Monday, September 30, 2013

Nice Rhythms, Leftovers, Drawings in the Dark, and a Small Quiz

This afternoon I went to get my hair cut.  While I was waiting,

 I noticed one of the salon workers doing something to a client's eyebrows.  I really enjoyed drawing the shapes and rhythms of the chair and basin, the two women's hair and gestures.  A few feet away were a broom and dustpan, both really lovely shapes to draw.

A Trader Joe's has opened in Asheville, right next to our beloved Greenlife/Whole Foods and also right next to a new and very large Harris Teeter.  We now have traffic that can't be believed in the block before our little downtown.  Suddenly there are enormous parking lots there and large crowds checking out the two new stores.  I decided to check out the Trader Joe's this afternoon.  Walking inside I was transported to the Trader Joe's in Maplewood, NJ, as well as to the one in Medford Lakes, NJ.  It felt like being dropped into a different place altogether.  My loyalties lie with Greenlife, but I'll probably saunter on over to TJ for a savings on yogurt, paper goods, olive oil, and some of their prepared frozen dinners.  I brought home some farfalle with spinach and a southwest style salad, both good and really inexpensive.  Drawing 607 shows how much was leftover from two single-serving packages of the farfalle.

The other side of the page I drew while watching Breaking Bad (not the most recent, because we're still in season 3) -- drawn in the almost dark.

Can you figure out what drawing 609 is?  No, it's not a round worm like you drew in high school biology class.  Not a snake skin either.  It's the ancient leather belt that snapped in two while I was sewing on my treadle sewing machine this afternoon.  Yesterday it was so loose the needle kept moving after I would try to park it in the up position, so I tightened it by an inch or so.  It ran great after that.  But suddenly today it broke, and when I examined it to see if the end had slipped out of the staple, I discovered that was still firmly in place, and the break was in the middle of the belt.  I tried to fix it with an extra staple from another old belt, but the leather is so old (over 100 years possibly) and full of dust and grime that it fell apart when I punched it with the awl.  So I had to order a new 72" leather antique machine belt on eBay for a big $6.00.  Meanwhile I'm sewing on Maya's machine and getting some of the kinks out of its tension regulator while I'm at it.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Another Bonus Post: Making a Book Out of Two Potato Chip Bags

But first, some drawings from today.  Here is a drawing of a ceramic plate that I made (599), a pecan pancake in the pan (600!), and the pancake plus blueberries on the plate.

These next  drawings have nothing whatsoever to do with cooking, obviously.  On the left, a woman at Dobra, done while Jacob and I were there having a post-workout snack.  And on the right, two failed attempts at drawing Jesse.  This is also the last page in this journal, so this morning I made a new journal out of two potato chip bags.  I made it up as I went along and did some very rough sketches so that I would remember how to do it next time.  Here they are, plus some notes to myself.  If you're interested in reproducing this journal, let me know and I'll answer any questions. 
Here's the first part-- you begin with the pages, choosing paper that you really like to draw or paint on, choosing the exact size you want the pages to be.  You must double the width since the pages will be folded in half.  Then you cut open the two chip bags, clean them out if they need it, and trim them to the size they need to be relative to the pages (as directed on the drawing).  Then you hem the left side of one and the right side of the other, and fold the other sides in as directed here.
Step 2 shows the hemmed bag that will be the front of the journal with its fold.  It shows where to sew the edge of the big fold down without hemming it.  (This big fold turns the cover into a two-layered cover for more strength.)   Figure 3 shows the same thing but with the bag that will be the back of the book.  Figures 4 and 5 direct you to sew the two bags together at their un-hemmed edges, which will end up in the middle of the cover where the spine will be.  You sew them with right sides together, and then flatten the seam and sew one side over the other, as in the circles drawing between 4 and 5.  Figure 6 shows you how to fold the cover around all 9 of the signatures to determine where to fold the two pockets.  And then it shows you how to hem each pocket and finally hem the top and bottom edges of the book to enclose the pockets and complete the cover.

