mabel was a writer, social activist and patron of the arts. She moved to Taos in 1919 and purchased this 12 acre property. For those who saw the recently debuted Lifetime movie on Georgia O’Keeffe, another famous resident of New Mexico, it was to Mabel’s home that Georgia fled after her husband, Alfred Steiglitz, had an affair with another woman. You can read more about Mabel here. She has written several books on her life in Taos. One in particular, “Winter in Taos”, is at the top of my reading list.

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The next day dawned clear and bright as it always seems to do in Taos. As the day progresses, the clouds roll in and gather over the mountaintops in spectacular sweeps and shapes.

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After a delicious breakfast spread, our morning knitting session commenced. Our teacher and fearless leader, Jane Thornley, shared her philosophy of knitting with us, telling us that it was important to listen to your inner creative voice and let the yarn flow and come together in a free-form, or free range, way. We could choose to make a wrap, a shrug or a scarf, whatever was calling out to us.

You can see Jane’s gorgeous wrap called “The Road to Taos” here. Jane is an avid traveler and the harmonious flow and beautiful color palettes of her creations are inspired by the landscapes and nature she comes across in her travels.

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After lunch, we took a field trip to the yarn shops in downtown Taos, La Lana Wools and Weaving Southwest.

All I can say of that adventure is – oh my!

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It was a feast for the eyes for a color freak like moi.

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We finished our day with a lovely meal at the Dragonfly Cafe, a European cafe and bakery that uses seasonal, locally grown fresh produce, most of it organically produced. We sat in a cozy, cushioned alcove, a comfortable place to end our very busy day.

Stay tuned for my Taos Journey – Day 2…

“Of all the worlds that Mabel tried to create, her dream of turning Taos into a paradise regained speaks to us most clearly today, and not just because it was a modern reincarnation of the oldest American myth.  She addressed the issues that still challenge us; the possibility of our survival in an individualistic world, in a country where community is rarely found, in a land that slowly chokes itself on the effluence of its industrial processes.”

~Lois Palken Rudnick, exerpt from Mabel Dodge Luhan, New Woman, New Worlds

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A Trip to New Mexico and a Knitting Retreat

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With each passing day, my anticipation and excitement is growing and expanding as I think about my coming journey to New Mexico. 2 more days!

The first half of my trip will be spent in Albuquerque visiting with my youngest son and his family. And, yes, my precious little granddaughter! So, I will get some “Ella time” which is always welcome with wide open arms. Heaven.

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The second half of my trip will be spent in Taos where I will attend a Jane Thornley free range knitting retreat. We will be creating a garment of our choosing, a wrap or shrug, using the Feather and Fan stitch and an assortment of colorful, textured yarns in colors reflecting the southwest nature palette.

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I was also very excited to be able to complete my “Come Spring” vest so I can wear it on my trip.

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After I finished my vest, I couldn’t resist starting my granny squares. Here’s a peek at what’s done so far.

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I am just loving choosing different color combinations for the squares so that each one is unique. With 16 different colors and 4 rows for each square, the possibilities are many.

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Now that I’m officially a “granny”, how perfect is this?

I will take loads of pictures on my trip and look forward to sharing tales of my adventures upon my return!

A Pumpkin Hat

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While visiting my parents last year, my Mom gave me some skeins of Blue Sky organic cotton yarn in pumpkin (#622) and fern (#620) along with a pattern for making a pumpkin hat for my granddaughter. So cute! Yet, at the time, I thought it was perhaps a little too advanced for my knitting skills. Well, as you can see from the photo above – SUCCESS! Just in time for her to wear this fall.

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This yarn has a beautiful feel to it and comes in a wide range of yummy colors like honeydew, flamingo and circus peanut.

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If you are interested in knitting a pumpkin hat for a special little one in your life, I found a  free online pattern here. Or, you can purchase the original pattern I made here.

Work is love made visible.

~Kahlil Gibran

From My Studio

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I was so enchanted with knitting my first vest that I dove right into knitting a second one in a different colorway. Above is a photo of the back center ribbon yarn panel. I used Knit one, Crochet Too Tartelette yarn in the Rainforest colorway. Mmmm…

I’ve just completed the knitting and am now carefully weaving in each little yarn end, one at a time. While I love choosing my yarns and knitting them together in a free-form way, this weaving part seems very tedious to me. There is a soothing rhythm to it but it takes such an awfully long time to complete. It’s much like sanding polymer clay work. And, just like with that, it’s time to slow down and not be so impatient for the finished product.