To sew in the signatures, either sew on a machine or by hand, beginning with the center, then progressing to the outermost left and right signatures, then fill in the other signatures.  I drew a diagram for this part of the book in the posting I did called Bonus Post:You Can Make this Book back in August.  Again, ask me if you have questions.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lawn Art, Landscapes, Treehouse, and Sculpture

This afternoon I headed out on a different walk than I usually take.  I came out the front door planning to walk around to the backyard and go out the stile into the high meadow behind our house.   I took only about three steps when I found something to draw: a ceramic garden goddess that sits in a corner of our front porch garden and usually has an ants' nest under its chin.  The next thing I encountered was a little cast cement statue in the back yard.  We're getting ready to dig up the young oak tree that seems to be growing out of the statue and plant some spring bulbs in that garden, which right now is a weed patch with a statue in the middle of it.

When I got to the end of the trail through the hedgerow behind our house, I came to the tree house that two of our grandsons repaired last week when they were here. Originally built by Jacob and me with the help of a carpenter friend, it has been neglected for the past couple of years, and Tallis and Luca decided they would fix it up, which they did very quickly and very well.  So I drew a corner of it.
The tree house overlooks the valley and the mountains in the distance up on the high meadow.  Cows were grazing in the distance, and behind them were the mountains with dark clouds moving in.  After the walk and dinner, I drew two art objects from our living room while watching a couple of episodes of Breaking Bad.  On the left is a boat sculpture that I made a few years ago and have hung in a window, and on the right is Alice Sebrell's wonderful duck-head pyramid-themed piece.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Putting Drawings Back to Work

One day in the middle of the family reunion I got an email order for a belt bag, something I've never made before.  I wrote back and forth with the customer to get her basic needs as far as the design went, and this morning I started to put the puzzle together.  All of today's drawings relate to working out this design.  The first pages are based on our emails as well as on my experience in making cross body bags and iPad bags and the occasional backpack.
As I made the drawings I developed some questions for the customer, and I also saw some places where options might be possible.  I sent her the first batch of drawings along with an email posing the questions.
This third page sums up the first design.  I sent her all three pages along with a message.  About half an hour later she responded.  She liked some aspects of the design but didn't like others.  One of the main problems we had was that we weren't using the same names for the same parts.  The bag has many different pockets and flaps as well as some parts that I called one thing and she called something else.  So I made some changes and then suggested she call me so we could talk.
After reading her emails in response to the first drawings, I made the above changes.  I figured out a way to make a two-stage front flap and then remembered how to take a temporary pleat in the top of the wide side panel, something another customer had once figured out and told me about.
I also began thinking in terms of separate flaps on the front instead of one large flap.  The customer didn't like the fact that when she opened the flap to get out a credit card the entire inside of the bag would gape open.  A two-staged flap as well as triple flaps both seemed like possible solutions.
So I took a break and went for a woods walk, and while I was walking the customer called, and we talked through the ideas.  The clouds cleared!  We began to speak the same language.  My husband and I went out to get something to eat (drawing 589), and then I came home and drew up the final design.  Can't wait to start on it tomorrow!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Big Catch-Up Post: Family Reunion

It seems like a much longer time ago, but last Saturday my husband and I went to a nearby coffee shop in the morning after doing some grocery shopping for the family reunion we were hosting, beginning that afternoon.  We arrived at the same time that a city council candidate's rally was forming in the main room of the coffee shop, as shown in the drawing on the right.  (The drawing on the left is of a very exotic bloom on a common philodendron plant that was languishing in a plastic pot in the semi-dark near our table.) We went home, and the wild rumpus began!

The reunion participants were our three sons and their families, two of which live far away from us and rarely visit at the same time.  So this was a great treat for all of us and especially for all seven of the cousins who didn't really know each other very well (except for Maya and Nate and Abby because Maya had gone with us to see them in New Jersey last July).  One of the most fun outings we had was to the UNC Botanical Gardens, where a stream rushes by near the trail, over flat rocks, forming perfect pools for  attempts at boat building out of leaves and sticks.  I sat on a rock and tried to draw everybody, starting with baby Abby at upper left.  There were many false starts to my drawings as no one EVER stood still except for the three New Hampshire boys who were sweetly willing to actually pose.  On the left is five year old Barnaby doing something with a stick, and on the right an on-the-fly drawing of four year old Nate, NOT posing but poking a leaf with a stick.

 Two more New Hampshire boys, nine year old Luca posing on the left, and eleven year old Tallis reaching into the water while sitting on a big rock in the middle of the stream.

Nate's mom Kerstin asked me to design a makeup kit for her, so I did this drawing to show her what I was thinking of.  On the right side of the page is a slow and careful drawing of Nate's gumby-like skeleton that I bought for him.  He decided the skeleton needed bandages in order to become a mummy, so he wrapped it in a silky ribbon and told me where to sew buttons on.  Then he wrapped a rubber band bracelet around its neck.  It looks sort of like a very thin Roman emperor in a bright pink toga.

One sunny morning Tallis and Barnaby and I went up on Jones Mountain in search of clay to make paint from.  As we were walking we saw a little toad.  Tallis and Barnaby caught it and gently held it so I could draw it.  On the other side of the page, guest blogger Nate drew a cat sculpture he saw downtown at Malaprop's bookstore.  He especially like the golden star hanging from its neck.

Nate found a stuffed animal that we thought was an owl until someone pointed out that it was actually a penguin.  So "Owl" became "Powl", and was featured in much play during the week.  On the right is Nate sitting uncharacteristically still, watching  Dinosaur Train.

A few studies of children's hands as well as one of Abby's hand.

And a bonus piece, not a drawing, but a photo of the cousins:  Jacob, Barnaby, Abby, Tallis, Luca, Nate, and Maya, just before we set out for an afternoon of walking around downtown and going to Jones park.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Contest: Can You Identify a Common Thread in the Drawings in This Post?

First thing this morning I went to my beloved critique group at BookWorks.  During the session I drew Frank's profile and also Margaret's fantastic papier mache sculpture "Tessie."  I am going to buy/trade with Margaret, so Tessie is coming to live with me!  To learn more about Margaret's work check out her blog at

Also at crit group I drew Heather's bag, which Fran and I made for her a few months ago.  Her bag is all text, black and white, really really cool.  You can read about her bag at  I believe her bag is featured in the last post I've made. ( I really AM going to start posting to that blog again.  We've made many things lately that deserve posts.  The 10,000 have sort of absorbed all the time I have available for blog posting.)

Below Heather's bag is a large hornet's nest that I just drew a few minutes ago while walking down from halfway up Jones Mountain.  All the leaves had fallen off the branches around the nest.  The nest looks sort of like a mummy's head, both in the drawing and in real life.

This afternoon I found myself in City Bakery for my weekly fix of a turkey-avocado-bacon on ciabatta, standing outside the bakery case staring in while waiting for our sandwiches.  I drew some nice looking vanilla cheesecake and a pile of chocolate eclairs.  Reminded me of how when I was teaching drawing class at the college I used to go to the grocery and buy a supply of the most lurid colors of cupcakes I could find and bring them to class so the students could do Wayne Thiebault-like pastel drawings of them.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mysterious Wheel, Tea Cakes, Bespoke Case

Walking with my friend Linda this morning I spied what looked like an old mill wheel in a creek in the park near the lake we were walking around.  I scooted down the bank a bit to get a better look.  It was, indeed, a large water mill wheel, but it wasn't in place in the creek.  It was planted in the ground at the edge of the creek, turned into a piece of lawn art.  It looked like a strange ferris wheel rising from the underbrush in the woods.

Later I met another friend at Dobra and couldn't resist drawing the beautiful tea cakes she had ordered.  On the left is a tiny ceramic dish of pumpkin seed cakes and on the right a dim sum-like dumpling/cake called daifuku.  At the bottom is a brass bell that is used to call the server when you want to order.

And finally a late-night drawing of a kindle case that we made this week for a kindle that has a heavy plastic protective case.  We've made kindle cases before but never such a bulky one.  To figure out the pattern we first turned a cereal box into a life-sized model of the kindle-cum-case and then built the case around the model.  The top view is the front, showing an opening on the right;  at the bottom is a diagram of the opened, empty case, and then a side view showing the elastic bands that hold the kindle with case into the outside case.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Floppy Kitty Jesse for Nate

Maya came over to spend the night tonight so that we could work on Nate's yellow ochre kitty.  When we were in New York a few weeks ago Nate asked us to make this for him, so since he's coming here this weekend with his family, we had to get moving.  We made the cat out of some of our stock of fake fur.  Luckily we had enough yellow ochre fur to make a little floppy, splayed-legged kitty for him.  Here's a kind of goofy drawing of him on the right.