I’d love to hear how others cope with this never ending task.

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With my first vest, I stayed with very similar colors as the original vest pattern. This is what drew me to it in the first place. Now I’ve branched off into a colorway that expresses me uniquely – muted, soft blues, greens and tans. I am so looking forward to wearing it. My first vest is going to be a gift for someone special.

The free-form knitting bug has bitten me quite deeply, taking over all of my free art time. I am enjoying myself so much in this luscious world of color and texture. So much so that I will eventually need to rouse myself out of this infatuation soon to get back to jewelry making for my show in November.

Not just yet though.

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I’ve started gathering a yarn stash for my next free-form project which I will be knitting in Taos, New Mexico. I’ve signed up to participate in a Jane Thornley workshop in September. More on that very soon…

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Last weekend during a visit to Lowe’s, I grabbed some paint chips in southwestern colors to help me in picking out my yarns.

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I’m also trying to decide what color to paint the kitchen in my new condo. After months of waiting, my closing is drawing near. I happened to put this fresh Oasis green yarn on top of my chips and was immediately enchanted by the color combo.

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While shopping in Joann Fabrics several days later, I came upon this beautiful fabric. Does that ever happen to you? I get a specific colorway on the brain and I keep seeing it everywhere! This will be perfect for some pillows.

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While browsing the internet one day, I came across 2 lovely blogs bursting with color and granny square crocheting – Lucy at Attic24 and Vanessa at do you mind if i knit. Oh, I remember granny squares! I’ve made many a blanket over the years with this sweet, old fashioned technique. In fact, carefully folded away in my closet is one of my children’s baby blankets in a rainbow of sherbert colors. Anyway, I started to think that quite possibly it was time for another granny square adventure so I found some very reasonably priced cotton yarn called Sonata at elann.com. A granny square blanket in greens, blues and purples would be just perfect for my bed in my new place.

My art world lately has been filled with yarn, yarn and more yarn. How about yours?

From My Studio

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My free-form (free range) vest is almost done. I thought the weaving of the yarn ends would never end! I was playing with them and made this little colorful nest. As I was playing with the strands, an idea popped into my head.

Could I put them outside for the birds to make their nests? Is that safe?

I can’t bring myself to throw these snippets away.

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Instead of adding a band of knitting at the bottom, I single crocheted all around the edges of the vest, including the armholes. It made the bottom a little wavy looking, I’m not sure why. I really like the edging but think that I should add a couple more rows of single crochet.

What do you think?

Here’s a closeup of the back panel of ribbon yarn.

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Even though you need to take great care when stitching and later washing the garment, I love working with ribbon yarn. It’s so scrumptious looking with the way the colors wash into each other and it feels silky and luscious in my hands.

Lately, instead of beads, I’ve started collecting yarns. Oh no, another addiction. Here’s the latest purchase. I think I’ll make another vest in lighter blues, greens and tans.

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Speaking of blues and greens, I started playing with my watercolors last weekend. I’m not painting anything in particular, just feeling the way the colors lay on the paper and swirl and mix into each other. I’m just playing…

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I especially love the “bloom” effect as the colors meet on the wet page. Blue says, “hello yellow, let’s bloom together and make green” Lovely.

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Maybe someday I’ll actually paint some real flowers from my garden but for now I am having so much fun making free-form watercolors.

When I was in kindergarten many moons ago, my most favorite activity was finger painting. I loved swirling the paint around with my fingers.

“The moment in which children relax into the presence of their imagination there is often a collective sigh of relief – of children smiling to each other, knowing that their inner world is not peculiar to one’s self, but a vast gathering of information in everyone, like the richly populated voicing of the sea or a summer meadow.” ~Richard Lewis

From the Studio

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It has been quite awhile since I’ve shared any creations from my studio. I’m not exactly sure why that is but I think it has something to do with knowing that I will be moving again and I am transitioning towards moving my studio towards a new living space. Even though I don’t have a moving date yet, I feel myself disconnecting from my current studio space. It’s an interesting process.