Here's another drawing of Kitty Jesse (so-named because he's the same color as Jesse, and Nate has always called Jesse "Kitty Jesse."  And on the right is a quick contour drawing of Maya purple, pink. and green high tops.
  After sewing, dinner, and a movie, Maya and I had some Sleepytime tea to get ready for a chilly night of sleeping out on the porch, probably the last night we'll be able to sleep outside this summer.  While we were drinking tea we were playing around with pencils, and Maya offered me her red-lead mechanical pencil to draw with.  So I drew two of her prized possessions, a pen that has a bluebird built into the handle, and one of her Littlest Pet Shop pets.  The lead is so thin it looks pale pink.  On the right is a watercolor sketch of Kitty Jesse.  This one looks the most like him, splayed out and floppy, good for clutching under your chin while you sleep.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Useful Drawings

I keep several different journals or notebooks going at once.  This particular journal is for my business, PieceWork Wallets& Things.  My partner and I keep track of orders, consignments, supplies, and designs as well as special orders.  In order to design something new, we build on things we've  already  figured out how to make.  Then I draw out the steps of the new design, and we write notes for ourselves so that we can remember how to, for example, make a pocket that will fit on a spanner.  I did my drawings today in the business book because they were drawings that we will need to use in making a backpack the next time someone orders one.   This two page spread shows the shapes and dimensions, roughly, of the pieces we need to cut out (left page) as well as the preliminary steps of piecing and hemming (right page).
 This second spread is more detailed.  It's numbered in steps, but there is some going back and forth as we realized we would need to do one step before another.  Some of the drawings are cross sections that show how various layers of material interface.

And finally two drawings of the finished backpack, one from the side and one 3/4 view.  These help us remember what the finished piece looks like.  For me, drawings are much more useful than photographs in giving directions.  Drawing in black pen lets me isolate the important elements and reduces clutter, such as background and color and designs on material.  Pen drawing heightens the contrast so that the lines stand out crisply from the page and are easy to see clearly.  I would rather have line drawings than shaded drawings except where some shading is necessary to give information.  In these drawings the small amount of shading helps define the inside, outside, and underside of the bag.  I numbered these drawings more or less, keeping them in the sequence of the 10,000.  I spent so much time on them I decided they needed to count!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Giant Hibiscus, Great Pens, and Polygonum

One of my favorite late summer surprises appeared today in our weedy back garden-- the hibiscus has been quietly growing all summer back behind the overgrowth of black-eyes Susans, and today two of its dinner-plate-sized blossoms opened!  Happily, there are about six or eight flower buds along with the two blooms that opened today, so we should have this magenta beauty for a couple of weeks.  This is the twelfth year it has shown up, and we do absolutely nothing to it except lop it down when it dies back after frost.  Best of all, we can see it from the back porch.

Another very welcome arrival today was a box of a dozen of my new favorite drawing pens, the Pilot V-5 Techpoint black pen.  I bought a few of these in Paris at an office supply store on the Left Bank, and they've turned out to be a perfect replacement for my old favorite, the Pilot V-Ball waterproof black pen, which is no longer easily available and which has become unreliable and sometimes even leaky, thanks to tinkering with the recipe by the people at Pilot.  The only problem with the new V-5 is that you can't buy it in the US.  After searching at Staples and other office supply stores, I gave up and searched on line.  I found a few places that carry them, but all of them were out of the US.  Why won't Pilot market these pens in the US?  I ended up ordering a box of them from the UK and had to pay L10 shipping, which comes to around $17, making the dozen pens cost around $60.

Well, they are wonderful pens, and they seem to last a long time.  Of the four I bought last May I still have two.  Now I have 12 more!  I'll be a lot more careful with these than I was with the original batch.  The company also sent me a free ergonomic large-point ballpoint pen for free.  I did a drawing of its svelt body with the pinched in waist and snappy cap.  Unfortunately I never draw in ballpoint, so I'll pass this on to Maya, who has a love for pens.

And for a final drawing today, I picked a polygonum from the woods while we were walking late this afternoon.  I know this is considered a major pest by gardeners, but I like the plant.  I remembered its name from a long-ago botany course, and I remembered that its familiar name is "many knees" because of its knobby, knee-like joints from which the leaves spring.  Along with the leaves are very thin almost clear hairs, which my research tells me will develop into root systems wherever they touch the ground.  The flowers are tiny, changing from dark pink buds to pale pinkish-white blossoms as they mature.  A field of them looks very pretty at this dry, earth-toned beginning of fall.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sunday Afternoon in Town

My grandson Jacob will soon turn 14, so today we turned our usual Sunday afternoon outing to the gym and then to eat into a birthday shoe-shopping expedition.  The drawing on the left shows Jacob, but doesn't look that much like him!.  After we got his shoes plus a pair of sunglasses, we parked near downtown and walked to our favorite place to get a snack, Dobra Tea Room.  Dobra not only has the best food and tea in the world but it features three different kinds of seating.  Our favorite is to sit in the far back behind beaded curtains where the lights are dim and we can lounge on floor pillows and eat from a little low octagonal table.  On the right is a sketch of two people having an intense conversation across the room from us in a different little alcove.

After Dobra we walked back through town, passing a tiny shop that had a clothes rack out front clothed in a dress and hat, looking like a mannequin.  I didn't want to make Jacob wait while I sketched it, so I went back after I dropped him off at home;  I parked in a small parking lot right across from the store and drew the scene on the left.  Then I went to the Y (Jacob had had 6 hours of marching band practice yesterday and was sunburned and really tired so he opted out of the Y today), and when I came out after working out, there was another Smart car parked in front of mine in the parking lot.  It had a sign on the back that said "actual size," which I thought was pretty funny.  I decided to draw the sign first, then the car.  I should have pushed the sign over to the left!  I realize I'm not very good at drawing cars, and I'm going to make myself practice drawing them.

So my final drawing this afternoon was of Jesse sitting on the trunk lid of my husband's car.  Jesse's favorite perch is up on the roof of the car, and he was sleeping there when I got home.  So I went to a window from which I could see the car and Jesse, and of course he knew I was getting ready to draw him.  He stretched, looked around, then stepped carefully down and sat on the trunk lid for just long enough for me to sketch him.  Then I filled in the car around him.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Summer Leftovers

Today feels like the first real day of autumn, even though that's a week off.  It was chilly enough this morning to need the car heater, but by afternoon the sun has warmed things back up.  The air is dry for WNC, about 72% humidity, and the gardens are withdrawing into themselves.  My husband did a big cleanup the other day and put away the garden tools and other garden stuff that lives on the porches during the summer.  We were sitting outside just now and I noticed a few leftovers, so that's what today's drawings are of.  On the left side of the right side page are a splayed out push broom in front of a spade, and to the right an old trellis that's leaning against the side of the house.

On the far left is a little brass hose piece.  In the center are a few scarlet runner beans from last summer that never got planted this year and are still living on the front porch table.  Then a droopy plant support, and on the right, the gardener's old sandals, purchased at the beach at South Haven, MI,  in 2003 and now relegated to being mud shoes.

The Marrying Day

Yesterday we drove deep into the country and high into the mountains for the marrying ceremony of our two friends Koreloy and Bruce.  Their term for the ceremony was their nuptial flight resourcery, honoring their launching of themselves into a new trans-parental phase of their lives, when they are a couple alone without children for the first time.  Over a hundred of their friends gathered, and almost everyone played an active role in the day, which began at a 12:30 gathering of women at one of the little handmade houses on their land to get Koreloy ready while the men gathered at another location and played music.  On the left is Koreloy in the doorway holding a clay penny whistle as Bruce leads a procession of men to come calling for her for the ceremony.  On the right are the two of them wearing wild flower garlands while some women are opening the ceremony by casting the four directions.

On the left is one of the guests, and the snakey object above and to the right is a flexible gas pipe that he played like a very high-pitched tuba.  On the right is another guest, and to the far right is the broom that was jumped over (by the couple and also by everyone else who wanted to) at the end of the five-hour ceremony.