Has anyone else ever experienced that with a pending move?

The creative time I have had has been mainly spent curled up in a cozy nook in my living room and I find myself more often than not turning to pick up a ball of colorful yarn. In this transitional time, I look for soft, tactile comfort to ground and center myself.

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A pair of beachy colored socks.

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A buttery yellow baby dress.

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A rose garden colored floppy baby hat.

Last week my company had its annual shutdown and I spent a good part of the week transforming the look of some old wicker furniture. A good Spic n Span scrub and light sanding prepared them for some sprayed on primer and then porcelain colored paint. I love their creamy vintage look and am looking forward to fabric shopping so I can create some plump cushions to adorn them with.

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While I’ve glanced at my art journal a couple of times and sorted some beads and jewelry components here and there, I haven’t felt like creating in that direction lately. I’m sure that I will return to them with renewed joy someday in the near future.

My company will be closed down every Friday during the month of August. We started doing this last year as the summertime is our slowest time of year. It gives our staff members extra time to relax and enjoy some free time before the busy fall season starts.

In anticipation of that extra free time, I’ve recently picked up a book, “Watercolor: A New Beginning: A Holistic Approach to Painting”, from the library. The first sentence of an editorial review from amazon.com expresses the book perfectly.

“Lindsay’s approach to teaching watercolor emerges from somewhere between the traditional art world and the deep, mystic spaces of the self.”

The author Ann Lindsay encourages her students to learn watercolor through the kind of playfulness we experienced in childhood. I find that approach immensely appealing so I took myself down to the arts and crafts store to purchase a pad of watercolor paper, 5 tubes of paint and a large palette for mixing.

Time to schedule some watercolor play time for myself!

From the Studio

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A brand new knitting project. I love to pick out my yarns.

With the Jane Thornley free-form “Come Spring” vest pattern in hand, I’ve chosen a similar color palette as the pattern photo because I love the vibrant greens and browns of this lovely season. One of my art friends directed me to a great website for purchasing good quality yarn at affordable prices. I purchased all of my yarn (pictured above) from them except for a ribbon yarn, called “Copper Penny”, I discovered while browsing at Joann Fabric’s one day for art supplies.

So far, I’m liking the contrast between the stripes of rich color.

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Last week I picked up a beading book at the library. As I have been getting into a more personally expressive and organic, free-form flow with my beadwork, I have lost interest in books and magazines devoted to beadwork patterns and other artists’ designs. However, the title of this book, “Shaped Beadwork: Dimensional Jewelry with Peyote Stitch”, caught my eye and my interest.

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In the book, Diane teaches how to make geometrical shapes in peyote stitch, starting with flat one-dimensional shapes and then building upon those to create 2 and 3-dimensional sculptural shapes. So, I started at the beginning of the book and made a triangle. Geez, that was fun. How about if I make another one? Cool! Then I sewed them together and created a little triangular pillow. This little shape is fascinating me. I find myself picking it up and turning it over gently in my hand every time I walk by my beading tray.

Now, what shall I do with this little shape? Make another pillow for a pair of earrings?  Use it as a focal shape and free-form around it? Use it as a component in a mixed media necklace? The infinite possibilities bloom in my imagination with wild abandon like the riot of pink peonies in my garden. Hehe Interestingly, my thoughts also lead me back to memories of how much I enjoyed geometry class and its spatial language.

All this from a little triangle pouch.

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The start of another journal page. I had vaguely remembered someone mentioning or reading somewhere that you could paint on used dryer sheets. This so appealed to the recycling devotee in me that I collected some sheets after a weekend of laundry chores. After dripping, brushing, and wetting paint across its surface, I let my sheet dry and then ripped a piece off to create a waterfall shape on my bright yellow page. I then glued some dried tulip petals at its base and drew some water swirls around the petals with a white gel pen.

This page is far from finished but it has a good start. As I glued and painted my “waterfall”, I thought of water and its symbolism to feelings. I thought of how my page could represent my getting in touch with feelings that are frightening to me and how I sometimes relegate those frightening feelings to a very deep place inside of myself. Can I ride my tumbling waterfall into the depths of myself and explore some of those feelings? I wrote:

I tumble down the waterfall inside of myself

to get in touch with my feelings.