The guests sat on the ground or on chairs or in various "bowers" around a stone labyrinth during the ceremony, which took place in the center of the labyrinth.  Here is one of the guests sitting near a canoe that was beautifully furnished with red parasols and shawls and pillows, a great resting place for ceremony-weary guests needing a rest break.  The weather was perfect, but toward evening it got chilly, and the shawls and blankets came in handy.

Just before the jumping-over-the-broom, Bruce cut Koreloy's hair and she washed and anointed his feet with oils.  She had been growing her hair for a year in preparation for this lightening-up.  These are really quick sketches of Bruce cutting her hair and then of Koreloy with her new short hair.  After the ceremony, we all traveled in various ways through the woods and down the road to the area of Koreloy's studio and Bruce's office where we had a wonderful late supper under white tents.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Can I Possibly Draw While at a Spa?

This evening I went to a pre-wedding women's spa party for a good friend of mine who is getting married tomorrow.   Fourteen of us gathered to celebrate and help our friend prepare for jumping over the broom with her partner of 38 or so years.  I had spent the day running around, working, driving, and had not done a single drawing.  So I had no recourse except to roll my sketchbook and pen up with my bathing suit inside a towel and take them along to the spa.

On the left is a messy, incomplete sketch of one of the many labyrinthine hallways at the Grove Park Inn, home of this Disneyland of spas.  I arrived a little early and couldn't find the others, and the women at the spa desk told me to go get dressed in my bathing suit and spa-issued enormous terrycloth and satin robe and plastic clogs and sit in front of the fireplace in a puffy stuffed chair and wait.  So while I waited I sketched the ginormous rock work that is the hallmark of the GPI.  There were some pretty fireplace things in front of the hearth (which was big enough fit my bedroom inside of), so I drew them too.  Then I spotted another lost-looking woman in a large robe sitting in a puffy chair eating nuts out of a little plastic cup.  I sketched her quickly. ( Later she turned out to be another early-arriving member of our group, and we had a fine time getting to know each other.)

Before too long a brisk little woman swept us up and told us she was our concierge and would give us a tour. (Okay, I confess to having a small and petty mind, and any use of the word concierge outside of its original French context of a small hotel or apartment building makes me want to run screaming from the room.  I mean really-- concierge doctor's practice?  concierge car wash?  concierge spa attendant??)  So anyway, on the left is my incomplete sketch of our concierge, complete with ear bud and haughty demeanor.  Her job seemed to consist of assigning us locker numbers and teaching us how to create a pin number so that we could lock and unlock our lockers.  Once we all assembled and ate some sushi and spring rolls that our friend had brought, we sat in various pools and jacuzzi things and under fake waterfalls and paddled around in salty water, all of which felt really nice.

On the right, my friend is teaching us how to sing a song she wants us to sing with her tomorrow.  This was drawn just before we were gently admonished by one of the concierges to stop singing in the pool area.
On the left is a rough sketch, done in the dark practically, of the pool area.  As you can see, it is paved with enormous stones.  Fake waterfalls cascade from rocky platforms near the ceiling, which is as high as a cathedral clerestory.  The water pours down into a small pond that people aren't allowed to sit in, but it can be seen from the adjacent salt-water paddling pools.  There is a large skylight as well as discreet, hidden, cave-like lights tucked into the stones that form columns.  Swimming around in the pool next to this I felt somewhat like I was in the seal pond at the Camden Aquarium and half- expected to see noses pressed up against the glass doors at the far end.

On the right: my friend standing in the water quietly singing to us as she taught us how to sing a song for tomorrow.  The waterfalls made so much noise that we were finally able to sing undetected.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hard Working Drawings

When I have any kind of design problem to solve, I need to think it through by drawing.  Today I needed to design a way to stop a strap from twisting where it joined the D ring of the bag it was on.  I drew the problematic joining and then various ideas for fixing it without dismantling the entire bag.  Tomorrow at work I will do the actual fix, using today's drawings as a guide.  (see to see what this bag looks like as well as to see others if you're interested.)

Later on I went out to the back porch to work on an old chair seat that I'm re-caning.  Jesse was determined to be involved , not a good plan.  He loved the whiskery strips of cane and would wildly dive bomb me as I was working with them.  I finally had to put him outside, where he sat mournfully at the screened door staring in at all the fun.  I finished the chair seat!